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 Tuesday, April 13, 2004 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Professor Observes Taiwan's Presidential Election
By Allison Sylvest, University Communications

Political Science Professor Peter Gries' invitation to observe Taiwan's March 20 presidential election turned into an opportunity to witness political history, an assassination attempt and the clash between Taiwan's sharply divided objectives of national autonomy and positive relations with China.

An expert on international relations and East Asian politics, Gries' main focus has been the Chinese mainland. Academic interest brought him to Taiwan's city of Tainan, where the drama unfolded.

Taiwan favors a democratic political model and though their government is not acknowledged by China, 80 percent of the population turned out for this crucial election. Incumbent President Chen Shui-bian won by a slim margin, which some in the opposition claim was aided by a faked assassination attempt that gave him minor injuries and a sympathetic edge over his challenger, Lien Chan.

After denials of wrongdoing by Chen's supporters and large protests by the opposition, Taiwan's court is considering a recount of the election results.

The son of a diplomat, Gries spent two of his boyhood years in China. He learned to speak Chinese on the streets of Beijing, haggling over coveted stamps with other collectors in front of the local post office. As a result, his Mandarin has a distinct Beijing accent, unusual for a foreigner.

"My regional accent is a plus in China," said Gries."It makes me a little more approachable."

In addition to teaching, Gries co-directs the Sino-American Security Dialogue that brings together Chinese and American security experts for casual forums.

"We focus on interaction and the exchange of ideas," said Gries."In more formal gatherings the tendency is to lecture one another rather than take part in real dialogue."

Gries' recently published book,"China's New Nationalism," explores the recent emergence of popular nationalism in China. He also co-edited "State and Society in 21st Century China," a scholarly volume set to come out this spring.

Professor Observes Taiwan's Presidential Election

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