CHEN SHUI-BIAN HAS proven a controversial political figure in his lifetime. From his start as a human rights lawyer to becoming Taiwan’s first democratically elected non-KMT president, Chen was later embroiled in controversy over corruption charges. This led to his imprisonment on graft charges–which supporters have disputed, seeing this as a form of political retaliation from the KMT once it returned to power. Yet Chen was also perceived by many international observers as a cross-strait provocateur, seeing as Chen leaned into Taiwanese independence advocacy to shore up his approval ratings as time went on during his presidency.
Recent memes posted by Chen in chronological order from left to right. Photo credit: Chen Shui-bian/Instagram/Facebook
Chen has gone from a perceived cross-strait provocateur to memelord though, as of late, with a series of viral images posted by Chen on Instagram and Facebook. The first image shows Chen standing on a swordfish while holding a microphone. On the left is another image of Chen seated, while above both Chens read the words “Taiwan Values.”
The second image shows the same seated Chen image, though this time this is paired with an image of Chen reaching into ocean water. Behind both Chens is a large whale, alongside which there is an awkwardly inserted frog and sea otter. Above them are the words, “Seeing the World.”
The third image also features the seated Chen image, though this time there is an industrial background. The Chen doppelganger featured this time is running, while the image also shows two figurines and a caricature of Don Quixote. The text reads “Taiwan Warrior.” Since then, Chen has released a few more images, such as of himself sitting awkwardly on a giraffe, or underneath a cloud-shaped umbrella.
Chen’s earliest image in his now iconic style (left) and a depiction of him and his dog Yongge (right). Photo credit: Chen Shui-bian/Instagram/Facebook
Eventually, it emerged that Chen had actually produced an image with the same aesthetic in January, but this went largely unnoticed at the time. This image shows a different seated image of Chen wearing a cap, along with a tiger and a Formosan black bear.
Image of Terry Gou and…himself. The left image was posted first, but the image was later blurred, as in the version on the right. Photo credit: Terry Gou/Facebook
This is not the only time that schlocky images from Taiwanese politicians have been poked fun at. More often, these are images from the KMT, which experiences significant issues with graphic design despite being one of Taiwan’s two major political parties, having historically had significant resources to command. This perhaps reflects the party’s lack of young people.
Yet even politicians such as FoxConn founder Terry Gou, one of Taiwan’s richest people, have shown questionable graphic design choices in the past. Gou often posts blurry pictures on Facebook that seem to be taken from his phone. Seeing as his Facebook cover photo showed another photo of Gou in the background, Gou’s response was simply to blur the image. To this extent, one notes a significant decline in the quality of graphic design for Ma Ying-jeou’s Facebook account once he left office. Will we see similarly with Tsai once she leaves office?
Image of Ma Ying-jeou released for the Mid-Autumn Festival (left) and an image of Eric Chu released for Valentine’s Day (right). Photo credit: Ma Ying-jeou/Eric Chu/Facebook
Either way, it is to be seen whether Chen rehabilitates his image among young people with his new viral fame. Young people, even when they slant pan-Green, often have a less positive view of his presidency with a degree of skepticism directed at him due to the corruption charges.