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Top stories of '12 mark tale of fearful policy decisions

As the year comes to a close, we've rounded up some major events that have occupied Taiwan's attention.

The political system was looking healthy and virtuous in January, when voters sent President Ma Ying-jeou into a second term. Election Day turnout set records, while Ma's margin of victory was big but not embarrassing for Taiwan's first female presidential bid. Equipped with the public mandate, Ma seemed set to engineer serious reforms and Taiwan's second economic miracle.

The opposition party watched on, not un-gleefully, as Ma's Kuomintang (KMT) balked straight out of the gate and refused one after another of his ambitious tax reform proposals, sending the doe-eyed Christina Liu packing her bags in tears in May.

KMT factions again refused to play when Ma took tentative steps toward a radical economic goal: removing Taiwan's ban on U.S. beef containing ractopamine. Fearing blowback in their districts and sensing Ma's own hesitation, some KMT lawmakers worked with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to prevent a plenary vote during the regular legislative session. But there are few pressures as persistent and forceful as the Montana beef lobby, and so the ban went down anyway on July 26, in a completely silent vote.

Needing a hero, the Taiwan public turned to sports, picking up Linsanity in February and holding on throughout the year. Jeremy Lin, the benchwarmer from California, struck a chord due to his ethnicity and unlikely success story with the New York Knicks. This summer, his expensive three-year contract with the Rockets became one of Taiwan's hottest topics, and he continues today to make the front page whether or not the team wins.

Meanwhile, locally trained athletes got a drubbing at the London Olympics. All Taekwondo athletes failed to meet hopes, with second-seeded Yang Shu-chun and third-seeded Wei Chen-yang dropping out in the quarterfinals. When world No. 1 Tseng Li-cheng fell to Great Britain's Jade Jones in the semifinals, Taiwan stayed up late to watch Tseng face off Finland's Suvi Mikkonen for a bronze. Tseng won, but Chinese Taipei lost: Its final medal count was its worst since 1996. Back home, Taiwan's dismal performance sparked months of soul-searching and the eventual downsizing of the Sports Affairs Council, which will become an agency under the Ministry of Education.

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