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The Democratization of Taiwan: A Comparative Perspective

  • Laurence Whitehead
Part of the St Antony’s book series

Abstract

The democratization of Taiwan is not only of great intrinsic interest to all those either resident on, or concerned with, the island; it is also an invaluable reference point for comparativists. For example, as Jürgen Domes pointed out in the course of the St Antony’ s workshop, the existence of a democratic Taiwan provides a practical demonstration that this type of political regime can be made to work in a Chinese setting — a demonstration with far-reaching implications for China, Hong Kong and Singapore, and for those who theorize about supposed ‘Asian values’ or the ‘clash of civilizations’. The Taiwanese experience of an apparently smooth transition from a one-party monopoly regime to one in which the same party secures continuity in office through legitimate multiparty elections is highly germane to a range of other one-party or dominant-party experiences (including Mexico, which I shall discuss further, below). Taiwan has also been invoked as a paradigmatic case of allegedly correct ‘sequencing’, whereby authoritarian rule is said to generate the stability and economic dynamism required to underpin a successful capitalist democracy. (A comparison with Chile will briefly be sketched here.) In addition the events of 1986 are treated as exemplary by those who emphasize the decisive role of leadership, and the utility of ‘topdown’, ‘élite-led’, or intentional ‘crafting’ interpretations of democratic transitions.

Keywords

Comparative Perspective Democratic Transition Opposition Parti Authoritarian Rule Electoral Rule 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    John E. Shrecker, The Chinese Revolution in Historical Perspective (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991), xvii. Shrecker proposes the Chinese social science concepts fengjian’, junxian’, and ‘datong’ as suitable for comparing China with the West and for analysing their interactions.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Linda W.L. Young, Cross-Talk and Culture in Sino-American Communication (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). ‘In particular, native English speakers expect labelling, like they expect establishing or isolating a cause because it allows them to get a firm (read “overarching”) grip on a matter; its absence is therefore disconcerting. … From a Chinese standpoint, however, abstracting a quality, labelling it beforehand, and imposing one’s own preconceptions on it rather than let the communicant grasp it go against the communicative requirements for unedited or uncoerced understanding’ (p. 131).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 9.
    For the most comprehensive and up-to-date review of this literature, including specific analysis of these two cases, see Stephen Haggard and Robert R. Kaufman, The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurence Whitehead

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