Democratization Of Taiwan


. r civil society which alleviated the possibilities of any serious political challenges while still giving the populace an opportunity for participation. (Haggard 1995, Pg 280) Even though Taiwan was under an authoritarian regime, the economic success it had during that time could be considered a factor in bringing about the democratization of Taiwan.

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One of its most well known economic improvements was its land reform policy. The land reform policy was made up of three major goals of which it accomplished.An increase of overall agricultural production freed up workers for industrial jobs and gave the country a surplus of agricultural goods it could sell off. A second goal was to equalize the population in terms of wealth, status, and income. Through this equalization, the KMT was able to keep the elites at bay, while strengthening it’s own position, and giving to the greater good of the population. The third goal came as a result of the second, the support of the population. With the equalization of the population, those who were not as well off in the previous system, saw a vast improvement in their standing, thus giving more support to social and political activities. (Rigger 1999: 69) In the next four decades, Taiwan experienced a huge surge in economic growth.

The driving force behind this growth was the industry sector coming about.The rate of growth of the industry sector from 1950 to the 1970’s was one of fastest ever recorded. The reasons for this surge of industry are attributed to many factors. As stated earlier, with increased agricultural productivity and output, more people were able to go get jobs in the industry field, thus creating a large workforce. With the increase in the workforce and an increase in jobs, productivity had a substantial increase as well.

Another factor in explaining the growth of the industry was the aid Taiwan received from the United States.The US gave millions of dollars to Taiwan up in the mid-1960’s, which by that time had given enough for Taiwan to start growing on its own. When the government took control of all industries in the 1940’s, it did so under the assumption that it was needed for the success of the country. However by the 1960’s, much of the industry was being sold off by the government and sold to the public, thus stimulating the want of the public to become involved in ownership and industry related activities. (Copper, 1999: 133) Compared to many authoritarian regimes, the success of Taiwan in terms of economic standing was “a startling success.” Ironically, it was this same success that brought about the issue of democratization. (Sorensen, 1998: 38). When taking a look at Taiwan, many people criticize the KMT for its authoritarian regime and its martial law, claiming it only impeded the road toward democratization.

Then there are those that say the martial law and authoritarian regime that it functioned under was a necessity, claiming that it gave Taiwan the time it needed to bring about the social and economic stability needed for a democracy to stand on and be able to function on.(Copper 1999: 95) It wasn’t until the middle of the 1980’s, that Taiwan took it’s first stride in decades toward full democratization with the abolishment of the Temporary Provisions. This could be considered the turning point for the government of Taiwan. With the lifting of the martial law, different groups that had amassed many assets which were put to use in voicing concerns toward the political arena, now that the fear of reprisal was quelled. It also brought about the an opposition to the KMT that was recognized, the DDP or Democratic Progressive Party. It also was brought about the first of many personnel changes in the government, now that the emergency decree (threat of communism) had passed. The national elections took place in 1989, which was the first time a multiparty election had ever taken place in Taiwan.

(Diamond 1999: 190) Three out of the five chambers were decided that year, in which new representatives were put into power in the National Assembly, Control Yaun, and the Legislative Yaun. By 1996, the first direct presidential election took place, in which Lee Teng-hui, who was head of the KMT following the death of former president, walked away with the presidency with a victory over the DDP and various independent parties with about 54 percent of the popular vote. Much of the support Lee received could be attributed to his continuing stride toward bringing about a more democratic nature in Taiwan, as well as bringing about a plethora of diplomatic activities with other nations. This election also was a message from the Taiwanese voters to the mainland China.

China was against the democratic election that took place and to show it’s displeasure with Taiwan, conducted military tests off the shores of Taiwan during the days leading up to and of the election.However, the effect was the reverse of what China intended, it strengthen the voters support for a more democratic Taiwan and a further step away from the mainland. (Dickson, 1997: 214) So is Taiwan a democracy in the present time? If set to Dahl’s requirements, would Taiwan be considered a large scale democracy? The first requirement is that of elected officials throughout the country.

Thanks to the presidential election of 1996, Taiwan has had completely elected officials, as per its constitution, and continues to do so. The second requirement is that of whether or not the elections that take place are free, fair and frequent. Since the lifting of the martial law in 1987, the rise of secondary political parties to run against the nationalists, has provided a sound basis for free and fair elections.These elections are held at the appropriate times for each body of the government as spelled out by the constitution. The freedom of expression, another requirement for Dahl’s definition, has truly come about since the lifting of the martial law.

While under the “temporary provisions”, much of the population was forbidden to speak out against the government or in favor of another government without the fear of punishment from the government. With the rise of political parties, free media, and new found liberties granted by the constitution since the lifting, the people of Taiwan have found their voice to be heard not only in their country but also in the foreign community. “Taiwan has one of the freest media environments in Asia,” (Freedom House, 2000: 3). So it is thought to be understood that Taiwan follows the guideline set by Dahl for the availability of alternative sources of information.However, many of the television media outlets are still owned in conjunction with the government, to be used as a mouthpiece for the purpose of the state.

This is not the same for the rest of the media in Taiwan, to which part most of it is a part of the private sector. Inclusive citizenship is another aspect of a large scale democracy in Dahl’s definition in which suffrage is universal to those age 20 and above in Taiwan, thus meeting another requirement of Dahl’s. Finally the topic of association autonomy is examined. For the most part much the people of Taiwan have the ability to join groups, unions, and political parties at their own leisure. There are a few drawbacks in this area, the constitution only allow for one labor federation in the country, in which it is run by the KMT.

However there are over 3000 registered unions in the country that have an membership of about 31 percent of the population. (Freedom House 2000: 2) So the question remains, is Taiwan a democracy. If we look at Dahl’s definition of democracy, a case could be made for the most part it is a working democracy, striding toward full-fledged democratization as the years go on.

One aspect that is not to be over-looked is that of it’s relationship with China. For years the government of Taiwan claimed to be the true leaders of China under the Republic of China banner.Since China became recognized under the communist regime, the ROC in Taiwan became somewhat of an afterthought. A look at feelings today towards reunification with the mainland brings about a negative response. However, much of the international community regard Taiwan as a state of China, an image that is being shed little by little as it takes on more and more democratic traits.

With its increasing support for the democratic way of governing, Taiwan is receiving more support from the international community toward declaring full independence, a move which may be coming soon as Taiwan sets itself to once again attempt to become an international power. Politics Essays.