Democratization Of Taiwan Taiwan is an island country which is located off the southeast coast of China between the Taiwan Strait and the Philippine Sea. It has a land area of about 32,000 square kilometers, and claims another 3,700 square kilometers of sea around it, giving it close to a total of 36,000 square kilometers for itself. The land of Taiwan consists mainly of mountainous terrain in the east while the west has flat plains which can be compared to the middle central part of the United States. The country has a population of about 22 million people in which 9.
7 million of those people are part of the labor force. Some of the groups that make up this population include native Taiwanese (which includes Hakka, the originals of the land), mainland Chinese, and aborigines.Taiwan is one of the major economic powers of East Asia. Taiwan is a truly capitalistic economy in an area where “communism” has played a major role in the world over the last 50 years. The GDP has been growing at a rate of about 8 percent per year over the last few years. Services make up more than half of Taiwan’s GDP, while industry and agriculture combine to make up the for the rest of the GDP.
Manufacturing is mainly in electronics and machinery, which are among Taiwan’s major exports. (CIA World Factbook, 2000) Although Taiwan has been a major economic success, its political situation is still more remarkable.Within the last 50 years, sweeping changes have embraced the political arena. It was up until World War II that Taiwan was under the control of Japan, an arrangement which resulted from the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895.
(Rigger 34, 1999) However in 1945, at the end of the war, Taiwan was given back to China as part of Japan’s punishment. The Taiwanese, excited by the fact that once again they were to be reunited in a way, with the mainland China. What had happened however was vastly different from what was expected.The Kuomuntang (KMT) or the “Nationalist” party had set foot in Taiwan for the Republic of China (ROC) in 1945, and viewed the Taiwanese as traitors for being a part of the Japanese army, and for their lost ties to traditional or mainland China. (Copper 35, 1999) It was during this time that corruption and violence gripped Taiwan, which in essence was used mainly as a production facility of supplies for the Nationalists fight against Communism on the mainland.
In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party completely took over mainland China, resulting in the Nationalist government removing itself from the mainland to take up residence in Taiwan. This mass exodus from the mainland gave Taiwan a population that consisted of twenty percent mainlanders. Because of their high influx of people from the mainland, the ROC was able to stay in power, claiming to still be the ruling body over all of China. (Ferdinand 1996, Pg 5) In looking at Robert Dahl’s criteria for a fully functional democracy, which include free, fair, and frequent elections of officials rather than those imposed by the government, as well as freedom of expression, citizenship for all, ability to gather information free of the state, and what Dahl refers to as associational autonomy.
(Dahl Pg 85). A majority of these traits have come about in aiding the evolution of democracies through the formation of a constitution that guarantees these specific ideas. It was during this time that the leader of the KMT, Chiang Kai-Shek made some sweeping changes to how Taiwan was being ruled by that time. To put an end to all the corruption that had occurred during the short time that Taiwan had been put back in control of China, he executed all those that had been accused of corruption in the government and brought about a constitution from the mainland which set up a system of political bodies to help recreate what the KMT once had. The political body which came about was full of provisions for checks and balances to insure the separation of powers, truly resembling a federal system. (Copper 1999, Pg94) The resulting five body government, or five-yaun (chamber) consisted of the Legislative Yaun in which the National Assembly was considered a part, the Executive Yaun, the Judicial Yaun, the Examination Yaun, and the Control Yaun.(Ferdinand 5, 1996) Each of these chambers had a specific duty, much like the different aspects of the government of the United States.
The Legislative Yaun was just that, a legislature which consisted of elected officials from the different provinces of China, of which Taiwan was considered one out of thirty. The National Assembly was a body that acted as an electoral college, and could amend the constitution. The Executive Yaun, which was staffed by the equivalent of the US Cabinet, had the ability to execute public policy.
The Judicial Yaun was main court system for the ROC.The Examination Yaun was the government body which granted licenses for business, while the Control Yaun was the government watchdog for any type of corruption that could occur throughout the government. (Ferdinand 1996,Pg 5) The Nationalists long believed that they would eventually be able to take back the mainland, by which in the 1970’s hope was all but given up.
In 1948, with the war against Communism going on and internal dissent among the population, the constitution was amended with the “Temporary Provisions,” which gave the president complete control over all aspects of the country. It was through this that in 1949 the president handed down the decree of martial law, which would stay in place until 1987. When the decree was handed down, Taiwan went to an authoritarian regime with a democratic constitution.President Chaing Kai-Shek immediately nullified the term limit, banned the formation of any political parties that might challenge the KMT, as well as set up organizations loyal to the government and appoint his own people to these posts.
(Copper 1999, Pg95) The KMT and the military each had high ranking officials inside each other for the fear of the spread of communism from the mainland into these two vital organizations. Any public dissent, whether it was favoritism towards communism or criticism of the current government, was swiftly and harshly suppressed. Many people were silenced by the government for their political ideals, to which most of them remained anonymous. However, the rumors of these actions and the fear they caused were enough to keep the local population in a state of obedience.In the years between 1960 to the mid 1970’s, there were many high profile cases which caught the attention of the public. In a period of 4 years, one person was sent to prison for attempting to start a political party, while another scholar was sent to prison for pro-independence ideals.
(Rigger 1999, Pg71) Another aspect of the current regime’s authoritarian tactics was the control is exerted over the mass media. It strictly controlled the number of licenses for newspapers, limited at thirty-one, of which the KMT had ownership of about a third. Many of the papers were the mouthpieces for the government, praising the government and keeping silent about the opposition.Many of the editors and owners of the larger newspaper outlets had direct contact with members of the KMT, the purpose of which was to keep the paper in line. Radio and television stations suffered more of the same control issues from the KMT. Television programming was limited to the Mandarin language, with very little time allocated for programming in Taiwanese, as a way of bringing about the demise of the Taiwanese language in favor of the Mandarin language.
However, as seen today, the idea failed and Taiwan now a bilingual country. The programming that came across the airwaves was strictly observed by the government, concentrating mainly on issues the government chose for the public to be aware of, with very little information coming in from outside of the country. (Rigger, 1999; 74). However it was during the time under Chiang Kai-Shek that the slow but gradual march toward democracy started taking place.From the moment that he stepped foot on Taiwan, he immediately started making changes to improve both the political structure and the economy of the small province. Even though high ranking positions were still dominated by the KMT party members, the lower levels of government were in need of new people.
It was here that Chiang Kai-Shek implemented organized elections on the local level to get the local Taiwanese involved with politics, not just those of the KMT who had come from the mainland. Through a strong party foundation, even under martial law, the KMT was able to provide a basis fo …