Taiwan in a Changing World: Search for Security

Article excerpt

Taiwan in a Changing World: Search for Security, by Harish Kapur. Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2004. xvi + 249 pp. US$13.50 (paperback), US$4.95 (e-book).

This inexpensive book endeavors to provide an assessment of Taiwan's foreign policy along with a review of related developments in Taiwan since Chiang Kaishek retreated to the island in 1949. There has been a need among students and specialists with an interest in Taiwan for a book-length English-language assessment of Taiwan's foreign policy, but sadly this book cannot be recommended to either students or specialists.

Harish Kapur admits at the outset that the study is "brief and "tentative" (p. xi). The first chapter offers his views of the main determinants of Taiwan's foreign policy since 1949. The second focuses on his central analytical point that Taiwan's foreign policy can best be understood as a search for security. The third chapter endeavors to integrate a brief review of Taiwan's economic, political, social and technological modernization with its perceived overarching search for security in its foreign policy. The next three chapters provide brief overviews of Taiwan foreign policies and practices with multilateral organizations, the developed countries and the developing countries respectively. The following chapter reviews relations with mainland China, and there is a brief "summing up" chapter at the end.

Readers with some familiarity with Taiwan will notice quickly that the book is seriously dated. The author portrays a fairly rosy view of Taiwan marching forward in world affairs, with China's adoption of more flexible policies than in the past allowing Taiwan's advance. On page xi it is stated that it was Beijing's flexibility that "initiated the whole process of acknowledging Taiwan's existencea process that broke the Island's international isolation ... This was really the turning point. It gave Taiwan the first major breakthrough internationally", leading in Kapur's view to the positive international environment Taiwan faces today.

To accentuate his view of recent positive breakthroughs in Taiwan's diplomacy, Kapur portrays Taiwan as passive and isolated during the Cold War, when in fact it held a seat on the UN security Council, had active diplomatic relations with a variety of non-Communist states and competed with China for recognition among newly emerging states in the Third World. By contrast, his benign portrayal of recent Taiwan foreign policy has Taipei so confident that it looks beyond competition with Beijing to a prominent international role. …