East Asia's New Democracies: Deepening, Reversal, Non-Liberal Alternatives

East Asia's New Democracies: Deepening, Reversal, Non-Liberal Alternatives

East Asia's New Democracies: Deepening, Reversal, Non-Liberal Alternatives

East Asia's New Democracies: Deepening, Reversal, Non-Liberal Alternatives


This collection brings us up-to-date on the contemporary situations in the new democracies of East Asia, and debates on the prospect of introducing liberal democracy to this part of the world. The chapters cover a wide range of cases, including in-depth examination of China, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and broad comparisons of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, and other countries.

The contributors, who are foremost experts in their fields, examine the roles performed by civil society, social classes, and strategic groups, as well as the intertwining of values and interests in the transition to, consolidation of, and reversal from democracy. They also evaluate the extent to which these new democracies have facilitated regional peace, helped extend social welfare benefits, bolstered poverty alleviation, and upheld the rule of law and human rights. Grounding their analyses in the historical development of these societies, and/or examining them through the comparative strategy they also explore the desirability of liberal democracy, whether in the subjective assessment of the Asian people or in relation to the social-political challenges faced by these Asian countries.

East Asia's New Democracieswill be of interest to students and scholars of comparative politics, political science, political sociology, East and Southeast Asian studies.


Yin-wah Chu and Siu-lun Wong

The third wave of democratization, begun in Portugal in 1974, has ignited a sequence of democratization and liberalization in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and more recently East-Central Europe. Within East and Southeast Asia, the process commenced with the 1986 People’s Power Revolution in the Philippines and was succeeded by Korea’s eight-point reform in 1987, the repeal of martial law in Taiwan in the same year, the introduction of two-party electoral competition in Mongolia during 1990, Thailand’s return to civilian rule in 1992, and the downfall of the Suharto regime in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong have also witnessed a certain measure of liberalization.

For some observers, the third wave appears to be so powerful that they even talk of the triumph of democracy as if it marks the “end of history” (Fukuyama 1992). Yet, just like earlier democratization efforts, both the processes and outcomes have been problematic. Democratization has not taken place in cases where favorable conditions are present. Some of the new democracies have reverted to authoritarian rule, while the seemingly “consolidated” cases have continued to be afflicted by corruption, infringement of checks and balances, violation of human rights, political gridlock, ineffective administration, and failure to promote distributive justice. Wary of some of these problems, Huntington (1997) lamented two decades after the emergence of the third wave that most of the newly democratized countries were no more than electoral democracies where leaders acted arbitrarily, individual rights were suppressed and parochialism reinforced. Collier and Levitsky (1997) also suggest that “democracy with an adjective” such as hybriddemocracy, semi-democracy, illiberal democracy, elite democracy and the like has turned into a “growth industry” as more and more of the young democracies become mired in such situations (Zakaria 1997).

The contributors to this book have concentrated on the East and Southeast Asian societies that have undergone transitions to democracy in the last two decades, though one has examined the case of China. The questions addressed in these thirteen chapters include: What forces and processes are involved in . . .

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