State and Society in the Taiwan Miracle

State and Society in the Taiwan Miracle

State and Society in the Taiwan Miracle

State and Society in the Taiwan Miracle

Excerpt

When writing about places as controversial as Taiwan, it appears to be common practice to put quotation marks about affirmative words such as "miracle" to inform readers of the author's profound skepticism about supposed achievements there. I have not put quotation marks around the word "miracle" in the title of this book for the simple reason that I think the people of that island nonnation have made miraculous progress at rapid growth, structural change, improved livelihood, and political democratization. I do not mean miraculous in the sense of a unique, nonrecurring God-given event, but rather as a wondrous recovery by dint of very human effort from a morass of destruction and despair.

I neither deny nor gloss over the past and present shortcomings of Taiwan's political system or the dangers inherent in its type of economic strategy. Part of the miracle is the fact that the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), notorious for heading one of history's most corrupt, violent, and incompetent regimes during its days on the Chinese mainland, successfully undertook an internal reform, established a new relationship with Taiwanese society after brutalizing and alienating it, and spearheaded rapid economic growth with social and political stability. Another aspect of the miracle is the positive response of society to the limited but real opportunities offered it.

It required crushing defeat in one of this century's greatest popular revolutions to bring reform about, but how many other regimes in Asia, Africa, or Latin America, in circumstances far less desperate than those of the KMT in 1949, could muster the will to undertake such a cleansing and readjustment?

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