The Kuomintang and the Democratization of Taiwan

The Kuomintang and the Democratization of Taiwan

The Kuomintang and the Democratization of Taiwan

The Kuomintang and the Democratization of Taiwan

Synopsis

"Is the Nationalist party of China (Kuomintang, or KMT) the villain it is sometimes portrayed to be? Or is it the embodiment of the political and moral good that partisans have claimed it to be? The KMT has managed an incredible feat of economic modernization in Taiwan and has become a proponent of democracy, yet its reputation has been marred by brutal acts of repression and by ineptitude. Focusing on the role of KMT party elites in the democratization process. Steven Hood considers the KMT's evolution from a Leninist party-state to a fractious party in a competitive political system. Many contemporary studies suggest that democratization is the product of decisions, compromises, and accidents - the result of relatively short-term confrontations among elites in the opposition and softliners and hardliners within authoritarian regimes. Although these factors are important, the democratization of Taiwan has been a long-term process of elites wrestling within the confines of existing political institutions. Taiwan's case study reminds us that we need to revisit the prerequisites that must underline a true democracy - factors that are too often ignored or dismissed by scholars studying the democratization process." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

In the last few years there have been several important political studies focusing on Taiwan. This has been a welcome development. Taiwan's lack of diplomatic relations with other countries and mainland China's relative prominence in the world contributed to the lack of attention given to Taiwan. Some scholars have had an aversion to studying Taiwan because of their dislike for Taiwan's political regime.

This book's general focus is on this regime. I consider the role of the Nationalist Party of China (Kuomintang, or KMT) in the democratization of Taiwan. The study has filled an interest I have had in determining to what degree the KMT was the villain it is sometimes portrayed to be, and the embodiment of the political and moral good partisans have claimed it to be. I have found the party to be a fascinating organization of contradictory purposes and achievements. Its reputation is marred by ineptitude and by brutal acts of repression. It nevertheless still managed an incredible feat of economic modernization on Taiwan and eventually became a proponent of democracy.

I focus on the role of KMT party elites in the democratization process, which I believe is the most neglected aspect of studies done on the political transformation of Taiwan. While I do not question the heroic struggles of the political opposition in Taiwan, my attempt is to direct attention to the significant effort Kuomintang leaders took to thwart democracy, and later, smooth the way for democratic reforms. It is important to understand the KMT's evolution from a Leninist party-state to a fractious party in a competitive political system. While Taiwan's experiment with democratization mirrors the experiences of studies done on countries in Latin America and Southern Europe, important differences exist.

Latin American and European case studies focus on conflict, decisions, compromises, and accidents that result from relatively short-term confrontations between elites in the opposition and softliners and hardliners within authoritarian regimes. These factors are important in the Taiwanese case as well, but other aspects are more important. Taiwan's democratization has been a long-term process of elites wrestling within the confines of political institutions. For this reason, democratization came about through reform of the KMT party-state, Taiwan's representative bodies, and political ideology. Driven by a subethnic split between Taiwanese and mainland-born Chinese and a desire for a liberal regime, the opposition was the catalyst for putting . . .

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