Academic journal article Journal of East Asian Studies

East Asian Pathways toward Democracy: A Qualitative Comparative Analysis of "The Third Wave"

Academic journal article Journal of East Asian Studies

East Asian Pathways toward Democracy: A Qualitative Comparative Analysis of "The Third Wave"

Article excerpt


What drove the East Asian tide of democratization during the "Third Wave?" Instead of focusing on a single-factor explanation, we perform qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) on fourteen cases in the region of East Asia from 1980 to 2000 and find three parallel pathways: (1) overthrow model, which features the positive effects of mass mobilization against authoritarianism under a deinstitutionalized authoritarian regime; (2) urban pressure model that works under an institutionalized authoritarian regime; and (3) inside-out model, in which democratization is triggered by the joint forces of domestic and international conditions under both types of regimes. These results demonstrate that the authoritarian status quo ante is an important determinant of democratic transitions.


democratization, East Asia, qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), the Third Wave


East Asia was also affected by the tide of democratization during the so-called "Third Wave" that began in Portugal and Spain in 1973-1974. At the end of the 1970s, Japan was the only country in the region that could be categorized as democratic. During the 1980s and 1990s, however, six former authoritarian regimes--South Korea, Mongolia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Thailand--became democracies. (1)

Why did this "great transformation" occur? What accounts for democratization in these East Asian states? In previous studies on the history of democracy (Dunn 1992; Tilly 2007) and the comparative politics of democratization (O'Donnell, Schmitter, and Whitehead 1986b; Shain and Linz 1995; Linz and Stepan 1996; Lijphart 1999; Coleman and Lawson-Remer 2013), the East Asian experiences are generally understudied. Instead, Latin American and post-communist Eastern European countries have received more sustained attention (O'Donnell, Schmitter, and Whitehead 1986a; Przeworski 1991; Walker and Armony 2000; Calhoun 2004; Rizman 2006; Ramet and Made 2007; Petrovic 2013).

Moreover, the existing but limited research on the democratization of East Asian states has not clarified the distinct models of democratic transition visible in the region. Most of these studies treat the region as a whole and then try to explore a single "East Asian pathway" or a master causal variable. For example, democratic transitions in East Asia occurred in the context of "economic miracles," and in line with modernization theory democratization was treated as a by-product of such miracles (Morley 1992; Haggard and Kaufman 1995). In addition to economic factors, either culture--including the emergence of post-material values (Inglehart 1997) and Confucian legacies (Moody 1988)--or pacted transitions (Compton 1998) have been identified as core features of democratic transitions in East Asia.

The above problem is related to another deficiency in the democratization literature. The literature on democratization in East Asia has largely been case-oriented (Huntington 1991; Diamond, Plattner, and Chu 2013). Moreover, most of these studies (e.g., Friedman 1994) only focus on those cases that are classified as "democratic states" (or more generally, "positive cases"). As a result, the work is guilty of selection bias, in which cases are selected based on the values of dependent variables (Geddes 2003). Although Shin (2012) attempts to eliminate such bias by considering "negative cases" in his study on the role of culture, he only focuses on "Confucian East Asian states" with similar problems of selection bias. The failure to include "negative cases" or a sufficient number of "positive cases" has undermined real comparative analysis of democratization in the region.

This paper presents a more refined understanding of the various causal factors that have contributed to democratization in East Asia during the Third Wave. Unlike existing literature, we use qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) to determine the parallel models or pathways of democratic transition in the region. …

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