by Marianne Rinza*
After the defeat of the Chinese national government of Marshal Chiang Kai-shek in the Chinese Civil War (1946-49) and its retreat from Mainland China to Taiwan in 1949, the authoritarian government of the Nationalist Party Guomindang (GMD) established Martial Law, which lasted for the following thirty-eight years. Since the mid-1980s, Taiwan has experienced a gradual transition to democracy, resulting in the institutionalization of a multi-party system and the holding of regular competitive elections.
The island of Taiwan never achieved national independence as an individual state in a traditional sense. Its political existence was the direct result of the Chinese Civil War in Mainland China: following the defeat of the Nationalists against the Chinese Communist Party, Chiang Kai-shek and his army, together with government officials and other refugees, poured onto the island in August 1949. From this time on, the Nationalists considered the island as the only remaining free part of the Republic of China (ROC), while Mainland China became the People's Republic of China.
The historical and institutional origins of the political system of the ROC—and therefore also of the Taiwanese system—date back to the foundation of the republic in 1912 in Nanjing, on Mainland China. At this time the island of Taiwan was a mere province of the ROC. The fundaments of the GMD were laid down by first President Sun Yatsen in the Three Principles of the People (Sanmin zhuyi)—nationalism (minzu), democracy (minzhu) and people's well-being (minsheng). Furthermore, the system of the so-called 'Five-branch-Government' was introduced. It