TAIWAN’S INTELLIGENCE REFORM
IN AN AGE OF DEMOCRATIZATION
Steven E. Phillips
Four factors shaped the reform of security and intelligence agencies in the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan: democratization; Taiwanization of the state and the Nationalist Party; continuing concerns over the People’s Republic of China (PRC); and scandals related to intelligence failures or malfeasance.1 For most of the cold war, the Nationalist regime was authoritarian but never sought the degree of totalitarian control that its rivals across the strait, the Chinese Communists, did. Beginning in the 1980s, security services on Taiwan followed a pattern seen elsewhere—organizations with no external oversight, and not independent of the dominant political party or the state. Reform created institutions along the model of “bureaus of domestic intelligence” that focus on threats to the state rather than to a ruling political party or individual leader, do not use coercion, and accept “external inspection.”2 Since the late 1980s, the chief rival to the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) has been the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).3 DPP leaders had long hoped to limit the role of the security and intelligence agencies in domestic politics and were able to take advantage of electoral victories to move ahead in this endeavor. Once in control of the executive branch after the 2000 election, however, DPP leaders found that reshaping loyalties while maintaining discipline within intelligence and security agencies was difficult.
Several unique aspects of Taiwan’s recent history merit attention. Much of the literature on intelligence services in democratizing states builds on the experiences of postcommunist Eastern Europe. The intelligence efforts of these democratizing regimes now focus on their former ally, Russia, and they must also attack organized crime and terrorism. Taiwan’s main external threat, however, has remained constant over the past half century. Chiang Kai-shek, his son Chiang