A serious effort to answer the questions posed in this project required accurate information about a nuanced and in some ways delicate topic: the relationships and interactions between state-fostered neighborhood organizations and their constituents. The process of acquiring this information requires explanation.
Several factors make Taiwan’s neighborhood wardens fairly tractable as subjects of up-close study. The Republic of China is, of course, a free and open system, one that places few if any special restrictions on political research. In this context, as Chapter 4 explains, the wardens operate as part of the city government’s organizational structure, but the elections that bring them to their positions also give them independent standing and, in many cases, a critical distance from that structure. Individual lizhang in Taipei varied in the stance they took toward the historically KMT-dominated bureaucracy, some railing against it and others feeling entirely at home with it. In any case, they do not by and large see themselves as spokespeople for the city or for the state as a whole. As well, the civil servants (liganshi and other district officials) who work with the wardens do not act as gatekeepers—indeed, they themselves provide well-informed perspectives on neighborhood politics and the foibles of the governance system. To be sure, as with research subjects anywhere, trust building and over-time study were required to obtain a well-rounded sense of the actors and forces in play in Taipei’s li. But Taiwan’s institutions generally facilitate inquiry rather than impede it.