Taiwan: Beyond the Economic Miracle

By Michael Y. M. Kau; Denis Fred Simon | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Denis Fred Simon and Michael Ying-mao Kau

The death of Chiang Ching-kuo in 1987 along with the onset of the 1990s has afforded Taiwan a rare opportunity to look back on its achievements of the past four decades and to begin the process of preparing for the challenges of the twenty-first century. There is little doubt that Taiwan has made remarkable economic gains since the 1950s, when the Kuomintang (KMT) regime began to focus its attention on developing the island to which it had retreated after the Communist takeover on the Chinese mainland. In fact, Taiwan's so-called economic miracle has been closely studied by many countries in the Third World, especially in terms of its relevance as a model of export-led development. In addition, Taiwan's achievements in terms of attaining a relatively equitable distribution of income in the midst of rapid economic growth have made it an exemplar as many developing countries struggle with ensuring that the benefits of their development are shared by a large proportion of their respective populations.

Along with those studies attesting to Taiwan's economic success, there are now an increasing number of books and articles highlighting Taiwan's achievements in the political realm. Although Taiwan's progress in terms of political development has not been as consistently reported, few can deny the degree to which fundamental changes have taken place in the nature of political discourse and the conduct of political activity since the mid-1980s. Very few observers abroad would have thought it possible for Taiwan to move as rapidly as it has toward the process of democratization. And, while there are still major issues outstanding regarding the nature of Taiwan's constitutional structure and evolving political parties as well as the relationship between local and so-called national politics, the reality is that reform of the entire political system has acquired a momentum that cannot be stopped.

-xvii-

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