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Wang, "The transformation of Taiwanese political economy since the mid-1980's: From authoritarian to quasi-democratic state," 2001

USC Dissertation in Politics.
August 24, 2009

Tai-Jane Wang, Ph.D.

Abstract (Summary)
The state in Taiwan since the 1950's was politically characterized as being an authoritarian state. Externally, it belonged to the anti-communist and capitalist camp headed by the U.S. These sociopolitical bases facilitated the state's playing the developmental role in the economy internally. The leitmotif of this dissertation is to provide a comparative theoretical framework for epitomizing and anatomizing Taiwan's change of state structure beyond authoritarianism. It argues that Taiwan has marched toward quasi-democratic since the mid-1980's. In the process of building up democratic system, first destruction then construction, it demonstrates what the obstacles and deficiencies are.

Politics can not be separated from economy and culture. This work obligatorily probes the relations between the democratic transition and the economic transformation in Taiwan. Democratization endows the citizens opportunity to cast votes for allocating resources by market instead of by state. This economic rationality is both endorsed and constrained by Taiwan's quasi-democratic politics. Chapters are devoted to display how Taiwan gains ground in economic liberalization and privatization on the one hand, and how general populace's myopic and self-centered economic appeals through democratic electoral practices on the other hand. Meanwhile, the invisible culture factor, its influence on Taiwan's politics and economy and vice versa, the Confucianism and Christianity dialectic, the question "where are we heading" are synthesized into this study when it fits.

Politics is not local either. Taiwan's existence in giant neighbor China's shadow also eclipses the luster of its democracy. Taiwan's love-hate national sentimentalism nexus towards China, present Sino-U.S.-Taiwan triangular wrestling, the meaning of Taiwan's huge trade and investment interactions with China to its economy, and the policy-making process of Taiwan's restrictive and defensive China policy are addressed in depth.

The writer hopes that the holistic approach and research can offer readers a direction towards understanding Taiwan today and provoke their ideas and thought.

Advisor: Kim, Sunhyuk