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Institute of Sociology Academia Sinica Taiwan Ethnic politics and democratic transition in Taiwan Introduction The most significant social and political changes in Taiwan during the 1990s were, without any doubt, the democratic transition that started in 1987 which transformed Taiwan from an authoritarian regime to a more liberal and democratic society by 1996. At about the same time, Taiwan also witnessed the first popularized attention of ethnicity issues when the public debates over which groups were ethnic minorities in Taiwan broke out in 1987 after the issues were openly raised by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators in response to a contrary argument made by Mainlander Kuomintang (KMT) legislators in an earlier congressional sessions, which then catched the attention of mass media and the general public. After more than forty years of social integration among Taiwanese and Mainlanders, the two main ethnic groups of Taiwan36, the resurgence of ethnic issues in the public sphere was usually seen as an unfortunate negative side effect of democratization and is detrimental to the prospect of Taiwan’s fragile new democracy. Ethnic tensions and conflicts that aggravated ever since and came to a climax during the 1994 election campaign between the enthusiastic supporters of Chinese New Party (CNP) and DPP, which resulted in one taxi driver’s death and numerous Mainlanders include those who migrated to Taiwan from China after 1945 and their descendants. They consisted of about 14 % of Taiwan’s population. Taiwanese, who made up about 86 %, can be further divided into Holo (about 70 %), Hakka (about 14 %), and Aborigines (about 2 %) based on their differences in ancestry (Holo and Hakka are Han descendants whose paternal ancestors came from China before 1895, while the Aborigines are Austronesians), languages and cultures.
incidents of violence, were seen as an evidence of early sign of such a development (Wang, 1998).
Thus, although Taiwan’s democratic transition was initially a reaction to the Taiwanese’s increasing demands for more political participations or a remedy to the prior institutional ethnic discrimination against Taiwanese, which eventully brought about a more responsive and ethnicially just political institutional arrangement than before, these positive aspects of the relations between democratization and ethnicity were quickly shadowed by the overwhelmingly negative aspects of what happened afterward.
Intensified ethnic conflicts and tensions were treated as if they were evils released out of Pandora’s Box opened up by the democratization.
The negative view of the relation between ethnicity and democratization was also carried over to the explanation of how the democratization in Taiwan occurred in the first place. Ethnic politics issues were usually seen as playing little, if not no role in Taiwan’s democratization transition.
In such a view, ethnicity issues were, at best, background or motivating factors for the challengers, which in nature were constant factors, and hence insufficient in themselves to explain Taiwan’s democratic transition.
This postulate is especially evident in the current explanations of Taiwan’s democratization, which, as will be shown in this paper, greatly under estimated the importance of ethnic politics issues in this transition. Such an under-estimation not only limits the explanatory power of the current theories of Taiwan’s democratization, but also distorts our understandings of the nature and prospects of ethnic conflicts in a democratic system, especially in the case of Taiwan.
By proposing a different way of analyzing ethnic politics issues, this paper will try to demonstrate the critical role of ethnicity politics in Taiwan’s democratization transition. It will also shed new light on the core of contemporary ethnic tensions in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s Democratic Transition Revisited Under the current consensus, Taiwan’s democratic transition consists of two phases (Lin, 1998): 1) liberalization phase (1987–1990), and 2) democratization phase (1991–1996). The liberalization phase began in 1987 when the KMT regime lifted the martial law, which was in effect since 1949 immediately after KMT regime’s relocation to Taiwan. And then in the following year, the ruling KMT lifted the bans on forming new political parties and publishing new newspapers (Chang, 1994).
The democratization phase began at 1991 when all seats in the National Assembly were open to election for the first time since 1948. In 1992, the election of all legislators was also granted by the government. These elections were suspended pending the recovery of the Chinese Mainland by the KMT regime in 1954 under Interpretation No.31 of the Justices of the Constitutional Court, Judicial Yuan. Between 1969 and 1991, only some supplementary seats, which made up less than one-third of all congressional seats, were elected in Taiwan as a measure to placate the increasing demands for more political participation. These were followed by the elections of the Governor of Taiwan Province for the first time, and Mayors of Taipei and Kaohsiung, first time since 1967 and 1980 when the two cities became special cities under the direct control of the central government. And it ended in 1996 when the President of ROC was directly elected by popular votes for the first time. The ROC President used to be elected indirectly by the members of National Assembly, which were dominated by the Mainlander members representing all Chinese provinces before 1991.
The basic democratic political rights to organize, to express different opinions and to elect public officials in the highest levels were restricted by the KMT regime before this transition. By 1996, when this political transformation was completed, almost every major democratic demands made by the opposition camp since 1970s was met by the government.
Before moving to discuss the current explanations of Taiwan’s democratic transition, let us look at some of its unique characteristics from different perspectives first. These unique features which distinguishes the Taiwan case from others have profound impact on its explanations.
1. The Unique Characteristics of Taiwan’s Democratization Transition According to Lin Jih-wen, there were two unique characteristics of Taiwan’s democratization transformation when compared to other cases:
1) the ruling KMT regime initiated and actively engaged in the democratic reforms when it was in power and still won majority of the votes in every elections;
2) KMT regime continued to win elections and to dominate Taiwan’s politics after the opening of electoral competition (Lin, 1999).
After the democratic reforms were undertaken by the late President Chiang Ching-kuo in 1986-7, the KMT candidate, the incumbent President ording to Lin Jih-wen, there were two unique characteristics of Taiwan’s ation transformation when compared to other cases: 1) the ruling KMT regime nd actively engaged in the democratic reforms when it was in power and still won f the votes in every elections;
2) KMT regime continued to win elections and to Taiwan’s politics Teng-hui, opening of electoral first popular (Lin, 1999).electionthe Lee after the was able to win the competition presidential After in reforms wereTaiwan in 1996 in a late President Chiang Ching-kuo in 1986-7, the KMT undertaken by the landslide margin. In fact, KMT was probably the only the incumbent President Lee Teng-hui, was able to after a first popular presidential authoritarian regime to remain in powerwin thedemocratization transition Taiwan in in contemporary worldmargin. In fact, KMT was probably the only 1996 in a landslide history. The KMT regime stayed in power until an regime to remain when it accidentally lost the second popular contemporary world 2000, in power after a democratization transition in presidential election e KMT regime stayed in power strife. 2000, when it accidentally lost the second due to internal power until There was, however, another important dimension of this transformation esidential election due to internal power strife.
re was, however, another usual democratization this transformation beside the usual beside the important dimension of aspect: the indigenization of the ation aspect: the indigenizationinstitutions, which is typically referred to as bentuhua national political of the national political institutions, which is typically as bentuhua (, which literally means ”indigenization”) aspect (Wang, 1989).
gs of elections of openings of congressional all national congressional seatsvotersthe all national elections of seats and the ROC President to and in The the 1990s signifiedPresident ruling KMT Taiwan in the 1990s signified that the ruling ROC that the to voters in regime Taiwan has officially changed its the previous KMT regimeKMT Regime’sofficially changed its positionwhole China. In claim of the in Taiwan has lawful representation of the on the previous China-centered national framework underlying all national political structure since the claim of the KMT Regime’s lawful representation of the whole China.
ime’s relocationeffect, the China-centered national framework underlying allemerged In to Taiwan in 1949 was gradually replaced by a newly national ntered national framework in which the national politicalrelocation to represents political structure since the KMT Regime’s institutions Taiwan in only Taiwan and not all China during this by a newly emerged Taiwan-centered national was gradually replaced transition. This is a quite significant change as egime’s mainframework in which to implement full democracy was that the national excuse for refusing the national political institutions represents only in Taiwan were representing the temporarily lost China Mainland in a state of national citizens of Taiwan and not all China during this transition. This is a. This excuse, which may be quite unthinkable from a retrospective point of view, quite significant change as the KMT regime’s main excuse for refusing work in some degree for more than thirty years as the KMT candidates were able to to implement full democracy was that the national institutions in Taiwan local election (in the sense of obtaining majority votes) during the period.
question, then, is: how can we account for the significant changes? Whatin a changed were representing the temporarily lost China Mainland has state of national emergency. This excuse, which may be quite unthinkable from a s?
retrospective point of view, seemed to work in some degree for more than 2. Currentyears as the KMT Democratization in Taiwan every local election thirty Explanations of candidates were able to win (in the sense of obtaining majority votes) during the period.
rent explanations of democratization in Taiwan we account for the significant changes?
The question, then, is: how can by the political scientists fall into two guments. TheWhat type changed in the 1980s? called political process model, which first has of argument is typically s the role of political elites and their interactions. Given that the KMT regime initiated ratic reforms when it was still in firm control ofof Democratization in Taiwan 2. Current Explanations Taiwan’s politics, early explanation of ratizing transition assigned critical role to late President Chiang Ching-kuo’s active nd manipulation Current explanations of 1987). This type of explanation the political (e.g., Chou and Nathan, democratization in Taiwan by implied that hitected thesescientists out of histwo types of arguments. The first type ofcriticized for reforms fall into own good intention. It was immediately argument is ake the role of opposition movement into consideration and for overemphasizing the typically called political process model, which emphasizes the role of of one man’s political the expense of interactions. Given that the KMT regime initiated will at elites and their historical structural pressure or factors (Wang, thesis proposed by Cheng Tun-jen (1989), iton thestill in firm control of Taiwan’s the democratic reforms when was other hand, provided a better n along this line of argument. Accordingof the democratizingto transition assigned politics, early explanation to Cheng, the key Taiwan’s political on opening in the mid-1980s was the changing pattern of political cooperation and critical role to late President Chiang Ching-kuo’s active strategies and n among elites of different factions within the ruling camp (reformative vs.
e) and the challenging camp (moderate vs. radical). Specifically, it was the manipulation (e.g., Chou and Nathan, 1987). This type of explanation implied that Chiang architected these reforms out of his own good intention. It was immediately criticized for failing to take the role of opposition movement into consideration and for overemphasizing the influence of one man’s will at the expense of historical structural pressure or factors (Wang, 1989). A thesis proposed by Cheng Tun-jen (1989), on the other hand, provided a better explanation along this line of argument.
According to Cheng, the key to Taiwan’s political liberalization opening in the mid-1980s was the changing pattern of political cooperation and competition among elites of different factions within the ruling camp (reformative vs. conservative) and the challenging camp (moderate vs.
radical). Specifically, it was the cooperation between the reformative with moderate factions to get an upper hand in dealing with the conservatives and radicals on their respective camps that accounted for the liberalizing transition. Lin Chia-lung (1999) also pointed to the changing patterns of elite cooperation when he explained Taiwan’s democratic transition. He argued that with the supports of Taiwanese people and cooperation of DPP elites, President Lee Teng-hui of KMT was able to implement the critical democratic reforms in 1990s.
A second type of argument for Taiwan’s democratization also attributed the critical factor to the elites’ action. Wu Nai-teh (2000) argued that the most important changing factor in Taiwan’s democratic transition is the changing attitudes of the challenging elites who fearlessly faced the threat of repression and sacrificed themselves for the cause of democratization.
He specifically identified the said attitude changes among opposition leaders and their supporters in the aftermath of 1979 Kaohsiung Incident, when all prominent leaders in the opposition camp were arrested for treasons and for their involvement in an incident which resulted in injuries of hundreds of policemen during the violent crash with demonstrators.
Leaders and supporters of the opposition camp usually were intimidated by the repression of the KMT regime before the 1979 Incident and dare not openly showed their support for the political prisoners. Such an atmosphere had effectively prevented ordinary citizens from active participation in political opposition or even merely showing support for the political opposition. However, things had changed when the eight opposition leaders were charged with treason and trialed in court martial openly for Kaohsiung Incident and the murders of three family members of one accused leader (Lin Yi-hsiung) during the trial on the very symbolic day of February 28, 1980. Instead of pleading guilty and begging for mercy during the courts martial as they were “supposed to” in front of the domestic and foreign press and media, the opposition leaders took the opportunity of open trial to express their convictions on democracy and to elaborate on their stand on the issue of Taiwan’s self-determination and Taiwan independence, which were still considered as political taboo and could constitute treason if openly advocated at the time. The dedication and sacrifices of the opposition leaders for the cause of democracy, Wu argued, had moved and inspired not only a younger generation of new opposition leaders who rose to fill the positions vacated by the imprisonment of the opposition leaders, but also many indifferent by-standers and turned them into supporters.
Both lines of arguments pointed to the changes in the political elites, be they patterns of cooperation or the changing attitudes of opposition leaders when confronting regime repression. While these arguments are quite powerful or even convincing in correctly identifying and describing how the critical changes occurred in the political elites on both camp that contributed to the democratic transition, they, however, failed to explain why.
3. Problems with Current Explanations The questions of why the political elites changed either their patterns of competition and cooperation or the manners of facing regime repression are quite important in explaining the timing of these changes. We can not fully explain Taiwan’s democratic transition unless we can properly explain why did reformative faction elites of the KMT regime are willing to negotiate with the opposition camp or initiate the political reforms at this particular time or conjuncture. Why did these changes in elite action or interactions not occur earlier? The KMT elites apparently felt some new pressures at this time to change their strategy of dealing with their political challengers. The question remains: what was the new pressure at this time? The existing theories of Taiwan’s liberalizing opening or democratization, however, were quite vague on this point. They were treated as exogenous variables or background factors for the changes in elite actions and interactions. Cheng Tun-jen, for instance, argued that main reason for the failure of opposition during its first wave of challenge in 1977 and 1979 was that elites in the ruling KMT and opposition leaders did not communicate with each other:
“The 1977 election riot resulted in the ascent of the conservative wing within the KMT, while the Assembly’s politics radicalized the majority of the leaders in the political opposition. Locked in a situation of strategic interaction, the radical opposition and the conservative KMT cadres did not communicate: the former did not heed the warnings of the latter, with the latter did not consult with the former about suspension of elections (of the National Assembly after the US broke its diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1978)”(Cheng, 1989, p. 493).
The result was the violent crash in the 1979 Kaohsiung Incident. In this account, the focus was clearly on the strategies and actions of the political elites under the new political atmosphere. Accordingly, “…the subsequent success of the moderate wing of the political opposition can be explained by its adoption of a different strategy.” (Cheng, 1989, p. 493) Cheng, however, did not explored in details the changing political atmosphere that made the changing strategies of the elites possible in the first place. Why did the previously prohibited issue of Taiwan’s future become a viable option in the opposition’s political agenda and strategy in the 1980s? Also, Cheng did not clearly identify the role of ethnic political issue in the process of the democratic transition. Cheng regarded ethnic inequality in political power as the background for Taiwan’s democratic movement when he stated:
“The sub-ethnic cleavage between Taiwanese and mainlanders, as reflected in the political platform and elite composition of the opposition, provided the basic social framework within which the democratic movement unfolded. (…) Democratization could be and had been interpreted as a redistribution of political power between the mainlanders and the Taiwanese” (Cheng, 1989, p. 497–498;
Lin, 1999, p.13).
However, according to Cheng’s political process interpretation of Taiwan’s democratic transition, ethnic issue was at best a motivating factor for opposition camp in pursing democratic movement. It was implicitly assumed that political elites of both KMT regime and the opposition all shared the same interpretations of what democratization would mean to Taiwan’s ethnic distribution in political power. Furthermore, the sense of ethnic discrimination against Taiwanese by the KMT regime in the national political institutions was assumed to be widely known and shared among the general public after the KMT regime suspended all elections for national congressional members in the 1950s. The political opposition camp only began to act on their long existing discontents when the opportunity for challenges arose following the KMT regime’s loss of international support in the 1970s. The critical factor or variable that distinguished the success of the democratic movement in the 1980s from its previous failure in the 1970s, hence, was the changing patterns of elite cooperation and competition, according to this thesis.
Although such an expalantion has its merits, it greatly overlooked the positive contribution of ethnic pollitics in this process. Specifically, such a thesis only focuses on the elites and failed to pay enough attention to the possible role played by the general public. It also assumed that most people shared or accepted what the elites knew or believed about the ethnic political inequality. The problem with these assumptions was that it fit the reality quite poorly. Despite the “obvious” ethnic discrimination against Taiwanese under KMT regime’s authoritarian rule, KMT regime was able to gain the majority support of not only Mainlanders but also most Taiwanese in the local elections. The candidates of opposition camp, who were the champions for Taiwan’s democratic reforms and ethnic discrimination of the Taiwanese by the government, received only limited support in these elections, about thirty percent of the votes in most cases37.
A possible answer to these questions is: while the sense of being discriminated ethnically may be widely accepted among the Taiwanese challenging elites, it was not equally shared among the KMT’s Taiwanese A possible answer to these questions is: while the sense o elites and the general public. The fact accepted among the Taiwanese challenging e may be widely that Taiwanese KMT political elites rarely, or even never, openlyKMT’s Taiwanese elites and the general public. The fa among the discussed the ethnic inequality issue collaborated with this assertion. Not only KMT’s Taiwanesediscussed the ethnic inequa elites rarely, or even never, openly elites never publicly complained about ethnic discriminationKMT’s Taiwanese by the never publ assertion. Not only against Taiwanese elites ruling KMT, some of them even openly opposedTaiwanese by the ruling KMT, some of th discrimination against to and denied such a claim made by their fellow Taiwanesesuch a claim madecamp. Forfellow Taiwanese in the op denied in the opposition by their instance, in 1979 when the opposition camp rose toopposition camp rose KMT under the ruling KM 1979 when the challenge the ruling to challenge the banner of Formosa Magazine, Lin Yang-kang (), a Taiwanese elite who was Magazine, Lin Yang-kang a Taiwanese elite who was appointed by the KMT regime to be the Governor of Taiwan be the Governor of Taiwan Province, openly denied the gove against Taiwanese in political appointments to the press in severa Beside the often-mentioned factors of economic prosperity and societal stability un The assumption of the general public’s wide accep der the KMT rule or that elections were rigged, several factors accounted for such a voting pattern among the Taiwanese:discriminationincorporated many Taiwaneseever more problematic. S 1) KMT regime by the government was elites to run that although Mainlanders voters were in over-represented in the on its ballot through a patronage system;
2) Most Taiwanese were indeed fact casting votes to support their local headman rather than supporting the KMT regime in these local of central gov as cabinet, national congress, and higher echelons elections. The results of thesethink it was an unfair interpreted as popular support for to the Taiwa elections, however, were distribution of political power the ruling party by the KMT regime;
3) KMT regimesurvey encourageTable 1, when the first Socia in the analysis of neither data in nor support Main landers to run in these elections, which effectively eliminated the importance of ethnic they think T conducted in 1984, most Taiwanese reported that factors during the electoral competitions (Wang, 2008).
socially than the Mainlanders, a clear evidence for the lack o among most of them at the time.
Table 1. Evaluation of Social Influence among Different Grou Social Change Survey Data Social Influence of Mainlanders Compared to Tai Province, openly denied the government’s alleged discrimination against Taiwanese in political appointments to the press in several occasions.
The assumption of the general public’s wide acceptance of the sense of ethnic discrimination by the government was ever more problematic.
Some scattered evidence indicated that although Mainlanders were indeed over-represented in the national political positions, such as cabinet, national congress, and higher echelons of central government, most Taiwanese did not think it was an unfair distribution of political power to the Taiwanese as a whole. As can be seen in the analysis of survey data in Table 1, when the first Social Change Survey in Taiwan was conducted in 1984, most Taiwanese reported that they think Taiwanese were more influential socially than the Mainlanders, a clear evidence for the lack of ethnic minority consciousness among most of them at the time.
Table Evaluation of Social Influence among Different Groups by Ethnic Groups, 1984 Taiwan Social Change Survey Data Social Influence of Mainlanders Compared to Taiwanese Ethnic Less Groups Same More Total 568 Holo 1160 (26.2%) (53.6%) (20.2%) [74.7%] 73 Hakka 155 (26.3%) (55.8%) (18.0%) [9.6%] 48 Mainlanders 151 (37.3%) (50.9%) (11.9%) [14.0%] Aborigines 19 23 (37.3%) (45.1%) (17.6%) [1.8%] 811 1544 545 Total (28.0%) (53.2%) (18.8%) 100.0% Pearson Chi-Squares = 31.091, DF = 6, p. Source: Taiwan Social Change Survey, 1984( ):
Row percentage ;
[ ] : Column percentage Apparently, the sense of ethnic discrimination were only shared by a minority among the Taiwanese in 1984: only about 20 % of Taiwanese interviewed thought that Mainlanders had more social influence than the Taiwanese, compared to more than half of the respondents who thought their respective influences were about the same and another 26 % who, to the contrary, thought Taiwanese are more influential than the Mainlanders. Against the “common sense” claimed by the opposition leaders, most Taiwanese did not shared the interpretations of the KMT regime’s discrimination against Taiwanese sense of being discriminated ethnically A possible answer to these questions is: while the as was typically proposed by may be widely accepted among the Taiwanese challenging elites, was not equally shared the opposition camp in its political platform at thisit time. How can we explain this quite puzzling and the general public. The fact that Taiwanese KMT political among the KMT’s Taiwanese elites fact?
elites rarely, or even never, openly discussed the ethnic inequality issue collaborated with this assertion. Not only KMT’s Taiwanese elites never publicly complained about ethnic 4. A Possible Answer to the Puzzle discrimination against Taiwanese by the ruling KMT, some of them even openly opposed to and denied such a claim made by their fellow Taiwanese in the opposition camp. For instance, in 1979 when theretrospective point challenge the ruling KMT under such a puzzle can From a opposition camp rose to of view, the answer for the banner of Formosa Magazine, Lin Yang-kang (), a Taiwanese elite who was appointed by the KMT regime to be the Governor of Taiwan Province, openly denied the government’simagination which quite straightforeward. Under the Chinese national alleged discrimination be perceives China political appointments to the press in several occasions. and Taiwan is against Taiwanese in as consists of all 36 Chinese provinces, The assumption of the general public’s wide acceptance of the sense of ethnic only one province, national political body should be designed to represent discrimination by the government was ever more problematic. Some scattered evidence indicated all ChineseMainlanders were indeed over-representedwere considered to positions, such that although Provinces. Since Mainlanders in the national political be political representatives congress, and higher echelons of centralin Taiwan most Taiwanese did not as cabinet, national of their respective provinces government, under the Chinese think it was an unfair distribution of political power to the Taiwanese as a whole. As can be seen national imaginationdataproposed by the KMT regime, Mainlanders’ overall in the analysis of survey as in Table 1, when the first Social Change Survey in Taiwan was over-representation in the national political think Taiwanese werejustifiable and conducted in 1984, most Taiwanese reported that they institutions was more influential even deemed as at the time.a clear evidence for the lack of ethnic a stage consciousness necessary for the national interest in minority of national socially than the Mainlanders, among most of them emergency. With the support of United States to maintain the Chinese seats Table 1. Evaluation of Social Influence among Different Groups by Ethnic Groups, 1984 Taiwan in the United Nations and the UN Security Consult, KMT regime which Social Change Survey Data relocated to Taiwan after it was defeated by the Chinese Communist Party Social Influence of Mainlanders Compared to Taiwanese Less Ethnic Groups Same More Total in 1949 still enjoyed more formal diplomatic recognition in the international 568 Holo 1160 community than the(26.2%) founded CCP regime before 1970 [74.7%] newly provided a (53.6%) (20.2%) 73 Hakka 155 strong support for its claim of being the only legitimate government of (26.3%) (55.8%) (18.0%) [9.6%] 48 China, despite the constant challenges by the Soviet Union and[14.
Taiwanese are more influential than the Mainlanders. Against the “common sense” claimed by The combinations of these internal and external factors in favor of the the opposition leaders, most Taiwanese did not shared the interpretations of the KMT regime’s Chinese national imaginationwas typically proposedwhythe opposition camp in did discrimination against Taiwanese as help to explain by most Taiwanese its not develop or this time. How can we explain this quite puzzling fact?
political platform at share a sense of being discriminated ethnically under an “obvious” situation of ethnic disparity between Taiwanese and Mainlander 4. A Possible Answer to the Puzzle representations in the national political institutions.
3) KMT regime neither encourage nor support Mainlanders to run in these elections, which effectively eliminated the importance of ethnic factors during the electoral competitions (Wang, 2008).
What Else has Canged after 1980?
My discussion above has pointed to another imporant change that occurred after 1980s beside the patterns of elite cooperation and action as proposed by the political process model. The integrity of the Chinese national imagaination gradually became vulnerable when KMT regime lost its seat in the United Nations to Chinese Communist Party regime in 1971 and diplomatic ties with most major nations in the world during the following decade. The most devestaing incident was that the United States foramlly recognized the CCP regime in China and broke its offical diplomatic relations with the KMT Regime in 1978. This change in the international arena provided the opposition camp an opportunity to demand for political reforms and democratization.
To counteract the effectiveness of KMT regime’s Chinese national imagination in deferring the schedule of implementing democracy, the opposition camp began to develop and to propose an alternative national imagaination after 1980.
1. The emergence of an alternative national imagination The idea of Taiwan as a de-facto sovereign state, which was severely repressed for its de-jury “Taiwan Independence” implication by the KMT regime during the trial of Kaohsiung Incident, began to emerge in the political platform of opposition camp in early 1980s. Although it was disguised as a basic human rights in a democratic system rather than a outright claim for pursuing Taiwan independence, the demand of self-determination by the Taiwanese people (“Taiwan’s future should be determined by the 18 millions population in Taiwan”) in the campaign platform by Dang-wai (literally, outside the KMT party) camp nevertheless paved the way for the emergence of an alternative national imagination in the public political arena.
The open advocate of a competing national identity during the electoral compaigns and in political dissent magazines and other political commentary publications marked a new epoch in Taiwan’s political competition. KMT regime was forced to take a different approach to deal with the political dissents who advocated self-determination as the previous repressive measures in the 1980 Kaohsiung Incident trial failed to produce intimidating effect as they used to be. The pressure from the international community in the early 1980s, especially by the US government, as well as increasing support for the imprisoned opposition leaders and their families who run for public offices on their behalf during the following elections signaled the need for changing strategies to deal with the opposition camp on the part of ruling KMT elites (Wu, 2000).
2. A new concept of political ethnic equality A related change that followed the emergence of new national imagaination was a new way of defining fair political rights for its citizenry. Since the newly emerged Taiwanese national imagination defined Taiwan as the substantial boundary of the sovereign state, it entailed a new standard for evaluating ethnic equality in term of political power distribution within the “national boundary”. As such, Mainlanders were now perceived as part of the Taiwanese citizens with equal rights like all others, rather than political representatives of Chinese provinces in Taiwan with special statuses, in the new Taiwanese national framework.
As Mainlanders only made up of less than 14 % of Taiwan’s population, their over-representation, and in most cases, overwhelming dominance in the national politics began to be interpreted by the opposition camp as evidences of the KMT regime’s intentional and systematic discrimination against Taiwanese.
Although the demand for de-jury Taiwan Independence was still not acceptable to most Taiwanese during the 1980s, the demands for more ethnic political equality in the de-facto sovereign state of Taiwan, which was the core essence of the new ethnic concept, began to receive more public attention among the Taiwanese in 1987 after it was fiercely debated in the national congress (Legislative Yuan) for the first time. In particular, the aging Mainlander members of national congress who had been in office for nearly forty years since 1948 without being re-elected and who still made up majority seats in the national congress became a highly visible and an easy target for political reformative demands by the opposition camp. The mounting pressure for reforming the national congress had turned the once proud “symbol of legitimacy” representing the whole China into a liablity for the KMT regime. The question for the ruling KMT regime at this time was not whether to reform the national congress or not, but rather it was a question of extent or degree allowed for the inevitable reforms. The opposition camp began to propose the most radical reform package: all seats of national were to be elected by voters in Taiwan and no special seats to represent the Chinese provinces in the mainland should be reserved in the new congress38. The KMT regime, however, was quite reluctant to allow a new national congress to be elected entirely by people in Taiwan and no reserved seats representing the Chinese provinces.
The symbolic imporantce of this issue can be further illustrated by re examining the critical changes in Taiwan’s democratic transition.
3. Rethinking the Critical Changes in Taiwan’s Democratic Transition While most people would agree Taiwan’s democratization transition began in 1987 when the martial law was lifted, there is little discussion on what was the most critical change in this long transition. By the critical changes, I am referring to the most important issues in the series of democratizing reforms that the ruling KMT regime would not allow if it could has its way. It is quite important to identify the most critical changes as it could help us in providing a better understanding of the transition. Based on my discussion on the third, and probably the most important unique characteristics of Taiwan’s democratizing transition, the indigenization of the national political institutions, I argue that the elections of all congressional members in 1991 and 1992 qualified for such a critical change. Let me elaborate.
The increasing demands for political reforms by the opposition camp as it gained more support among the general populace in the 1980s had forced the KMT regime in changing its strategies of dealing with the contentious challengers. In May 1986, President Chiang Ching-kuo instructed high ranking cadres in the KMT to actively initiate the following reforms: 1) to replace the martial law with a new National Security Law;
2) to draft and pass a Party Law;
3) to reform national congressional organs;
and 4) to extend the range of local elections38. These actions were meant to respond to some of the long-standing demands proposed by the opposition camp.
On hindsight, all these reforms were carried out and accomplished in the exact sequence as stated above within the next decade. The respective The re-election of all congressional members were proposed by the opposition camp in its platform during the 1978 supplementary election for National Assembly Delegates and again in their joint statement on the national affair () after the election was suspended when the US announced its shifting recognition to PRC (Lee, 1987:128, 136). KMT regime, however, did not respond directly to this issue.
e in the 1980s had Taiwan’s democratizing transition, the its e characteristics of forced the KMT regime in changing indigenization of the tious challengers. In that 1986, President Chiang Ching-kuo l institutions, I argue May the elections of all congressional members in 1991 and or suchto activelychange. Let me elaborate.
KMT a critical initiate the following reforms: 1) to replace easing demands for political reforms Party Law;
3) to reform as it gained more Security Law;
2) to draft and pass a by the opposition camp ) to general the range of local elections. 39 These actions were the extend populace in the 1980s had forced the KMT regime in changing its ling with the contentious challengers. In Mayto Taiwan’s democratization transition, importance of each reform 1986, President ng-standing demands proposed by the opposition camp. On Chiang Ching-kuo rried out and in the KMT to actively initiate the following reforms: 1) to replace anking cadreshowever, variedin the exact sequence as stated accomplished greatly.
with a new National Security Law;
2) to reform in passlist of reforms were actually in he respective By 1986, theof each draft and the a Party Law;
3) to reform importance first two items to Taiwan’s sional organs;
and 4) to extend the range of local elections. 39 of martial law was already varied greatly. practice without legal recognition. The integrity These actions were in to some of reforms werewhen demands proposed byprotests broke out during early d the list of in jeopardy actually in practice social the opposition camp. On the long-standing thousands of without legal eselaw was already in Taiwan,and when thousands theunder martial lawas. These social reforms were carried out which were still illegal social sequence 39 stated 1980s in jeopardy accomplished in of exact al the in Taiwan, which were still illegal under martial an earlier political demonstration next decade. The respective importance ofby law 40.
movements and protests were inspired each reform to Taiwan’s 0s transition, however, varied greatly. staged demonstration camp in January 1979, the sts were inspired by an earlier politicalby the oppositionin in Kaohsiung county, the first twofirst one under the martialone under the martial a prominent legal osition camp in January 1979, of reforms were actually in practice without opposition items in the list the first law, after arrest of e integrity of martial law was already in jeopardy when thousands of social opposition leader, Yu Deng-Fa,and a a series of, and series of political rally organized by leader, Yu Deng-Fa ut during early 1980s in Taiwan, which were still illegal under martial law 40.
mosan Magazine Formosan the same year, which eventually which eventually lead the group at Magazine group at the same year, ovements and protests were inspired by an earlier political demonstration in Incident. Thethe the outbreak of not Januarysevere theThe KMT regime did not excise KMT regime did in excise 1979, repressive ty staged by to opposition campKaohsiung Incident. first one under the martial s because there wererepressive measures to deal expressing protests because there simply too many incidents with these severe opposition leader, Yu Deng-Fa, and a series of rest of a prominent nd because some ofsimply weremany incidents expressing by were them too launched and participated grievances eventually rganized by the Formosan Magazine group at the same year, which of non-political on of replacing the martial law with a newthem wereSecurity and participated by the reak of Kaohsiung Incident. The some of nature, and because KMT regime did not excise severe repressive National launched protests was therefore an ex-post The proposition of replacing the martial law with a KMT supporters. 40 remedy measure.
l with these protests because there were simply too many incidents expressing rty Law was new very similar situation. Although the KMT in a n-political nature, National Security Law to regulate the numerous social protests was and because some of them were launched and participated by f new. political parties,an replacing the martial lawchallenged National Security therefore the prohibition was also rters The proposition of ex-post remedy measure. with a new the Dang-wai Public Policy Associationan ex-post remedy a very hed numerous social protests was therefore a () inmeasure.similar situation.
The proposition to enact Party Law was in ical party even though itLawKMTin a very bannedDemocraticAlthoughof new political Although was illegal. In 1986, the the establishment the KMT osition to enact a Party the was regime similar situation.
y the opposition leaders against the government regulation. also challenged camp the establishment of new prohibition was also challenged when the opposition parties, the political parties, the prohibition was sition camp established Dang-wai Public Policy Association () in nnounced that his government wasPublic Policy established Dang-wai already engaged in the in iticalas a quasi-political party as a quasi-politicalillegal. even though Democratic parties whenfunctioned even though a reporter from the and he was interviewed by it was party In 1986, the it was illegal. In oned al and social 1986,by the upper part leaders against the government by the opposition ty was established in the opposition of 1980s Party was established regulation.
tone the Democratic Progressive in Taiwan, it regime to try leaders against the government regulation. President Chiang Ching to defend martial law and the ban on forming g Ching-kuo later announced that his government was already engaged in the measures ban kuopolitical parties when he was interviewedwas aalready engaged in the against the offenders as they did before 1979. by reporter from the ifting the on later announced that his government t. Given thereforms became,lifting the ban on upper chipsof 1980s in Taiwan, it of political political and sociala tone inbargaining part for in sense, the preparation for political parties when he was interviewed re desirable compromise during the politicalmartial law and the ban on forming ostly for the by a reporter to try thedefend negotiationGiven the political and social KMT regime from to Washington Post. with ssure for congressional reforms increased in the mid-1980s, before 1979.
by taking repressive measures against the offenders as they would be very costly for the tone in the upper part of 1980s in Taiwan, it did two items in the list of political reforms became, in a sense, bargaining chips for KMT regime to try to defend martial law and the ban on forming political to exchange for more desirable compromise during the political negotiation with, 1986, Page 2. parties by taking repressive measures against the offenders as they did amp. When the pressureand demonstrations onreforms increased in the mid-1980s, ere 2,892 incidents of rally for congressional the streets between before 1979.
economic and otherThe first two items in the list of political reforms became, in a sense, social issues.
dicated that about 37% of all protests between 1983 and 1988 were not News (), May 14, 1986,chips2.
bargaining Page for the KMT regime to exchange for more desirable ang et.al. (1992), there were 2,892 incidents of rally and demonstrations on the streets between See United Daily News (), May rotest for environmental, economic and other social issues. 14, 1986, Page 2.
ang, et.al. (1992: 134) Accordingthat aboutet.al. (1992),protests between 1983 and of rally and demonstra indicated to Chang 37% of all there were 2,892 incidents 1988 were not camp or by DPP. tions on the streets between 1983 and 1988 to protest for environmental, economic and other social issues.
compromise during the political negotiation with the opposition camp.
When the pressure for congressional reforms increased in the mid-1980s, the KMT regime was very reluctant to allow a new national congress to be elected entirely by people in Taiwan without some special seats representing the mainland provinces given the symbolic significance of the latter in maintaining a Chinese national framework. The KMT leaders were in fact willing to lift the martial law and to allow new political parties to be formed legally in exchange for establishing some reserved seats representing Chinese mainland provinces in the new reformed national congress. The position was clearly demonstrated when President Chiang Ching-kuo told the reporter from the Washington Post ten days after the establishment of DPP that he will lift the martial law and the ban on new political parties on three conditions: that the opposition camp should openly recognize the ROC Constitution, oppose to Communism, and abandon secessionism and Taiwan Independent movement (Lin, 1999:
124). All these conditions pointed to a Chinese national imagination.
Under these guidelines, Taiwan’s national political institutions should represent not only the people in Taiwan, but also all China. By inference, any new design or arrangements of national political institutions without some forms of representatives of Chinese Provinces in mainland will be considered as succumbing to the principles of Taiwan independence.
In short, the KMT regime tried to maintain the integrity of Chinese national imagination at all cost when facing the great pressure for democratic reforms. This became the KMT regime’s bottom line of democratic reforms in the late 1980s which in reality constituted the biggest obstacle of Taiwan’s democratization. This basic guideline for maintaining the Chinese national framework did not change before Chiang Ching-kuo’s death in 1988, and even extended after his successor Lee Teng-hui took office and became the first Taiwanese ROC President41.
How, then, was the most important obstacle to Taiwan’s democratization transition eventually overcome?
The study by Chang, et.al. (1992: 134) indicated that about 37 % of all protests be tween 1983 and 1988 were not lead by opposition camp or by DPP.
How the Congressional Reform was eventually accomplished?
When KMT regime’s intention to establish some mainland province representatives in the new national congress was revealed to the public in 1987, it was immediately objected strongly by not only the opposition camp, but also by some Taiwanese elites within the KMT42. For the first time, the Taiwanese KMT elites openly took a different stand as opposed to the Party’s postion on the sensitive national political issues like the re-structuring of the national congress. On the other hand, all Mainlander legislators who made statements on the issue were in favor of establishing special seats representing the Mainland provinces, regradless of their party affiliations (Wang, 2008, ð. 125–127). The Taiwanese KMT elites feared that such a reformative scheme was very likely to be interpreted as ethnic discrimination against Taiwanese by the KMT regime in the mind of general public. In other words, they began to worry that setting up special reserved seats for Mainlanders in the new national congress would corroborate with the DPP’s accusation of KMT’s ethnic political discrimination against Taiwanese. With the 1989 election for the supplementary seats legislators approaching, some Taiwanese KMT elites warned their party leaders that Taiwanese people were getting impatient with the slow progress of the congreesional reforms, which was deterred by internal divergence on the “reserved seats for Chinese Proveinces” issue within the ruling KMT along the ethnic cleavage. Their worry turned out to be well founded as KMT candidates’ votes decreased by more than 10 % in the 1989 (60.1 %) legislators’ election compared to the 1986 election.
In a sense, the new ideal pattern of maintaining a “different but equal” relations among ethnic groups, i.e., between Taiwanese and Mainlanders in this case, became widely accepted among all ethnic groups in Taiwan.
As Taiwan’s politics began to be re-interpreted and re-evaluated from an new ethnic equality perspective after 1987, more and more Taiwanese populace began to develop a collective sense of being ethnic minority in Taiwan. The ethnicized politics in Taiwan, to use Chang Mau-kuei’s term, paved the way for the further development in the democratizing transition.
Although Lee Teng-hui succeeded Chiang Ching-kuo and became the first Taiwanese President, some conservative Mainlander KMT elites did For instance, KMT’s Secretary General Lee Huanopenly stated that it was against the Constitution to allow all seats in the national congress to be elected only by Taiwanese people. See the news coverage by Central Daily News, January 1, 1989, Page 1.
not want him to serve another term as President. Lee felt threatened by his constituency, the aging National Assembly controlled by the Mainlanders during the 1990 Presidential election. Even though he eventually won the presidential election running on the KMT ticket, he decided to take a different approach in congressional reform. The internal power strife between the “mainstream” and “non-mainstream” factions in the KMT before the 1990 Presidential election was evidently a political cleavage along the ethnic division between Taiwanese and Mainlanders. The victory of Lee’s mainstream faction in the 1990 election triggered the reactionary responses by some Mainlanders elites within the KMT. Besides seeking the support of Taiwanese elites in KMT, Lee appealed to the support of DPP elites and of Taiwanese public to fight against the aging Mainlander congressional members and the conservative factions in KMT (Lin, 1999). Lee’s appeal was articulated on an ethnic ground when he claimed that he, as a Taiwanese President, was being coerced or bullied by the Mainlander KMT elites. In a sense, Lee was appropriating the Taiwanese ethnic minority discourse, which developed by the opposition camp and DPP for a long time before this, to engage in the power struggle within KMT. Given its high visibility and apparent unjust nature of the existing institutional arrangements that favored Mainlanders’ over-representation in the national congress, congressional reforms became an easy choice to start with.
Most of the political process between the elite actions and interaction as I just stated has been described in more details by the poltlical scientists’ accounts of Taiwan’s democratization transition. The main problem in the existing account is that they took the ethnic consciousness among the Taiwanese populace for granted by treating it as exogenous and, most likely, constant factors for the political process explanations of Taiwan’s democratization transition. They assumed that the sense of ethnic inequality as advocated by the Taiwanese opposition leader was already widely shared among the Taiwanese populace, what’s missing is the cooperation between elites across political camps. The two assumptions were in fact related: because they were constant, rather than variable, we do not need to pay too much attention to it when trying to explain changes, and hence, its was treated as exogenous factor in the existing explanations.
The two assumptions, however, were not consistent with what happened in the actual history. If most Taiwanese populace still have not developed an ethnic minority consciousness, as is shown in the analysis of the Taiwan Sociual Change Survey data in Table 1, how can President Lee Teng-hui appealed to them on the ethnic ground, and sucessfully brought them into the political arena to overpower the resistance of the conservative Mainlander elites within KMT? How can Lee, who never openly made this kind of statements before 1990, suddenly get the support of populace for this cause if most of them were not even convinced of Taiwanese’ ethnically unjust treatment by the KMT regime?
The facts that Taiwanese KMT elites dared to openly oppose to their own party’s proposition for establishing special reserved seats for Mainlanders in the name of representing their Provinces in China in 1987 indicated a drastic change of such a consciousness among their constituency. They felt the pressure from their supporters and tried to convey these changes to the party leadership, who were also engaged in an internal strife over the same issue on their own. However, how can we be sure about the changes on the part of the general populace that was so crucial in explaining the democratic transition?
A survey conducted in 1994 confirmed a changing pattern of ethnic consciousness among the Taiwanese. As can be seen the Table 2, in 1994, most Taiwanese (Holo and Hakka) thought that Mainlanders have more political influence than their own ethnic groups. More than two-thirds of the Holo and half of the Hakka interviewees thought that Mainlanders had more political influence over Taiwanese Holo;
compared to only 13.4 % Holo and 24.8 % Hakka believed that Taiwanese Holo were more powerful than the Mainlanders. The result for comparing the Mainlanders and Taiwanese Hakka’s relative political influence was even more striking: more than 75 % of Taiwanese believed that Mainlanders were more powerful than the Hakka, and only 7 % believed otherwise.
This was a signicifant change from the result of 1984 survey which indicated that most Taiwanese was still not conscious of their ethnic minority status back then. By mid-1990s, after the popularized debates on ethnic political issues and the gradual emergence of a new ethnic concept, every ethnic groups in Taiwan believed that they were minorities in some way and demanded to be treated equally by the government. They applied the same principle of demanding “different but equal” proposed by the opposition camp when it challenged the KMT regime to make the claim.
Table Evaluation of Political Influence among Different Groups by Ethnic Groups, 1994 Social Image Survey Political Power of Mainlanders Compared to Taiwanese-Holos Less Ethnic Groups Same More Total 59 90 291 Holo (13.4%) (20.5%) (66.1%) [39.3%] 82 74 Hakka (24.8%) (22.4%) (52.9%) [29.6%] 85 Mainlanders 120 (38.5%) (27.2%) (34.3%) [27.9%] Aborigines 12 15 (32.4%) (40.5%) (27.0%) [3.3%] 273 264 Total (24.4%) (23.6%) (52.1%) 100.0% Pearson Chi-Squares = 96.600, DF = 6, p. Source: Taiwan Social Image Survey, ( ) : Row Percentage ;
[ ] : Column Percentage Political Power of Mainlanders Compared to Taiwanese-Hakka Less Same More Total 24 73 299 Holo (6.1%) (18.4%) (75.5%) [38.0%] 24 Hakka 53 (7.3%) (16.0%) (76.7%) [31.7%] 43 58 178 Mainlanders (15.4%) (20.8%) (63.8%) [26.7%] Aborigines 4 17 (10.8%) (45.9%) (43.2%) [3.5%] 95 747 Total (9.1%) (19.3%) (71.6%) 100.0% Pearson Chi-Squares = 42.133, DF = 6, p. Source: Taiwan Social Image Survey, ( ) : Row Percentage ;
[ ] : Column Percentage The changing pattern of ethnic consciousness among the Taiwanese, therefore, proved to be last straw for overcoming the most imprtant obstacles and triggering the unimaginable change: a new congress made of delegates entirely elelcted by populace in Taiwan and no reserved seats for Mainlanders. After the most difficult obstacle was removed, the rest of the reforms in Taiwan’s democratization gradually unfolded.
Conclusions In this paper, I propose that the current political process model’s account of Taiwan’s democratic transition needs to be re-examined to identify the “critical change” and to re-evaluate the role of ethnic politics issues for a better explanation of the change, and a better understanding of what happened afterward, especially the intertwining of ethnicity, democratization and national identity disputes. Given the symbolic significance of maintaining a national political institution representing all China, KMT regime were very reserved about allowing a new congress without special seats representing Chinese provinces. The congressional reforms, thus, became the most difficult one to negotiate and to achieve during the democratic transition. Eventually, it was the new concept of evaluating ethnic equality under a new Taiwanese national framework which defined the old arrangement of national congress as discriminatory against Taiwanese that contributed to the unthinkable breakthrough. I have also shown that the widespread of a rising ethnic minority consciousness among the Taiwanese populace during late 1980s to early 1990s was the overlooked factor in the existing explanations of Taiwan’s democratic transition.
This finding also implied that the exact nature of the impact of “ethnicity issue” on Taiwan’s democratic transition needs to be re considered. It was no just disputed inter-ethnically between Taiwanese and Mainlanders, but also intra-ethnically among the Taiwanese. The fact that ethnic Taiwanese as a group, the numerical ethnic majority in Taiwan, has been, and still are highly divided in national identity, the degree of ethnic minority consciousness and political party affiliations allows ethnic political competition to develop despite the highly skewed distribution of ethnic population in Taiwan, and hence constituted the major challenge for its democratic transition and democratic consolidation afterwards.
Contrary to common statement about the detrimental effect of ethnic dispute or conflict on social cohesion, the case Taiwan’s ethnic politics devlopment reveals a different possibility. The ethnic concept that began to popularize in Taiwan in 1987 was actually developed to counteract the racist ideology in the disguise of the Chinese nationalist doctrine. For a long period of time, Chinese national imagination was utilized by the KMT regime to justify its exclusion of Taiwanese from a fair participation in the national political institutions and implementing an assimilation policy that imposed a national high culture on the Taiwanese at the expense of Taiwanese local culture. The result of such implicit ethnic exclusion policies was very harmful to social solidarity in Taiwan and yet hard to change given its nationalistic camouflage. When the ethnicity concept was developed in Taiwan, it took the form of ethnic pluralism and demands a new pattern of “different but equal” relations among ethnic groups, as opposed to previous ideal of ethnic assimilation. The wide acceptance of new concept among the general public later became the critical factor in bringing about the most important and yet difficult reform in Taiwan’s democratization in 1991–1992. The positive impact of the ethnic issues on Taiwan’s democratization transition was largely ignored in the existing explanation.
It should be noted that ethnic consciousness by nature is typically developed among the minority groups in pursue of a fair or equal treatment.
Such a political consciousness may inevitably lead to some form of conflicts if the ethnic majority group refuses to grant equal treatment to minority.
The cause of “ethnic conflicts”, however, should not be attributed to ethnic minority who merely seeking to be treated equally like other groups in the society. The real cause of such conflicts is the maltreatment of the ethnic minority by the ethnic majority, usually in some disguise forms of racist ideology, which can be defined by the practice of classification, hierarchy, and exclusion when dealing with intergroup relations (Goldberg, 1992).
The true enemy to the social harmony or solidarity in a democratic society, therefore, is not “ethnic consciousness” in the strict sense of the term, but rather the true “racist ideology” behind many forms of rationale that in effect exclude certain groups from being equally treated.
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