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The First Chinese Democracy: Political Life in the Republic of China on Taiwan
The First Chinese Democracy: Political Life in the Republic of China on Taiwan
By Linda Chao and Ramon H. Myers
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998, 372 pp
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In this sophisticated and carefully researched work, the authors claim that the key to Taiwan's political success was a ruling party willing to engage in a top-down, guided democratic process while tolerating an opposition-driven, bottom-up approach to democratization. These two developments eventually converged without extremists on either side resorting to excessive violence or sabotage.

The authors believe that Taiwan's experience is unique because its ruling party tolerated both the emergence of political opposition and the prospect of sharing or even losing power -- even though it could have chosen to hold on indefinitely. They conclude that two of the key prerequisites for developing and sustaining democracy are a responsible opposition and respect for constitutional law and institutions. But the authors also stress that strong leadership is critical in the early stages of the process and argue that only Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of Chiang Kai-shek, had the power and charisma to lift martial law while restraining the hard-line conservatives in the Kuomintang.