In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Politics of Taiwan

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews—Single Author
  • General Overviews—Edited Volumes
  • Journals
  • Identity and Cross-Strait Relations
  • Democratization
  • Political Economy
  • Analyses of Previous SNTV Electoral System
  • 2005 Legislative Elections Reform
  • Political Parties and Party Change
  • Candidates and Campaigning
  • Comparative Studies on Parties, Elections, and Democracy
  • During the Ma Administration
  • During the Tsai Administration
  • International Space
  • Election Data and Opinion Surveys

Political Science Politics of Taiwan
Hans Stockton
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 September 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 September 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0041


This polity is known today by its citizens and a small number of states as the Republic of China; by Beijing as Taiwan, Province of China; by the World Bank as the “Customs Territory of Taiwan, Kinmen, and Matsu”; and by most of the world as simply “Taiwan.” The people who inhabit the main and surrounding islands of Taiwan have been subject to internal and external political, economic, and strategic forces that have resulted in processes giving rise to the “Taiwan Miracle.” Since the end of Japanese colonialism in 1945 and the Nationalist government’s retreat to Taipei in 1949, Taiwan has transitioned from single-party rule to liberal democracy and impoverished state to globalization powerhouse, and it remains one of the most potentially explosive sovereignty disputes and diplomatic complexities faced by the United States and the People’s Republic of China. Few cases highlight the intertwined causalities of economic, political, foreign relations, and social development than Taiwan, and perhaps even fewer are as well documented. While politics on Taiwan continues in a fairly linear progressive path toward democratic deepening, the ebb and flow of Cross-Strait and US-Taiwan relations continue to play a major role in Taiwan’s domestic politics and international relationships. Taipei-Beijing relations have regressed from détente under former president Ma Ying-jeou (2009–2016) to heightened animosity since Tsai Ing-wen’s inauguration in 2016 due to her rejection of the so-called 1992 Consensus and Beijing’s increasing militarization of the Taiwan Strait. Conversely, US-Taiwan relations since 2016 have grown closer, more expansive, and more public.

General Overviews—Single Author

Despite the shifting political, economic, and diplomatic winds in Taiwan, several historical factors remain constant. General overviews, such as Gold 1986, commonly address the origins of divided society resulting from waves of migration and Japanese colonialism and subsequent developmental challenges. Copper 2009 and Roy 2003 address the impact of the 1949 diaspora to Taiwan from mainland China, with Kerr 1965 providing extensive detail. Taipei’s increasing struggle for international recognition (including the United Nations seat), the evolution of the regime from fascist to liberal democracy, and economic development and national identity are examined in Chao and Myers 1998, Copper 2005 (cited under Democratization), Sutter 1988, and Tien 1989. Other comprehensive treatments of Taiwan’s development into the 21st century are Bush 2021 and Rigger 2011. More recent Taiwan overviews take the form of edited volumes containing a collection of historical, economic, political, and diplomatic developments. The Republican period on the mainland is most often treated as a separate literature. Taiwan’s political development may be broadly divided into colonial, authoritarian, transition, and democratic periods, with most of the sources below touching on each.

  • Bush, Richard. Difficult Choices: Taiwan’s Quest for Security and the Good Life. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2021.

    Chronicles successes and challenges of Taiwan during the latter half of the Tsai Ing-wen administration with chapters ranging from economics and government budgets, economic and energy policy, defense and security, Cross-Strait relations, and the changing role of the United States as security guarantor.

  • Chao, Linda, and Ramon H. Myers. The First Chinese Democracy: Political Life in the Republic of China on Taiwan. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

    Addresses the rise of democracy in Taiwan leading to the first direct presidential elections in 1996. Focuses on the liberalization of the state and decision-making processes that increasingly allowed for the mobilization, organization, and legalization of political opposition.

  • Copper, John F. Taiwan: Nation-State or Province? Boulder, CO: Westview, 2009.

    Broad survey of the economic, cultural, political, and diplomatic development in Taiwan primarily since 1949. Latest edition reviews the Chen administration’s policies toward Beijing, Taiwan’s national identity, and consequences for relations with Beijing and Washington, DC.

  • Fell, Dafydd. Government and Politics in Taiwan. New York: Routledge, 2018.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315643120

    A comprehensive overview of political change on Taiwan since 1945 with attention to key topics, such as factional and identity politics, elections, and party politics after 2000. Fell adds to the standard overview with additional chapters on social movements and welfare politics on Taiwan.

  • Gold, Thomas B. State and Society in the Taiwan Miracle. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1986.

    One of the first systematic studies of the “developmental state” on Taiwan. Utilizing the historical-structural approach developed for Latin America, Gold explores the relationship between the colonial and postcolonial state and Taiwan populace and how this relationship succeeded in integrating Taiwan into the global economy.

  • Kerr, George H. Formosa Betrayed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965.

    One of the earliest and most detailed American records of the relocation of the Nationalist government to Taiwan and its consolidation from 1945 to 1957. Kerr’s account of the 28 February 1947 uprising and its aftermath is one of the richest English-language narratives

  • Rigger, Shelley. Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011.

    Reviews the political, economic, and diplomatic history of Taiwan and its postwar development, interspersed with rich interviews and commentary by a variety of key personalities in this development history. Summarizes the development story as why Taiwan should and does matter to the world.

  • Roy, Denny. Taiwan: A Political History. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003.

    A broad historical survey of Taiwan’s internal political development and shifting external relations since Japanese colonization. Emphasizes the shaping of Taiwan’s development within the context of the great power struggles.

  • Sutter, Robert G. Taiwan: Entering the 21st Century. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1988.

    Early work that explores the “Taiwan Miracle” within domestic and international political economy contexts. Echoes the strategic positioning of Taiwan as a dependency state within the expanding global economy.

  • Tien, Hung-mao. The Great Transition: Political and Social Change in the Republic of China. Taipei: SMC, 1989.

    One of the most detailed explorations of regime and party development on Taiwan since the KMT retreat in 1949. Explores the economic, social, and political transitions occurring under the “Taiwan Miracle.”

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