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

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • 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
  • International Space
  • Election Data and Opinion Surveys

Political Science Politics of Taiwan
Hans Stockton
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 March 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0041


This entity 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, and social development than Taiwan, and perhaps even fewer are as well documented. While the 2008 return to power of the Chinese Nationalist Party inaugurated a new détente between Beijing and Taipei, historical reconciliation, national identity, Taiwan’s future status, and the direction of Taiwan’s liberal democracy remain unresolved.

General Overviews

Despite the shifting political, economic, and diplomatic winds in Taiwan, several historical factors remain constant. General overviews, such as Tu 2003 and Rubinstein 2015, commonly address the origins of divided society resulting from waves of migration and Japanese colonialism. 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 2015, Fell 2012, Gold 1986, and Sutter 1988. Some treatments summarize developments over particular periods of time, such as Tien 1989 and Lee and Wang 2003. 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.

  • 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.

  • Copper, John F. Historical Dictionary of Taiwan (Republic of China). 4th ed. Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield, 2015.

    An encyclopedic reference source for important people, organizations, events, and locations, largely focused on the time period after 1945. Begins with a short chronology of events on Taiwan with additional descriptive vignettes about political change and social development under Chiang Kai-shek and subsequent presidents.

  • Fell, Dafydd. Government and Politics in Taiwan. New York: Routledge, 2012.

    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.

    Still considered a controversial account, this is 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.

  • Lee, Wei-chin, and T. Y. Wang, eds. Sayonara to the Lee Teng-Hui Era: Politics in Taiwan, 1988–2000. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2003.

    Encapsulation of the political transformation on Taiwan under the Lee Teng-hui presidency from 1988 to 2000. Addresses the transactional nature of democratization, Taipei-Beijing relations, and Taiwan’s political economy.

  • 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.

  • Rubinstein, Murray, ed. Taiwan: A New History. New York: M. E. Sharpe, 2015.

    Offers historical and political overview of Taiwan’s development and rule during late Ming and Qing, colonial, and post retrocession. Provides special attention to the development of localized culture on Taiwan as well as the history of the island’s aboriginal people.

  • 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.”

  • Tu, Cheng-sheng. Ilha Formosa: The Emergence of Taiwan on the World Scene in the 17th Century. Taipei: National Palace Productions, 2003.

    A brief synopsis of the dynastic and colonial struggles and migrations that continue to shape Taiwan’s social and political relations and that had brought Taiwan onto the world stage by the 1700s.

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