Reevaluating the Taiwanese Democracy Movement

A Comparative Analysis of Opposition Organizations under Japanese and KMT Rule

Author: Andreas Martin Fulda


This article reevaluates the first phase of Taiwan's democratization process (1914-1986) by exploring the similarities and differences between oppositional political organizations under Japanese and Kuomintang (KMT) rule. Employing a parallel structure, the article compares two distinct periods of time, 1914-1937 and 1977-1986. Including the Japanese colonial era in the evaluation of Taiwan's democratization process makes it possible to examine long-overlooked issues in Taiwan's political development such as the question of continuity and disjuncture. The author argues that the Japanese colonial era should be recognized as the starting point of Taiwanese political activities and the era of KMT one-party rule that followed as a re-colonization of Taiwan (lasting from 1947 until the early 1980s). The author's analysis reveals that (1) Taiwanese political opposition during both eras originated within rather than outside repressive political frameworks and that moderate opposition organizations emerged as the best possible reaction given those circumstances; (2) domestic organizations had a greater impact on the Taiwanese polity and society than those in exile; and (3) peaceful approaches were an important alternative to revolutionary movements. The author recounts the story of Taiwan's democratization process (until 1986) through the careers of two long-neglected moderate political activists, Lin Xiantang (1881-1956) and Kang Ningxiang (1938- ).
Regions: East Asia
Countries: Taiwan

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September 2002
© Arthur Jones, PhD