Liberalist Variation in Taiwan: Four Democratization Orientations

Hung-jen Wang


In this paper I analyse how Taiwanese liberalist scholars have discursively and operationally shaped the meanings of Taiwanese democratization via a mix of liberal values and nationalist concerns. I will argue that a valid understanding of democratization in Taiwan has never emerged in a way that adequately responds to a liberalist perspective of the country’s ongoing political development. Instead, such an understanding has been subjectively influenced by liberal intellectuals writing on the subject. In other words, current discourses in Taiwan represent efforts on the part of scholars to manage connections between liberalist values and nationalist concerns rather than shared views regarding facts emerging from Taiwanese democratization. In this paper I discuss four types of liberalist orientations to Taiwanese democratization – universal, moderate, pragmatic and nationalist – in the contexts of national-identity constraints, a balance between liberal values and national identity, and flexibility regarding liberalist and nationalist concerns. I conclude that democratization research in Taiwan reflects an aspect of knowledge production formulated by the relationship between the researcher and the subject under study.

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