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Reviews 357 C. L. Chiou. Democratizing Oriental Despotism: Chinafrom 4 May 1919 to 4 June 1989 and Taiwanfrom 28 February 1947 to 28 June 1990. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995. xiii, 178 pp. Hardcover, isbn 0-312-12871-1. Over the last quarter century, some forty states have undergone the transition from authoritarian to democratic politics, in what Samuel P. Huntington calls the "third wave" ofdemocratic change in human history.1 Changes in East Asia have been particularly rapid, as both the Republic ofKorea and the Republic of China on Taiwan have developed competitive party systems; even the forty-year dominance of the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party loosened as a coalition ofopposition parties briefly replaced its rule. However, the primary Leninist states ofAsia—China, North Korea, and Vietnam —remain as authoritarian and resistant to democratic change at the end of the twentieth century as they were at mid-century. Although China (followed recendy by Vietnam) has initiated a series ofeconomic reforms and introduced a "socialist market economy," its briefexperiment with political liberalization came to a crashing halt in the Tienanmen massacre ofJune 4, 1989. A number of scholars have attempted to explain China's failure to democratize , and particularly the regime's inability to compromise with democratic protesters in the 1989 student-led demonstrations in Beijing.2 A large number of scholars have examined the successful cases of democratization in Asia, and Taiwan's democratization from 1986 to 1996 has been a popular topic.3 But only a few scholars have evaluated the processes and pitfalls ofliberalization and democratization within one discrete cultural area, and C. L. Chiou is to be congratulated for this effort. In Democratizing Oriental Despotism, Chiou's central question is "why democracy is coming into being in Taiwan but not in China" (p. 3). The theoretical framework he uses is Joseph A. Schumpeter's democratic method: "that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions which realizes the common good by making the people itselfdecide issues through the election ofindividuals who are to assemble in order to carry out its will."4 He applies it to China and Taiwan following Huntington's more recent operational definition: "collective decision makers are selected through fair, honest, and periodic elections in which candidates freely compete for votes and in which virtually all the adult population is eligible to vote."5© 1997 by UniversityChiou contrasts this institutional perspective on the development ofdemocofHawai 'i Pressracv—^0 or multiple parties contesting leadership positions ofthe state in free, competitive elections—with die cultural perspective so often applied to Confucian societies in East Asia. He finds that democratic reformers' attempts to trans- 358 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Fall 1997 form the Chinese Confucian political culture from the May Fourth Movement of 1919 to Tienanmen in 1989 have all been doomed to failure, because authoritarian values and practices are too deeply embedded, and have been powerfully reinforced by Leninism. Chiou compares the reformist visions and actions of Liu Binyan, Fang Lizhi, Yan Jiaqi, and the authors of the popular TV series River Elegy to Qu Yuan, the Confucian scholar of the Warring States period (whose drowning is commemorated in the Dragon Boat Festival) who unsuccessfully remonstrated with rulers to direct their governments to the people's welfare. Like Qu Yuan, China's modern reformers remonstrate instead of seeking institutional change, and by failing to direct their energies toward making the political system competitive, tìiey support its neo-authoritarian tendencies. Democratic reformers in Taiwan also confronted an authoritarian Confucian culture. However, it was somewhat weakened by the fifty-year period of Japanese colonization. Then, upon retrocession, the Nationalist (KMT) authorities brutally suppressed Taiwanese opposition in the February 28, 1947, massacre, which discredited Confucian rhetoric. Chiou finds that from that point, Taiwan's reformers focused on institutional change through electoral competition, made possible initially at the local level in relatively free elections for county and city chiefs and councils. Ultimately, at the national level, the Tangwai (outside KMT or "nonpartisan ") forces contested races in the 1970s and 1980s, and significantiy increased their margin of support against the ruling KMT party. Chiou calls the establishment of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 1986...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 357-359
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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