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  • Taiwan's China Dilemma: Contested Identity and Multiple Interests in Taiwan's Cross-Strait Economy Policy by Syaru Shirley Lin
  • Xiaodi Ye
Taiwan's China Dilemma: Contested Identity and Multiple Interests in Taiwan's Cross-Strait Economy Policy, by Syaru Shirley Lin. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016. 282 pp. US$24.99 (Paperback). ISBN: 9780804796651.

The long-term conundrum between the Beijing and Taipei governments regarding the Taiwan Strait continues to be attractive for scholars of Asian studies, especially after Taiwan became socially and economically integrated with mainland China during the "rise of China" era. As an expert with a diverse academic background and rich practical experience in various fields, Syaru Shirley Lin examines the complicated, dynamic relations between these two regions that share a common culture, language, and historical memory. Lin's new book, Taiwan's China Dilemma, is considered by several scholars interested in cross-strait relations to be a new theoretical explanation of Taiwan's dilemma. More specifically, she attempts to offer a more suitable perspective on Taiwan's economic policy toward mainland China. The author sets forth the research question at the beginning of the book: Why was Taiwan's policy toward China so inconsistent and so seemingly irrational (p. xix)? The book can be divided into two sections. In the first section, comprising Chapters 1 and 2, Lin focuses on formulating her own theoretical framework to fill the gap in the existing theories. In the second section, Lin illustrates her new analytical framework by analyzing four specific timeframes and four associated case studies in Chapters 3 to 6.

In Chapter 1, Lin introduces the argument that Taiwanese identity provides a missing key to understanding the dynamic and inconsistent economic policy on cross-strait relations because national identity is widely regarded by the Taiwanese as the foundation for prioritizing their collective interests in interacting with mainland China (p. 4).

To bridge the causality gap between Taiwan's cross-strait economic policy and its national identity, Lin elaborates on a conceptual framework in Chapter 2, which she uses to analyze the four case studies in the following chapters. After a critical review of the existing theories (e.g., neorealism, neoliberalism, and constructivism), the author proposes that Taiwan's economic approach to mainland China can be accurately understood through a new and eclectic paradigm that combines the international structure with Taiwan's domestic politics and bridges the gap between material and ideological elements (p. 20). In other words, Lin's new book holds that the material or nonmaterial national interests [End Page 228] generated by Taiwanese national identity may have a profound impact on the formulation of cross-strait economic policy (pp. 22–23).

Lin then turns to test her new analytical framework through analyzing four specific timeframes and four related case studies in Chapters 3 through 6. For example, Chapter 3 analyzes the first timeframe from 1988 to 2000. When Lee Teng-hui came to power in 1988, his first action was to redirect trade and investments from mainland China to countries in the southeast and initiated a tough policy called "No Haste," which resulted in restricting cross-strait economic relations after the 1995 missile crisis. However, disagreements over the implementation of No Haste, as illustrated in the first case study, reveal that the cross-strait economic policy was closely related to national identity because there were two sharply different positions reflecting preferences for the future of this nation, either independence or unification (p. 87). Lin contends that conflicts between national identity and Taiwan's economic policy heightened during the second timeframe, which she discusses in Chapter 4.

Lin continues to elaborate on the conflict between national identity and economic policy in Chapters 5 and 6. As Taiwanese identity became increasingly dominant in society, Chen Shui-bian introduced a new restriction on cross-strait economic policy known as "active management" in order to bolster his declining support rate. Again, however, his policy sparked disagreements during the implementation stage (pp. 160–161). In Chapter 6, Lin analyses the most recent case, the Sunflower Movement, which she argues is the response from a consolidated Taiwanese identity to Ma Ying-jeou's liberalizing economic measures toward mainland China...


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