This article provides an international-political-economy explanation of the development and degradation of Taiwan's press freedom from 1988 to 2016. It argues that Taiwan tends to have more press freedom when it depends economically on a liberal hegemon (such as the United States) and less press freedom when it depends upon a repressive hegemon (such as China). The underlying mechanism is norm diffusion in which local state–business elites introduce media norms from the hegemon and institutionalise them in Taiwan. The Taiwan case implies that transnational economic linkages do not always bring about domestic improvements in human rights, but may damage them when relations of economic interdependence involve powerful authoritarian countries, and that norms may diffuse not only from liberal contexts to repressive states, but also from powerful authoritarian countries to weaker liberal countries.