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  • The Taiwan Political Miracle: Essays on Political Development, Elections and Foreign Relations, and: Taiwan's Mid-1990s Elections: Taking the Final Steps to Democracy
  • Richard C. Kagan (bio)
John F. Copper . The Taiwan Political Miracle: Essays on Political Development, Elections and Foreign Relations. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1997. 595 pp. Hardcover $72.50, ISBN 0-7618-0112-X.
John F. Copper . Taiwan's Mid-1990s Elections: Taking the Final Steps to Democracy. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1998. x, 243 pp. Hardcover $59.95, ISBN 0-275-96207-5.

John F. Copper, the Stanley J. Bachman Distinguished Professor of International Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, has—prematurely, I hope—collected a selective compilation of his life's work into two volumes. This truly distinguished professor certainly has a large menu from which he can choose. He has authored nineteen books on Chinese and Asian affairs, and a tremendous number of articles and book reviews. His name could be found twenty-two times on a recent Internet search.

The Taiwan Political Miracle contains a dim sum assortment of thirty of his favorite or most compelling writings. The earliest, titled "Taiwan's Strategy and America's China Policy," is reprinted from a 1977 Summer issue of Orbis. Two more reprints are from the 1970s, sixteen from the 1980s, and eleven from the early 1990s. These essays are arranged into three sections: (1) Politics and Political Change, (2) Elections and Party Competition, and (3) Foreign Policy and Diplomacy.

Running throughout most of these essays is an informed journalistic sense deepened by an insightful political methodology. Copper's essays were usually published soon after the events they describe—an election, a diplomatic exchange, a shift in political power. He writes as an insider who has good friends in high places, and he is familiar with most of the journalists and academics who specialize in Taiwan affairs. Curiously, he does not seem to rely very much on U.S. government contacts in such organizations as the State Department, the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, and even Congress.

A political teleology dominates his approach. He begins with the belief that each stage of governmental change in Taiwan is part of a process that will gradually and assuredly enhance and advance the coming of democracy, economic progress, and wise political leadership. In his case, the word "miracle" in the title of the book should not be taken as just a flowery phrase. Despite this sense of Taiwan's unique characteristics, he urges the Third World and China to consider using Taiwan as their model for democratic transformation. Unfortunately, he never spells out exactly how another political system, like China's, can adopt measures from Taiwan's unique experience to develop its own democratic program. [End Page 426]

Copper harnesses a traditional view of history to explore Taiwan's political modernization. He utilizes the nineteenth-century methodology of realism, which argues that the states are the principal actors, rational and unitary. The state's main (Hobbesian) function is to provide for national security and stability. The realist focuses on the national political leaders, their ruling institutions, and their pursuit of political power and social control. Copper presents a strong defense of the policies of the ruling party, the Kuomintang or KMT (Guomindang or GMD). His research concludes that "sometimes a rigid political system has not impeded democratization" (p. 12). He points out that the KMT has been able to protect its citizens from outside invasion, has steered through economic policies that have resulted in national wealth and a domestic economy with no raging income disparities, and has moved inexorably toward a democratic system.

Copper's most significant contribution is his clear description of Taiwan's national politics. In the first section, on political change, the reader obtains a clear understanding of the legalistic battles and political importance of the KMT's thirteenth (1988) and fourteenth (1993) Party Congresses. His section on elections reflects his lifelong interest in and authority on the election process. In seven chapters he takes us into the operations, outcomes, and analyses of seven nationally important elections from 1980 to 1994. After a narration that makes the reader feel...


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