and Democratization in East and South Asia
Democracy and Nationalism
Democracy and Nationalism seem to be two contradictory
ideas, and the relation between them cannot be oversimplified as completely
complementary or competing1.
But in the case of Taiwan and South Korea, in my opinion, nationalism was a
push factor for democratization, and it is necessary for a democratic regime to
During the post-war era, the “four
little dragons” in East Asia developed in a tremendous speed economically.
After two or three decades of rapid development, by the early 1990s, they
basically reached the standards of a moderately developed society. The World
Bank called this amazing development achievement “East Asian miracle”.2
Economic development in this region has led to changes in social structure and
further led to political changes. From the late 1970s and early 1980s, a series
of political changes took place in East Asia, and since then, South Korea and
Taiwan successively started their democratization process.
Taiwan and South Korea have many
similarities. They both had an overlay of Confucianism before the twentieth
century. Both had important Japanese colonial periods, and suffered under
strong authoritarian regimes. And they both democratized. Taiwanese
nationalism, however, was born out of confrontation by pro-independence forces
against the KMT regime, and went through a transformation of turning into a
so-called civic nationalism, while Korean Nationalism is a protection of
national identity from foreign influence, and the fostering of the independence
movement during Colonial era3.
The Korean Nationalism is also a kind of ethnic nationalism, which emphasizes
the importance of blood. But in both cases, Nationalism helped people to build
a shared national identity during the post-war era, and during the process of
decolonization, which positively promoted the democratization in both
pushing democratization of Taiwan and South Korea
After World War II, Taiwan was ruled
by the Nationalist Party(KMT) and Taiwan’s economy experienced a rapid
development since 1965. The process of industrialization achieved a huge progress,
and by the mid-1980s, the Taiwanese society became completely different from a
traditional agricultural society, which was a role Taiwan had been playing for
thousands of years. On the other hand, the achievements of South Korea’s
industrial economy are also very impressive, with an increasing GDP per capita from
$278(1971) to $3049(1987).4
The rapid development of industrial economy has promoted the diversity of a society,
and Taiwan and South Korea both started the process of democratization after
their modernization had reached a certain level. In my opinion, economic development
may be one of the most significant pushing force of democratization, and in
historical construction, because it could overthrow the old social class system
and hierarchy. As a result, a greater proportion of the people, especially the
middle-class, are willing participate in social and political decision-making
From a strategic point of view, since
the 1970s, in response to the gradual apparent easing of the “Cold
War” relations between the East and the West and the continued occupation
of the high ground in the ideology of the Western world, the United States has
begun to vigorously brag around the so-called “promotion of democracy and
human rights” foreign policy internationally. Taiwan and South Korea, as
two important allies of the US in East Asia, were applied with a lot of
pressure by the US diplomatically, because they were both separated countries,
with another half occupied by Communist regimes. Under pressure from the United
States, Chiang Ching-kuo, the president of Taiwan and KMT at that time declared
that Taiwan would be democratized. Meanwhile, on the Southern half of the Korean
peninsula, the United States played a decisive role in the political
decision-making process through its military presence in South Korea.
in Taiwan and South Korea
In spite of economic development and
ideological factors, what differs Taiwan and South Korea both before and after democratization
was their perspective of nationalism. As mentioned, Taiwanese nationalism was
born out of confrontation by pro-independence forces against the KMT regime,
and went through a transformation of turning into a so-called civic nationalism.
The KMT regime on Taiwan, from 1949 to the late 1980s, had been a special form
of authoritarian regime, which divided the native elite into two groups, one
co-opted into the KMT regime and one not co-opted, helped forge two different
strategic lines: the moderate line of those co-opted into the KMT and the
radical line of those who formed the core of political opposition outside the
KMT establishment. KMT’s minority rule created a highly politicized ethnic
cleavage. In response to a divided group of elite, the tendency of
transformation of the regime by the radicals was to overthrow the KMT regime
and to nationalize politics, in order to build a new and independent Taiwan.
The term “Taiwan independence” was redefined
or finally clarified by DPP but the goal of abolishing the ROC system and
establishing an independent Republic of Taiwan was to be pursued through the
democratic procedure of referendum. so DPP was willing to settle for the name
ROC. As a result, the subversive, unruly, and emotional charged quest for Taiwanese
independence was thus transformed into a rational and domesticated
parliamentary nationalism. A parliamentary nationalism, insofar as its goal was
to change the name and symbols of the state, was still revolutionary, but what
it advocated was now a revolution with votes. Therefore, the DPP had recast its
Taiwanese nationalism as a liberal and civic nationalism under the contemporary
democratic system of Taiwan.
Meanwhile, in recent years, the
extreme nationalist sentiments of South Korea have become even more prominent
than before. The main manifestation is that the “local economy”
protectionism is economically pursued, the “ethnocentrism of the Han
nationality” is culturally exacted, and the national “history making
movement” is politically initiated. The emergence of South Korean
ultra-nationalism is by no means accidental, but has profound historical
motivation, social and cultural origins, and realistic basis. Contemporary
Korean nationalism mainly shows the following characteristics. First, there is
a serious national economic protectionism. South Korea has been pursuing the
so-called “our body and the soil are one (????) ” policy of national economic protectionism. The meaning
of this policy has the principle that I was born in my own country, with the
land that gave birth to my growth, and what produced in this land is the most
suitable for me. After the rise of South Korea’s economy, in order to protect
its own national industry, the South Korean government has also taken advantage
of the traditional notion of “body and soil”, thus, people who buy
and use foreign goods were even accused of being unpatriotic. Second, in order
to create an imagined community, Korean nationalists usually emphasize the
importance of blood and claim a term called pure-blood. For Koreans, the history
of the Korean Peninsula has been a long and humiliating history shrouded in the
shadow of the surrounding powers, eg. China and Japan. After World War II, in
order to dilute the external influence, the Korean government chose to emphasize
the national orthodoxy, the independence of the Korean peninsula, and the “pure
blood” of Korean people.
of nationalism on democracy
As the British political theorist David
Miller argues, that if a democracy is to function, “citizens should be willing
to moderate their claims in the hope that they can find common ground on which
policy decisions can be based.”5
This common ground is guaranteed by nationalism. According to Miller, he emphasizes
the ethical function of nationality, for while democracy emphasizes the idea
that everybody can participate in the debate on how to organize their
community, nationalism asserts the principle that we also care for each other. In
that sense, nations are moral communities in which the general interests of the
group are also part of individual interests.
As mentioned above, Korean
nationalism is more of an ethnic nationalism and Taiwanese nationalism can be
concluded as a kind of civic nationalism. In both cases, a shared nationality
does more than promote general political participation; it also provides the foundation
for an individual’s commitment to the nation and, in particular, an
individual’s willingness to support the welfare state.6
of democracy in Taiwan and South Korea
Lee Teng-hui’s landslide in the
presidential election of 1996 concluded the struggle between two lines within
the movement of forming a nativized state in Taiwan. We also witness a gradual
coming close of these two lines. On one hand, the DPP slowly but progressively
downplayed the significance of its Taiwanese independence platform and allowed
more and more flexibility in interpreting its meaning or meanings. On the other
hand, under the increasing hostility of the PRC against Lee’s pragmatic
diplomacy, Lee also gradually toned down his reunification discourse and
emphasized more about the subjectivity and sovereignty of Taiwan. These trends
suggested first the rise of pragmatism within the DPP and second the rise of a
hostile and aggressive PRC as the most immediate common enemy of the Taiwanese
people. Native Taiwanese had to face
settler colonialism. Decolonization in this situation meant not only to
democratize and nativize the state power but also reintegrate the settler group
into this newly structured and nativized state. The Taiwanese passive revolution
during the 1990s accomplished ideologically is a solid domestic consensus on
the sovereignty. Talking about the future of Taiwan, however, the situation
depends heavily on its other half: China.
Marc. (2009). Nationalism and Democracy: Competing or Complementary Logics?
Living Reviews in Democracy.
Yoko. “The East Asian Miracle: Economic Growth and Public Policy.”
The Journal of Asian Studies 54, no. 1 (1995): 184. doi:10.2307/2058969.
Gi-Wook (2006). Ethnic Nationalism in Korea. California: Stanford University
Press. ISBN 0-8047-5407-1.
Sumiya et ah, Taiwan no Keizai (The Economy of Taiwan), University of Tokyo
Press, 1991. 5.
David. 1995. On Nationality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
1 Helbling, Marc. (2009). Nationalism and
Democracy: Competing or Complementary Logics? Living Reviews in Democracy.
2 Sazanami, Yoko. “The East Asian
Miracle: Economic Growth and Public Policy.” The Journal of Asian Studies
54, no. 1 (1995): 184. doi:10.2307/2058969.
3 Shin, Gi-Wook (2006). Ethnic Nationalism
in Korea. California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-5407-1.
4 Mikio Sumiya et ah, Taiwan no Keizai
(The Economy of Taiwan), University of Tokyo Press, 1991. 5.
5 Miller, David. 1995. On Nationality.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
6 Helbling, Marc. (2009). Nationalism and
Democracy: Competing or Complementary Logics? Living Reviews in Democracy.