Democratization in China, Korea, and Southeast Asia? Local and national perspectives 9780415705363, 9781315889788

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Democratization in China, Korea, and Southeast Asia? Local and national perspectives
 9780415705363, 9781315889788

Table of contents :
Democratization in China, Korea, and Southeast Asia?
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
List of figures
List of tables
List of contributors
1 Diverse routes to democracy: an introduction
Part I Variety among Asian democracies and democratizations
2 South Korean democracy in light of Taiwan
3 Taiwan’s democratization and mainland China’s future
4 Strategic hypocrisy: sovereignty, legitimacy, and commerce in archipelagic Southeast Asia
5 Democracy and inequality in Thailand: the rise of the Red Shirts
Part II Constitutional and legal proto-democratic changes in China
6 The local factor in China’s intra-party democracy
7 Why does China’s reform start in the provinces? De facto federalism and its limits
8 Law and democracy in China: a complex relationship
9 Suing the government in China
10 Petitioning as policy making: Chinese rural tax reform
Part III Proto-democratization in Chinese civil society
11 The fragmented state in action: the production and governance of art districts in Beijing
12 China invests overseas: does the strong state help China’s outbound investment?
13 All the news, all the politics: sophisticated propaganda in capitalist-authoritarian China
14 Chinese nationalism reconsidered—or, a case for historicizing the study of Chinese politics
15 How the internet is changing China

Citation preview

Democratization in China, Korea, and Southeast Asia?

Rapid economic pluralization in East Asia has empowered local and medial groups, and with this change comes the need to rethink usual notions regarding ways in which “democracies” emerge or “citizens” gain more power. Careful examination of current developments in China, Korea, and Southeast Asia show a need for expansion of our understandings of democracy and democratization. This book challenges traditional ways in which political regimes in local as well as national polities are conceived and labeled. It shows from Asian experiences that democracy and its precursors come in more forms than most liberals have yet imagined. In reviewing recent experiences of countries across East Asia, these chapters show that actual democracies and ostensible democratizations there are less like those in the West than the surprisingly consensual and standard political science of democratization suggests. This book first examines the extreme variation of democracy’s meaning in many Asian states that hold contested elections (South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand). Then it focuses on China. It analyzes a range of grassroots forces driving political change in the People’s Republic, and it finds both accelerators and brakes in China’s political reform process. The contributors show that models for China’s political future exist both within and outside the PRC, including in other East Asian states, in localities and sectors that already are pushing the limits of the powerful, but no longer all-powerful, Chinese party-state. With contributions from leading academics in the field, Democratization in China, Korea, and Southeast Asia? will be of interest to students and scholars of Asian politics, comparative politics, and democratization more broadly. Kate Xiao Zhou is Professor of Political Science at the University of Hawaii, USA. Shelley Rigger is Brown Professor and Chair of Political Science at Davidson College, USA. Lynn T. White III is Professor Emeritus of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, USA.

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Japan’s Asia Policy Wolf Mendl The International Politics of the Asia-Pacific, 1945–1995 Michael Yahuda Political Change in Southeast Asia Trimming the banyan tree Michael R.J. Vatikiotis

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Democratization in China, Korea, and Southeast Asia? Local and national perspectives Edited by Kate Xiao Zhou, Shelley Rigger, and Lynn T. White III

Democratization in China, Korea, and Southeast Asia? Local and national perspectives

Edited by Kate Xiao Zhou, Shelley Rigger, and Lynn T. White III

First published 2014 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2014 Kate Xiao Zhou, Shelley Rigger, and Lynn T. White III The right of the editors to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Democratization in China, Korea and Southeast Asia? : local and national perspectives / edited by Kate Xiao Zhou, Shelley Rigger, and Lynn T. White III. pages cm – (Politics in Asia series) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Democratization–China. 2. Democratization–Korea (South) 3. Democratization–Southeast Asia. 4. China–Politics and government– 21st century. 5. Korea (South)–Politics and government–21st century. 6. Southeast Asia–Politics and government–21st century. I. Zhou, Kate Xiao, 1956– editor of compilation. II. Rigger, Shelley, 1962– editor of compilation. III. White, Lynn T., III, 1941– editor of compilation. IV. White, Lynn T., III, 1941– Diverse routes to democracy. JQ1516.D43 2014 320.95–dc23 2013030513 ISBN: 978-0-415-70536-3 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-88978-8 (ebk) Typeset in Times by Wearset Ltd, Boldon, Tyne and Wear

Unbeknowst to him, this book is dedicated to our professor, Lynn T. White III, from his students all over the world.

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List of figures List of tables List of contributors Acknowledgments 1 Diverse routes to democracy: an introduction

xiii xiv xv xix 1



Variety among Asian democracies and democratizations 2 South Korean democracy in light of Taiwan

17 19


3 Taiwan’s democratization and mainland China’s future



4 Strategic hypocrisy: sovereignty, legitimacy, and commerce in archipelagic Southeast Asia



5 Democracy and inequality in Thailand: the rise of the Red Shirts ERIK MARTÍNEZ KUHONTA


xii Contents PART II

Constitutional and legal proto-democratic changes in China 6 The local factor in China’s intra-party democracy

85 87


7 Why does China’s reform start in the provinces? De facto federalism and its limits



8 Law and democracy in China: a complex relationship



9 Suing the government in China



10 Petitioning as policy making: Chinese rural tax reform




Proto-democratization in Chinese civil society


11 The fragmented state in action: the production and governance of art districts in Beijing



12 China invests overseas: does the strong state help China’s outbound investment?



13 All the news, all the politics: sophisticated propaganda in capitalist-authoritarian China



14 Chinese nationalism reconsidered—or, a case for historicizing the study of Chinese politics



15 How the internet is changing China






5.1 Thailand—trend in income inequality, 1975–2006 6.1 Turnover rate of the CCP Central Committee (1982–2012) 6.2 The percentage of Politburo members with provincial chief experience (1992–2012) 11.1 Factory 798 Art District 11.2 Governance structure of Factory 798 Art District 11.3 Songzhuang Art District 11.4 Governance structure of Songzhuang Art District

68 97 98 178 179 182 183



Distribution of provincial leaders holding full membership seats on the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th CCP Central Committees (1997–2012) 6.2 An overview of provincial chiefs 6.3 Length of tenure of current provincial chiefs

92 93–94 95


Jing Chen is Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Eckerd College, Florida. Her research interests are state–society relations in China and international relations in East Asia. Her research has been published in a variety of journals, including China Information, the Journal of Contemporary China, and the Journal of Chinese Political Science. Her current research focuses on the effect of the petition system on China’s resilient authoritarianism. Ja Ian Chong is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore. Chong previously worked at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. as well as the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies and the East Asian Institute in Singapore. Chong was a fellow with the China and the World Program at Princeton University. He is the author of External Intervention and the Politics of State Formation: China, Indonesia, Thailand—1893–1952 and a number of articles in Security Studies, Twentieth Century China, China Quarterly, among other publications. Jacques deLisle is the Stephen A. Cozen Professor of Law, Professor of Political Science, Director of the Center for East Asian Studies, Deputy Director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China at the University of Pennsylvania, and Director of the Asia Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. His scholarship focuses on domestic legal and institutional reform in China, the relationship of legal development to economic and political change in China, the role of law in addressing real and perceived crises in China, China’s engagement with the international legal order, and Taiwan’s international status and cross-Strait relations. Justin V. Hastings is Senior Lecturer in International Relations and Comparative Politics at the University of Sydney in Australia. His research focuses on the political and economic geography of clandestine organizations such as terrorist groups, maritime piracy syndicates, smuggling gangs, and nuclear proliferation networks, primarily in Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. He received a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of No Man’s Land: Globalization, Territory, and Clandestine Groups in Southeast Asia.



Erik Martínez Kuhonta is Associate Professor of Political Science at McGill University, Canada. His research interests focus on comparative political development, political economy, and qualitative methods. His books include The Institutional Imperative: The Politics of Equitable Development in Southeast Asia, and as co-editor, Southeast Asia in Political Science: Theory, Region, and Qualitative Analysis. He has published articles in academic journals, including Comparative Political Studies, Contemporary Southeast Asia, Pacific Review, Asian Survey, and Asian Affairs. Cheng Li is Director of Research and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center. Dr. Li is also a director of the National Committee on U.S.–China Relations. He is the principal editor of the Thornton Center Chinese Thinkers Series published by the Brookings Institution Press and is also a columnist for the Stanford University journal, China Leadership Monitor. Dr. Li is the author/editor of numerous books, including Rediscovering China: Dynamics and Dilemmas of Reform, China’s Leaders: The New Generation, China’s Changing Political Landscape: Prospects for Democracy, and China’s Emerging Middle Class: Beyond Economic Transformation. Neysun A. Mahboubi is a research scholar of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China at the University of Pennsylvania and a visiting lecturer at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. He writes in the areas of administrative law, comparative law, and Chinese law, with a special focus on the development of Chinese administrative law. He is active in the American Bar Association’s Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice, and consults for The Asia Foundation on Chinese administrative procedure reform. He holds a J.D. from Columbia Law School and an A.B. (Politics & East Asian Studies) from Princeton University. Erik Mobrand is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore. His chapter in this volume draws on a research project that examines how political context has shaped elections, political parties, and democratization in South Korea. He is interested in ways the study of East Asia can inform theorizing about democracy and democratization. Mobrand has also written on the local politics of internal migration and urban management in China and South Korea. Shelley Rigger is the Brown Professor of East Asian Politics, Chair of Political Science and Chair of Chinese Studies at Davidson College, North Carolina. She has a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University and a B.A. in Public and International Affairs from Princeton University and is the author of three books: Politics in Taiwan: Voting for Democracy, From Opposition to Power: Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party, and Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse. She has been a visiting researcher at National Chengchi University in Taipei and a visiting professor at Fudan University and Jiaotong University, both in Shanghai.



Cuifen Weng obtained her Bachelor’s degrees from the School of International Studies and China Centre for Economic Research, Peking University. She received her Master’s degree in Public Administration from the National University of Singapore. From March 2010 to July 2013, Cuifen was a research assistant at the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore. She is now a Ph.D. candidate at the Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales. Her research interests include institutions and firm strategy, corporate governance, China’s central–local relations, the transformation and development of China’s public administration, and corruption. Lynn T. White III is Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Scholar in the Woodrow Wilson School, Politics Department, and East Asian Studies Program at Princeton. The other contributors to this book were his students there, earning B.A. or Ph.D. degrees. Lynn explains political patterns by looking at both intended policies/norms and unintended factors, affecting both individuals and larger sizes of collectivity. His books stress local politics and include Careers in Shanghai (about ordinary citizens during 1950s socialist consolidation), Policies of Chaos (about campaigning, monitoring, and labeling in the Cultural Revolution), Unstately Power (as rural industrial reforms grew in Jiangnan from the early 1970s), and Political Booms (comparing rural changes in Taiwan, East China, Thailand, and the Philippines). Lynn has published in the Journal of Asian Studies, Journal of Contemporary China, Modern China, American Political Science Review, China Quarterly, Asian Survey, China Information, and elsewhere. He is currently writing a book about the dominance of various kinds of local polities in the Philippines. Regime type is not originally a national trait. Guoguang Wu has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Princeton University and is Professor of Political Science, Professor of History, and Chair in China & Asia-Pacific Relations at the University of Victoria, Canada. Originally from China, he once worked as an editorial writer for Renmin ribao (The People’s Daily) in Beijing before attending the 1989–90 Nieman Class at Harvard University. Author and editor of twenty-two books, he has research interests in political institutions and institutional change, liberalization and democratization, elite politics, mass media and politics, globalization, political economy, foreign policy, human security, Asian regional security, with empirical references to China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Min Ye is the Director of Asian Studies Program and Assistant Professor in International Relations, Boston University. Ye received her Ph.D. from Princeton University and was a Princeton–Harvard postdoctoral fellow. Her research interests include foreign direct investment, regional relations in East Asia, and diasporas’ homeland impacts. Her recent publications include The Making of Northeast Asia (coauthored with Kent Calder), and “Policy Diffusion and Foreign Direct Investment in China” (Journal of East Asian Studies), among others. Ye’s single-authored book: Diasporas and Foreign Direct Investment in China and India is under contract with Cambridge University Press.

xviii Contributors Yue Zhang is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her B.A. in International Relations from Peking University in 2002 and her Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University in 2008. Her principal research interest is comparative urban politics and policies with a focus on urban governance, politics of land development, urbanization in developing countries, and globalization. She is the author of The Fragmented Politics of Urban Preservation: Beijing, Chicago, and Paris. She received the Norton Long Young Scholar Award in 2009 and the Stone Scholar Award in 2010, both from the American Political Science Association’s Urban Politics Section. Yongnian Zheng is Professor and Director of the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore. He is the editor of the China Policy Series (Routledge). He has studied both China’s transformation and its external relations. His papers have appeared in journals such as Comparative Political Studies, Political Science Quarterly, Third World Quarterly, and China Quarterly. He is the author of numerous books, including The Chinese Communist Party as Organizational Emperor, Technological Empowerment, and Globalization and State Transformation in China, and editor of many books on China’s domestic development and international relations including the latest volumes China and the New International Order and China and International Relations: The Chinese View and the Contribution of Wang Gungwu. Kate Xiao Zhou received her B.A. in English from Wuhan University, an M.S. in Sociology from Texas A&M University, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University. She is now Professor of Comparative Politics and Political Economy of East Asia (China and Japan) in the Department of Political Science at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. Her main research interests include the dynamics of transition from central planning to markets, Chinese economic development, Chinese business, globalization in East Asia, comparative studies of businesses, and Asian entrepreneurship. She has published articles on political economy and women’s studies, along with two books titled How the Farmers Changed China: Power of the People and China’s Long March to Freedom: Grassroots Modernization. Prof. Zhou is also an activist, having founded the Educational Advancement Fund International, the U.S.-Asian Entrepreneurs Association, and several NGOs in China (including the Qiaotou School, the Xiangxi Human Resource Center, and the Rural Minority Women’s Training School). In 2006, she was awarded the Templeton Freedom Award for Social Entrepreneurship. She was a Reagan– Fascell Democracy Fellow at The National Endowment for Democracy in 2008. Her son, Neil Burns, suffers from high function autism.


This book emerged from a March 2012 conference at Princeton University that had support from the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, from the East Asian Studies Program, and from the Democracy and Development Program. The chapter authors are Asia politics or law professors, and all are Princetonians holding Ph.D. or B.A. degrees. Contributions at the conference also came from other former Princeton students: Donald Clarke (GWU), Mary Gallagher (Michigan), Huan Guocang (Primuspacific), Solomon Karmel (1st Allied), Thomas Moore (Cincinnati), and Dali Yang (Chicago)—and from thencurrent students Patricia Kim and Jordan Lee. Former Princeton students who sent specific regrets for being unable to come on the conference day were: Erica Downs (Brookings), Andrew Erickson (Naval College), Bruce Gilley (Portland State), Lyle Goldstein (Naval College), Dajin Peng (South Florida), Annelise Riles (Cornell), Philip Saunders (National Defense U.), Tuong Vu (Oregon), Hongying Wang (Waterloo), Philip Wickeri (HK Diocese), and David Yang (RAND). Lynn White thanks Hong Kong University’s HK Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences for providing office facilities. Princeton’s China and the World Program has given him long-term help. Kate Zhou thanks Stephen Zierak (University of Nebraska, Omaha) for aid with her chapter. All participants at the 2012 meeting thank Huan Guocang for financing the conference dinner. Stephanie Rogers and Hannah Mack skillfully shepherded the book through production at Routledge.

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Diverse routes to democracy An introduction Lynn T. White III

Most Westerners think they know what democracy is. They realize that it comes in different constitutional forms (federal or unitary, parliamentary or divided, fixed or flexible term limits). They know that democracy involves contested elections. Yet few liberals have given much thought to the political meaning of partial freedoms that emerge in local institutions of large countries’ quickly changing political economies, even when formal governments are authoritarian. Many democrats realize that money and pressure from elites affect elections, without considering the implications for democratization or potential democratization in nations where average incomes are low but fast-rising. It is easy for democrats to belittle political reforms in authoritarian countries (e.g., China’s ten-year term limit for top leaders, required retirement ages, or rhetoric about “intra-Party democracy”) without considering that such norms may be seriously proto-democratic, boding a regime that becomes more responsive to “the people”—or perhaps just more content to leave them alone. Most democrats know that organizers of political parties, which are extra-constitutional in liberal countries, often have great power to choose nominees (electable state or local leaders), but they seldom think about the extent to which this power constrains the meaning of “rule by the people.” This book shows that lively electoral democracies in countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand are radically different from each other—and in some ways also vary from conventional notions of what a democracy should be. One chapter here, concerning northeast Borneo where Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines are close to each other, shows the practical irrelevance of most ideas about democracy (or authoritarianism) there—even though all three countries now have contested elections, and actors in that region enjoy very extensive freedoms. Other chapters, about China, show how lawyers, petitioners, artists, entrepreneurs, local protesters, journalists, and diverse kinds of patriots now affect practical politics. The mechanisms by which local institutions alter national regimes tend to be neglected by elites—but also by many social scientists. These long-term effects can be slow to cumulate. Yet polities eventually reflect the societies and economies they portend to govern. In many parts of Asia, non-state actors have changed and continue to change quickly. What consequences follow for national and local regime types?


Lynn T. White III

Democratization mechanisms: research on popular “semi-sovereignty” Socioeconomic pluralization in East Asia has empowered medium-sized networks and changed the interests of many individuals. This transformation requires a rethinking of usual notions about the ways “democracies” emerge or “citizens” gain more power—when they do. Democracy has two major aspects: equality and freedom. Queries about both are at stake here. Empirical studies of Asian places where democracy is either new or potential clarify that democratization comes in unexpected varieties. The democratic preference for equality leads to electoralism, the notion that voting—mere nose-counting among equal individuals—is the valid modern way to legitimize leaders’ rights to rule. Yet in order for voting to represent interests accurately, democrats also incur a preference for free expression of diverse views in public before the election, so that voters have contested information about their choices. This is the other and most crucial aspect of democracy, liberalism. It is prior to the electoral aspect. Liberalism entails legitimate freedoms of citizens to share their views, and it is especially useful when they have functional skills that allow them to convey information and take action in specific modern fields. Entrepreneurs, webmasters, prosecutors or defense lawyers, reporters, clerics, accountants, artists, and academics all have such roles in a modern democracy. These specialists are mostly non-state actors—but the liberal idea is also linked to a similar division of legitimated powers among functional agents within the state, so that executives, legislators, judges, soldiers, ombudsmen, central bankers, civil service examiners, corruption regulators, or other officials can perform their professional roles effectively in their own fields without interference from each other. This kind of regime is merely an ideal, related to rationalistic notions of a modern polity (as expressed, for example, in Max Weber’s idea of a “legalrational” regime).1 It is legitimated by its frequent political success, in comparison with other forms of organization. Many modern democratic leaders publicize the norms of systems that empower them in elections, even at the cost of restraining them by laws. But other elites do not see much percentage in ceding power to specialists or to politicians who have only received the votes of most ordinary citizens. Modern economic growth depends on a concept of society that is held together by “technical organization” based on complementarity between people (or between networks of people), rather than by “human organization” based on their common consciousness.2 Social action can be explained either by the benefits that come from complementarity, as in efficient trade on competitive markets, or else by those that come from working together, gung-ho. “Society” can mean either of these two things, and its modern form is more divided than its traditional form. Politics follows suit, so a quick economic pluralization of social interests can change local and national regimes. A standard social science account of democratization, on which a substantial degree of consensus exists among comparativists despite relatively minor

Diverse routes to democracy 3 squabbles, depends on the observation that modern societies benefit from complementarity among actors. Political scientists are now in surprisingly wide agreement that decisions by elites are crucial for establishing any new regime type (such as democracy, following paths that Dankwart Rustow described).3 So the question becomes: What social and economic changes impel elites toward decisions for democracy? It has long been noticed that populous nations with high wealth per capita are all liberal democracies (Lipset wrote about this decades ago).4 No country with more than ten million citizens and per-capita income above a certain threshold has an illiberal or non-democratic regime type.5 Why are large industrial countries all unapologetically democratic, despite variances among their types of liberal regime? Przeworski found statistics to suggest that economic growth alone does not produce democracies, which in low-income countries are often overthrown by military coups—but after a higher-income threshold is reached, soldiers stay in their barracks and democracies (once elites have established them) tend to survive.6 Boix and Stokes countered with other statistics, suggesting at least that the threshold is a soft one and that growth may indeed give ruling elites more incentives to allow democratic oppositions.7 In any case, Huntington stressed a temporal vector by showing that elites’ democratization decisions come in waves; the 1980s and 1990s showed a flow of such changes, and other decades such as the 1920s and 1930s saw an opposite tide.8 Boix also used long-term historical data to show that many countries tend to copy the systems of dominant hegemonic states; so regime types go in and out of global fashion.9 Another general consensus among comparativists in political science stresses that democratization is most sure if its liberal half precedes its electoral half. The path to democracy is smoothest if legitimate contest between elites and expressions of diverse views in public emerge historically before, rather than after, mass elections.10 So the most crucial democratic decision by elites is to allow liberal diversity, rather than to allow full-franchise participation. In China for example, the leaders have taken neither of these decisions. But that country’s citizens now have far more information than they did before the 1980s. There is also more rhetoric about elections within the Party. These changes relate to the standard model of democratization, even if they do not speak to it directly. In no polity (large or local, democratic or authoritarian or other) are the members politically equal. In every current country, specialists make some decisions about matters they understand best—and “technical organization” allows benefits from their expertise—although they are usually supervised by politicians who have a more general mandate on “human organization” grounds of common consciousness or at least factional trust. The two parts of democracy, based on the two types of social bond, are in tension with each other. All popular democracies are “semi-sovereign.”11 Boix and his colleagues figure that by the 2000s, apparently for the first time in human history, national democracies outnumber non-democracies.12 But this kind of analysis treats democracy as if it were like a light switch, either clearly


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on or off. Actually, it is more like a rheostat dimmer, allowing degrees that vary. Many such studies lump statistics from Nauru and Andorra together with those from China and India. They look at each country as homogenous and do not consider that national and local regime types within a country may also differ, both by sizes of collectivity and by specific places. Democracy has been a recent trend, but nowhere does this tide give “the people” all power, and no nation contains uniform local polities.

Indigenous institutions and regime-type values Local power networks, either within or without a nominal state apparatus, are mostly hierarchal and non-democratic in all societies. Corporations, schools, unions, clubs, commercial guilds, religious organizations, and families all exercise power (which is evidenced behaviorally when a leader causes a follower to do something that the latter would not otherwise do). As Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” The most obvious lacuna in the generally standard consensus among political science comparativists, concerning mechanisms of democratization, is an overweening interest in the structures of national regimes, without considering the mutual influences between those state structures and modal structures of local institutions. (One reason for this usual focus is that governments and international organizations publish numbers that facilitate statistical regression tests for national comparisons, and most nations are rather small. This happenstance and just one of several valid methodological fads need not drive substantive thinking.) In low per-capita income countries, the modal forms of authority within local power networks probably tend to be more charismatic and traditional than in high per-capita income countries. Because local institutions affect state types, this difference may account for the greater variance of national regime types in low-income countries. This book expands theory about mechanisms of democratization by incorporating evidence from Asian local politics. “People power” comes in so many forms that, if most Westerners imagine it is rising, that perception can mislead. For example it does so in South Korea, where each of the competing political parties is radically oligarchic. S. Korean democracy is truly democratic by any fair definition, but a chapter below shows that it differs sharply from what most Westerners conceive as democracy (and also from patterns in other Asian places such as Taiwan). Study of it enlarges usual conceptions of democracy anywhere. When most outside analysts doubt that democratization is seriously happening—as in China, despite hopes—some documentable evidence suggests that it may really have started nonetheless. Americans and Europeans tend to guess democracy must arise elsewhere, and must previously have arisen in their own lands, through processes with which they are currently familiar in their present-day “first-world” countries. Westerners will learn more, including more about their own systems, if they see from study of other polities how peculiar they are. Most especially, they often tend to see the roots of democracy in values and ideas, not in institutions and modern processes such as have been stressed by the

Diverse routes to democracy 5 comparativists cited above. Scientific attempts to measure the extent of democratic values, norms, and outlooks in Asia are laudable and have been many. For example, the Asian Barometer Project rightly describes itself as “the largest, most careful and systematic comparative survey of attitudes and values toward politics” in Asian countries (with its statistics most often aggregated at the national level to aid comparison among the seventeen polities that are covered).13 Larry Diamond, a leader of such studies, suggests—as this book in your hands generally does—a possible future increase of East Asian democracy. His hope is based on findings that “democracy . . . does appear to be emerging as a universal value.”14 Opinion surveys are useful, but a trick of the trade in democratization study is to seek causal mechanisms that link these attitudinal values—or alternatively, link the behavioral habits and institutions that shape viewpoints historically—to the evolution of national and local governments that serve more of the people. The chapters of this book tend to stress behaviors, institutions, and histories more than values. So this at least complements a common empirical approach to Asian democratization, which attempts to make statistical surveys of ideas. As many of the surveyors themselves realize, value notions are often modified by changing institutions and can alter quickly in response to historical events. In the West, brutal wars of religion eventually left European elites scant choice but to tolerate each other. Conflicts, especially violence between faith communities or between workers and capital-managers, deserve attention as much as values.15 Historically, the Reformation in Germany, Britain, Holland, and France deeply affected democratization, because even when one religion’s elite temporarily suppressed another’s, the side that lost did not completely disappear. Eventually elites came to terms, choosing sovereigns who allowed a greater variety of beliefs in preference to continuing wars. In England after Cromwell’s iconoclastic-revolutionary Commonwealth and then the less socialrevolutionary “Glorious Revolution,” in the Netherlands after the Spanish wars, in France after the guillotines and Napoleon and the Bourbon restoration, and in other countries, previously conflicting types of religious and economic leaders learned they preferred to get along rather than keep on fighting, and democratic institutions emerged. Samuel Huntington once remarked informally that the English revolution led by Cromwell was the most important event in American political history. This pronouncement was wise, not just witty, even though the officially recognized American Revolution and the most violent social-political change in the United States, the Civil War, came later. Many countries have had more than one spate of revolutionary change (Mexico, Italy, Spain, Egypt, and numerous Asian countries including China provide examples). More of “the people” have had just a bit more say in government after each of them. Different demagogues ranging from Andrew Jackson to Hugo Chavez or Thaksin Shinawatra may be illiberal even as they involve more people in politics, arguably creating space for democratic extensions later. Chongqing Party boss Bo Xilai might have become such a figure—and he surely would have won or bought elections in his area, if votes


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had been held; China may see more such politicians in the future. New local communications technologies empower citizens to challenge authoritarians, perhaps creating electoral democracy. The same technologies can make new democracies chaotic and unfair, if legitimate powers are insufficiently separated and conservative majorities elect leaders who deny rights to more modernminded minorities. Not all proto-democratic change occurs at the national level, as Alexis de Tocqueville famously noted.16 In many Asian polities, such as Taiwan and Thailand (perhaps China), democracy or apparent proto-democratization first emerged in quite local networks.17 These groupings were far from any center of national power. One chapter of this book deals with a boondock border region of Borneo/Kalimantan that is very distant from capitals in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Manila, although the opportunities and freedoms of actors there depend on the laws of all three national states (Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines). Popular interests can be served in such places when strategizing hypocritical actors sometimes obey—and often rhetorically support while practically violating—national rules. The values served by institutions that are established by local people in such places may seem more “wild West” than democratic, but maybe elites including academic elites should not be too hasty when pronouncing which values will create democracy and which will not.18 Precursors of democracy are often undemocratic. Electoral institutions can empower demagogues who may be as corrupt as oligarchs whom they defeat; yet such politicians in some cases expand popular semi-sovereignty. Quick pluralization of state or non-state functional roles in East Asia can lead to democratic liberalization, even though it does not have this effect in all cases. Abstract logics about political evolution are easy to posit, and the aim of chapters in this book is to test them with facts. The authors are all Asian politics and law professors at various universities. Their essays are synergistic. The whole is greater than the sum of the chapters.

What each chapter contributes to the study of democratization This introduction highlights the book’s main themes and suggests lacunae in the standard comparative politics of democratization that better-focused empirical attention to East Asian nations can remedy.19 Most previous studies have overemphasized democracy instead of democratization-as-a-process, and they have not paid quite enough attention to illiberal, informal, and oligarchic precursors of modern political change. They have looked too exclusively inside the state, have too often neglected non-state power networks, and have been tied to overly narrow premises about the ways public progress emerges. These insights are not entirely new. No chapter of this book deals with Japan, East Asia’s oldest democracy. But Chalmers Johnson (who was this author’s dissertation advisor long ago) stressed that Japan was ruled for decades by ministry bureaucrats. These were not elected. Many had graduated from the prestigious

Diverse routes to democracy 7 Tokyo Imperial University. In an article about Tanaka Kakuei, an unschooled but clever faction leader and prime minister from Niigata boondocks, Johnson showed how bureaucratic power in the mid-1980s was partially replaced. “Japan is democratizing—in the sense that the previously very large gap between the real power and the legal authority of political officeholders in Japan is narrowing.”20 The new power holders were machine politicians, perhaps corrupt but at least elected. Johnson began a 1993 article by declaring, “Modern East Asia is a junkyard for Western theories of economic development and political modernization, and it is wise to remind ourselves of the area’s profound exceptionalism whenever approaching a theory-intensive subject like democracy.”21 Political scientists from the U.S. or from large European countries have long acted as if their own nations provide benchmarks for all politics.22 Such parochialism is intellectually indefensible, and it impedes the understanding of all polities. The chapters of this book are in three groups. The first set offers four chapters that show the extreme variation of democracy’s meaning in many Asian states that hold contested elections (South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand). None of these democracies is, on close inspection, very Anglo-American or European in style. The closest exception, Taiwan, is of particular interest because that island is culturally Chinese and may—or may not—provide clues to future political evolution on the large mainland. These first chapters show that the political science of democracies is in need of expansion. Erik Mobrand focuses on the most important institutions (parties) in a democracy that is now well-established, South Korea’s. Korean political parties have developed historically from the “top” downward—but as Mobrand shows, those in Taiwan have become more responsive to pressures from the “bottom.” He sharply contrasts two places that were both former Japanese colonies, both heavily influenced by the United States, and both very successful East Asian economic tigers. Mobrand documents a fact that few readers (even few social scientists of Asia) have fully realized: these two democratic polities operate very differently. To win an election in South Korea, candidates need support only from the elders of the political party that almost always carries the relevant district. To win in Taiwan, candidates usually require close connections with very local interests and businesses too. Voting and liberal institutions are crucial in both the South Korean and Taiwanese democracies. Both countries enjoy extensive journalistic and internet freedom. Both now have first-world per-capita incomes. Both for some time have had quite clean records on human rights. Both have seen alternations of presidential power between parties. Yet they are different from each other—and they are still evolving, as all democracies are.23 Mobrand makes clear that we need historical narratives of institutional growth, not just electoral statistics or attitude surveys, to study the origins and peculiarities of any democracy. The state perspective is inadequate to determine a regime type. It is necessary to examine the operations of local networks and political parties too. Shelley Rigger is the foremost scholar of Taiwan’s democratization, and her chapter shows what the island’s political evolution may imply for political


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change in China. People’s Republic of China (PRC) opponents of “bourgeois liberalization” fear that electoral democracy on the Taiwan model would bring chaos to the mainland. They see the Communist Party (CCP) as uniquely capable of protecting China’s national unity and prosperity. For much of the post-war period, the CCP’s antagonist, the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT), made similar claims. The territory under Nationalist control, Taiwan, nonetheless democratized in stages and without major violence or disruption— and at first without displacing the KMT from its position as the ruling party. Later, a presidential election put the formerly illegal opposition, the Democratic Progressive Party, into power—but this did not prevent alternation of the presidency back to the KMT later. Rigger’s chapter looks at the process and outcomes of Taiwan’s political evolution with an eye to PRC development, highlighting the similarities and differences between two places. Factors that have produced democracy on the island may or may not, within a foreseeable future, produce some kind of democracy on the mainland. Justin V. Hastings, who is both a Southeast Asianist and a China hand, offers a totally original chapter about a boondocks sort of region that is ordinarily far beyond the vision of political scientists: the northeast corner of Borneo/Kalimantan, where the Malaysia–Indonesia border is within easy sailing distance of the Philippines. Political networks in this back-of-beyond place, far from all three national capitals, have rich traditions of piracy, illegal logging, Islamic piety, and smuggling—but they also flourish now in globalized markets of commodities and ideas. They connect to the internet. When official claims of state sovereignty raise transaction costs for actors in cross-border trade or migration, then states’ formal rules become moot, sometimes profitable and sometimes unprofitable. Local governments and businesspeople freely use or abuse national regulations, rhetorically honoring their national states but also adopting a politics of “strategic hypocrisy.” They obey or disobey laws according to the practical benefits that either the compliant gambit or norm violation may bring. This type of political participation is hardly democratic. Yet because of enlarged markets and new technologies, it is not just traditional—and it serves many local people. This power of a “wild West” kind is local. If national governments try to control such places too strictly, they can face opposition even though according to most modern norms they may be acting justifiably. Natural situations of freedom affect regime types by affecting the behavioral constitutions to which state elites must agree, in order to maintain a pretense of government.24 Erik Kuhonta argues that the social base of Thailand’s democracy has changed significantly since the 2006 coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Historically, Thailand’s democratic movements have been heavily associated with the Bangkok middle class. This was especially true in the 1973 and 1992 democratic uprisings that overthrew military rule. However, since 2006, a new democratic social base has emerged that is rooted in the rural sector, and more generally among the lower classes. This movement is known as the Red Shirts. Three factors explain the emergence of this new democratic social movement. First, persistent inequality has fostered deep grievances among the

Diverse routes to democracy 9 poorer sectors of society. Second, Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai Party were able to mobilize the lower classes through a battery of populist policies that ranged from debt relief for farmers to universal health care. Finally, the military coup against Thaksin and subsequent judicial maneuvers to undermine the electoral choices of the lower classes inevitably heightened rural unrest and efforts to challenge the Bangkok elite. Thailand’s democracy remains deeply unstable today because of the intense polarization between the Red Shirts on one side and the Bangkok middle class, aristocracy, monarchy, and military on the other side. Yet despite the instability and violence that has accompanied the rise of this new grass-roots democratic movement, Kuhonta argues that in the long run democracy in Thailand has the potential to be genuinely inclusive if the Red Shirts succeed in institutionalizing their goals and values. The second and third sets of chapters shift attention to China, which is Asia’s and the world’s main non-democracy. Yet the People’s Republic has for nearly half a century been changing very rapidly on all socioeconomic indicators. Four chapters in the second set focus on constitutional and legal transformations of China’s authoritarian system that, if extended, could increase popular sovereignty in China. Cheng Li’s chapter is based on his work as the premier analyst of China’s leaders. One-man rule, in Mao’s imperial style, has clearly ended in the current era, when top figures in Beijing must balance a variety of interests between “princeling” and “Youth League” cliques, between coastal and inland regions, between economic managers and Party ideologists, among personal factions, and along other lines of division. Li argues that it is too facile to be cynical about the long-term effects of “intra-Party democracy” that these various elites may use to express their interests. Tolerance for diverse views, followed by voting within the Party, might lead to wider democracy later, especially if these habits begin to modify the traditional pattern of tight family-like factions led by single father figures. Discursive legitimation of intra-Party disagreement is just partial but already contrasts with past principles of most Chinese political organization. “Authoritarian resilience” may eventually become less robust. Not all relevant changes have been merely rhetorical. New norms are now used for choosing leaders: regularized balances between factions in high councils, prescribed term limits and retirement ages, secret ballots (albeit still in Leninist institutions), equal representation of provinces on the Central Committee. Such norms certainly do not yet make a liberal or electoral democracy, but they have changed China. As the nation becomes stronger and wealthier, its top leaders seem weaker than before. These trends could be reversed if a demagogue were legitimated by elections before liberal tolerance of diverse views prevails. Alternatively, the same trends could sooner or later develop more democratically. The people in this republic would remain very semi-sovereign, as in all democracies. Yongnian Zheng and Cuifen Weng show how China’s economic and political changes started in the provinces. Reforms since 1949 have been initiated and carried out locally, before they were upgraded into national policies and applied to other districts all over the country. One reason why place-based reform


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innovations are possible is that China is a “de facto federation” (despite its legally unitary constitution). Under this political system, China’s provincial governments actually enjoy more power than their counterparts in formally federalist countries. “De facto federalism” results from intergovernmental economic and political decentralization in the just ideally centralized regime of the postMao era. But China’s formally unitary, centralized political structure aids control over some lower officials and has allowed the transformation from socialist planning for most commodities to a market economy. The main weakness of “de facto federalism” is that local reform innovations have neither legal nor political protections and are thus uncertain and risky. To overcome this drawback, China’s future reforms might empower more social forces and reduce the many administrative layers of government. Jacques deLisle treats the development of China’s legal system as the country develops and pluralizes in socioeconomic terms and might move toward democratization. Rule of law is at least half of democratization (the liberal half, if laws are written to protect minorities as well as majorities). But the relationship between “legalization” and democratization is complex, ambivalent, and fraught with conflicting agendas, perceptions, and interests. The official orthodox agenda, and much practice, has been to embrace and achieve a significant degree of legality while eschewing democracy, at least of any liberal, electoral sort. But reformers supporting greater democracy and the rule of law, party conservatives who worry that robust legality may require or promote democratization, and perhaps citizens as well, share a more conventional view that law and democracy go hand in hand. Whether China’s politics will move in a democratic direction or not depends on who is right about the relationship between law and democracy in China. It specifically depends on who prevails in struggles over law. These include some who support the extension of law from the resolution of economic disputes into other, more political issues, and others who resist restrictions on their power that laws can impose and seek control over courts, prosecutors, lawyers, and holders of formal legal rights. Neysun Mahboubi tests the effectiveness of China’s Administrative Litigation Law for controlling abuses against citizens by mid-level cadres. Conflicts between these medial leaders and more local actors are very frequent. Strengthening law courts has in some cases provided more justice to ordinary citizens in a liberal division-of-powers way. But in other cases, strengthened courts have become linked more closely to corrupt local cadres. The local state’s authoritarianism increases, if judges connive with local administrators. China has a plethora of laws, regulations, rules, and other “normative documents,” all arranged in an ideal hierarchy but decreed at different times from different jurisdictions with different and sometimes inconsistent terms. Interpretations of such rules can become arbitrary. The Administrative Litigation Law is limited in its effectiveness, but it may also contribute to democratization. It now allows citizens to sue their local governors. Jing Chen argues for the effectiveness of the ancient Chinese tradition of petitioning, which can affect decisions about government policy. In particular, she

Diverse routes to democracy 11 shows that petitions hastened the abolition of agricultural taxes. Old collective repertoires of interest expression, such as petitions, provide legitimated opportunities for “voice” in China. These mechanisms differ from democratic elections, but they documentably shape government policies. Petitions have become controversial in China, because the cadres against whom they are launched sometimes react violently and vengefully against the petitioners. Those who complain may suffer, but the complaints can nonetheless influence what the state does. Even when such quasi-liberal or proto-liberal procedures lead to injustices, the petitions convey information to policy makers. Chen describes the most important case of this, which was the removal of farm taxes. Yue Zhang writes about state efforts to come to terms with a different kind of expression, by artists. Types of imagery have pluralized in contemporary China since the demise of “Cultural” Revolution efforts to homogenize artistic themes. The government has adopted a hesitantly tolerant attitude toward contemporary art—but some artists have traditions of political dissidence, such as sculptor Ai Weiwei (son of major poet Ai Qing, who was exiled to Xinjiang in the 1950s for “rightism”). Yet Ai Weiwei was not prevented from helping to design the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The state both needs and restricts creativity.25 Both subtle and open expressions of dissidence, as well as apolitical and traditionalist art, emerge in contemporary China.26 Rather than demolishing “underground” art villages, the state has tried to tame them, naming them “art districts.” Zhang focuses on two districts, Factory 798 and Songzhuang. She argues that the registration of art districts is spurred not just by the global cultural economy, but also by complex interests and power dynamics among various political actors. Control of art districts is contested and shared; governance is improvised. This fragmentation of power makes the future uncertain. Such pluralization does not directly create democracy, but it diversifies the kinds of allowable voices. It invites people who think about images to test the limits of what they may safely publicize. An increased variety of public expression is the essence of the liberal half of democracy. Min Ye is a political economist of international relations. She presents striking new data to show that, although the Party tries to favor large state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and CCP-linked families that mostly began in politics rather than in business, nonetheless outbound Chinese investment from SOEs in practice tends to be less profitable than that from Chinese entrepreneurs who are less connected with the government. This is not proof of democratization; but it is very substantive, monetized proof that state foreign direct investment is less efficient than non-state FDI in today’s China. Large government SOEs focus on serving Party interests more than they focus on paying dividends. This finding that state strength has had negative effects on external direct investments is unexpected. “Common wisdom” suggests that close relationships (guanxi) between corporations and government would always give those companies advantages over others. Sometimes this common wisdom may be correct—but Ye shows that it is often wrong, and she does so in a field where such advantage might seem most likely: foreign operations. Decentralized


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or simply local “go out” (zou chuqu) policies for investment abroad have resulted in surprisingly large percentages of capital going out to accounts in Grand Cayman or the British Virgin Islands, and some of this money surely comes back into China under better terms than if it had never been sent “abroad.” These shenanigans scarcely meet standards of liberal transparency. Yet they may be unintentionally democratizing, if only because they enrich new notables within China. Guoguang Wu, who was a former editor at the People’s Daily and a speechwriter for Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, writes about the increasing sophistication of official propaganda in marketized China. As the nation has become less communist and more capitalist, formal ideological education has become less important—so the state has needed even more pervasive “public relations.” Potentially dissident journalists and ideas are still controlled, but in new ways. The Party-state uses markets to make sure media report most events, including foreign news that China cannot control. In the long run, it wants to increase its Gramscian hegemony. Political ideology has become a weak force in China; so political indoctrination to enthuse people is no longer the main job that the Party assigns to media. The “troops of journalism” in this regime no longer mainly mobilize people, but try to pacify them. Information is propagated when it helps to stabilize the state and the Party’s monopoly of power. It is unclear how long such an authoritarian gambit will prevail, now that sources of news in China are more global than ever before. Ian Chong debunks patriotic rhetorics that mis-describe the many past varieties of Chinese popular nationalism. He shows that “nationalist-driven overactiveness in foreign policy” has sometimes hurt China’s national interests. Like any other idea, this most sacred modern “-ism,” patriotism, does not subsist in clouds; it lives in identifiable people’s heads and in collective organizations that benefit from its propagation. Patriotisms are powerful legitimators of democratic politics, and budgets, in any country. Political actors and bureaucracies are eager to shape nationalist ideas and to profit from the types of loyalty that patriotisms legitimate. Chong provides varied historical examples of this process, and he shows sharp divergences between politicians’ claims and past facts. Liberalization in China may be partly built on a more empathetic understanding of the different kinds of loyal Chinese who have actually existed. Chong proposes a more circumspect, historically accurate view of the ways Chinese have related to each other. Kate Xiao Zhou, with Stephen Zierak, explores leaderless social change of China’s authoritarian state. How do people overcome state control? The internet, cellphones, and other modern communication tools have empowered ordinary Chinese to expose official corruption, state oppression, and lack of rule of law. Spontaneous, unorganized, leaderless, non-ideological, apolitical movements (“SULNAM”) have emerged. Social networks that China’s farmers created during the early reform period had the remarkable effect of ending socialism in Chinese agriculture, even though these movements did not begin in political rebellion.27 “Crowd accelerated learning” is enabled by microblogs, online

Diverse routes to democracy 13 videos, social media, and nearly a billion mobile devices. Zhou argues that most Chinese desire a more transparent government. Telecommunications have created many trendsetters, cheerleaders, and critics, making normal state oppression difficult. Internet hits and real-time netizen reporting of a train wreck is a case study in how accelerating unofficial reports forced the government to address corruption and inefficiency. Real-time feedback makes the government more responsive to populist pressures. This is occurring despite the preferences of a party state that would like to continue to criminalize dissent. A globalized network is promoting new freedoms of religion, expression, movement, and property. Such expressions remain mostly private, not public, but they shape the views of many citizens and may create cascades of public self-realization over which the party-state has little control. Such events can transform regimes.28 Are such developments trending toward democracy? On the unrealistic premise that democratization consists solely in changes of top state institutions, none of this, at least yet, is creating democracy. The authors of this book remain unsure when or in what form a democracy may emerge in mainland China. But the emergence of powerful information and communication networks outside effective state control creates independent discussion forums. These may become factors for some type of democracy. They already are changing China.

Conclusion on varieties of democracy and protodemocratization These chapters, all relying on empirical evidence, stress the great variety of trajectories over time that step-by-step processes of modern regime change have taken. Because the studies are sited in East Asia, where economic pluralization and “rise” have been notoriously quick, they can test political correlates of such change well. The book’s chapters do not assume that all democracies “look alike”—on the contrary, they show some democracies that seem to look alike but in practice are radically different. They show that citizen sovereignty can begin in non-transparent, unpublic, and unorganized environments. Above all, this book pays far more attention to medial sizes of polity than do other studies of regime-type change, and it looks not just at national but also at various sizes of local regime. Previous works have of course been written about the prospects of democratization in Asian countries, especially China.29 The present tome complements them by emphasizing a greater array of actors and factors for potential democratization than most paradigms consider. Standard comparative politics accounts seldom moot changes of norms within ruling parties (e.g., the CCP), demonstration effects from ethnically similar outside regimes (e.g., Taiwan or Hong Kong examples for the mainland), relations between less-than-squeaky-clean populism and democracy (as in Thailand, where anti-populists are also corrupt), links between norm creation and norm violation (as on Kalimantan), antimobilizational use of media by state actors (as in China), radically divergent varieties of nationalism as factors in democratization, and other vectors that most


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studies of regime change have neglected. The focus here is long-term, although many studies deal with relatively short-term factors: global financial crises, immediate events, or a pendulum of freezes and thaws that have affected many authoritarian regimes.30 The information in this tome also tends to challenge traditional lists of regime types (monarchic, aristocratic, theocratic, autocratic, totalitarian, authoritarian, others). Such systems are usually defined according to principles for choosing self-identified top rulers. But differences on other dimensions may be more important. Democracy is the regime type that involves elections and liberal tolerance, perhaps leading gradually to increases of popular influence over government. The road to get there, when elites want to get there, is not the same as the destination. Different kinds of proto-, quasi-, developing, and established democracies are many. Networks of people who have aided the creation of past democracies have seldom been very interested in philosophy. Imagine an “analytic” political theorist at Concord Bridge interviewing a minuteman, or at the Bastille querying sans-culottes, or at Tiananmen in 1989 asking discontented clerical workers, “What is your account of democracy?” The answers would hardly have met modern analytic standards. Yet these people vaguely knew what they were doing. They were mad at their governments. They made and continue to make history, because they were proto-democratic. They practiced liberalism before defining it, because they expressed new views as legitimate. They had notions that at least some of their leaders should be chosen in a fresh way (perhaps by popular election). Political theories were less salient for them than was a broad preference for changing the system of government. Democratization is an historical process. Directions of change, toward or away from it, can be shown more surely than can a quantitative index of democracy as a regime type. If one tries to take a still photograph of democracy, that image is liable to be blurry; a motion picture of democratization is needed, instead. Democracies and proto-democracies are inseparable from their evolutions. They may start in informal networks that have no clear ideologies or leaders or meeting places. They often emerge as unintended results of conflicts between very undemocratic political actors. Strife among local, regional, or functional groups may end in a mutual understanding that none of them can win. So they revert to “plan B”; they have to tolerate each other instead. Differences of particular places and individuals can become more important than differences of political jurisdictions (national centers, provinces, prefectures, counties, villages, families)—and sometimes even more important than differences between state and society, or between rich and poor, right and left. Democracy remains an aspirational goal for people in many countries, including the East and Southeast Asian countries where this book’s chapters assess factors that cause or hinder its emergence after quick socioeconomic change.

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Notes 1 R. Bendix, Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait, New York: Doubleday, 1960, is often more concise than Weber. 2 The terms “technical organization” and “human organization” appear in F. Schurmann, Ideology and Organization in Communist China, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966, renaming these ideas from E. Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society, New York: Free Press, 1997 (orig. 1895). Durkheim’s distinction, positing two alternative definitions of society, is anticipated in earlier social theories, including those of Plato, Ibn Khaldun, Hume, Marx, and others. 3 D. Rustow, “Transitions to Democracy,” Comparative Politics 2:3, 1970, 337–63. 4 S. M. Lipset, Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1961. 5 Saudi Arabia, with extravagant oil wealth and many non-citizens, is a barely arguable exception. Econometricans calculate per-capita livelihood in various ways. The World Bank suggests China had an annual gross national income per capita of $4,940 in 2008–12 (compared to S. Korea’s $20,870 or Singapore’s $42,930 [Singapore is small, easier to govern tightly, with five million mostly Chinese people surrounded by 250 million Muslims]). See A better indicator of overall modernity, the United Nations Development Programme’s “human development index” includes education and health factors that correlate with purchasing power. See The top fifty countries with more than ten million citizens on the HDI rank list are unapologetic liberal democracies. 6 A. Przeworski and F. Limongi, “Modernization: Theory and Facts,” World Politics 49:1, 1997, 159–83. 7 C. Boix and S. Stokes, “Endogenous Democratization,” World Politics 55:4, 2003, 517–49. 8 S. P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991, is the most elegant apology a political scientist has ever made for a mistake. Huntington, “Will More Countries Become Democratic?” Journal of Politics 99:2, 1984, 193–211, had answered the title question “no”—and had been plain wrong. 9 C. Boix, “Democracy, Development, and the International System,” American Political Science Review 105, 2011, 809–28. 10 R. A. Dahl, Polyarchy, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971, shows “contestation” best precedes mass “participation.” 11 E. E. Schattschneider, The Semi-Sovereign People: A Realist’s View of Democracy in America, Hinsdale, IL, 1960, is this author’s favorite book of “political science” and the best treatment of democratization as a slow process, based in struggles that attract people’s interest. 12 C. Boix, M. Miller, and S. Rosato, “A Complete Data Set of Political Regimes, 1800–2007,”–%20Final_CPS.pdf. 13, opening page. This project, led by Fu Hu and Yun-han Chu on Taiwan with affiliate surveyors in the other Asian countries, is nicely coordinated with value-testing barometers for Latin America, Africa, and the Arab world. See also Y. Chu, L. Diamond, A. J. Nathan, and D. C. Shin (eds.), How East Asians View Democracy, New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. 14 L. Diamond and M. F. Plattner (eds.), How People View Democracy, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008, xvii. 15 D. Rueschmeyer, E. H. Stephens, and J. D. Stephens, Capitalist Development and Democracy, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. 16 A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 (orig. 1835 and 1840). This French nobleman was not monotonically



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Lynn T. White III enthusiastic about democracy, and he conflated institutions and values into “customs” and “manners”—but he was early to emphasize local causes of democratization. See also J. Stone and S. Mennell (eds.), Alexis de Tocqueville on Democracy, Revolution, and Society, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. M. Alagappa (ed.), Civil Society and Political Change in Asia: Expanding and Contracting Democratic Space, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004. “Civil society” sometimes has uncivil effects; Sheri Berman, “Civil Society and the Collapse of the Weimar Republic,” World Politics 49, 1997, 401–29. Academic reticence is advised in Schattschneider, op. cit. Chapter authors deserve credit for preliminary drafts of some of this introduction’s wordings about their sections of the book. C. Johnson, “Tanaka Kakuei, Structural Corruption, and the Advent of Machine Politics in Japan,” Journal of Japanese Studies 12:1, 1986, 1–28. C. Johnson, “South Korean Democratisation: The Role of Economic Development,” in J. Cotton (ed.), Korea Under Roh Tae-woo, New South Wales: Allen and Unwin, 1993, 92–107. Many U.S. political science departments, for example, advertise job searches for Americanists explicitly—but advertise for general “comparativists” if they need teaching about other regions. Some claim this is practical but fail to see it as venal. J. Burnham, The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom, Chicago: Regnery, 1963 (orig. 1943), now a nearly forgotten classic, argues that popular sovereignty is impossible. He combines democratic aims with a realistic take on elites’ power and partiality to libertarian freedoms. J. C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009, concerns somewhat similar boondocks, which Scott calls the realm of “Zomia.” He argues that populations there fled state repression. Actually, his Zomians are not anarchists. (A review of Scott’s book by L. White is Asian Politics and Policy 3:1, January 2011, 131–5.) Hastings’s documentation of “strategic hypocrisy” shows how actors in such a place use governments to which their loyalty is unsure. M. Goldman, Literary Dissent in Communist China, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967, a classic about the state’s schizophrenia concerning art and dissent. See C. Li and L. White, “Dialogue with the West: A Political Message from AvantGarde Artists in Shanghai,” Critical Asian Studies 31:1, March 2003, 59–98. K. X. Zhou, How the Farmers Changed China, Boulder: Westview, 1996. T. Kuran, “Now out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European Revolution,” in N. Bermeo (ed.), Liberalization and Democratization: Changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992, 7–48, suggests such “cascades” are predictably unpredictable. That is the case with other aspects of democratization, too—but epistemological problems do not prevent change. For example, E. Friedman, National Identity and Democratic Prospects in Socialist China, Armonk: M. E. Sharpe, 1995. See also a book by one of this author’s former students who could not attend the March 2012 conference at Princeton where other chapters were presented in draft form: B. Gilley, China’s Democratic Future: How it Will Happen and Where it Will Lead, New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. Concerning the pendulum, see R. Baum, Burying Mao: Chinese Politics in the Age of Deng Xiaoping, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Part I

Variety among Asian democracies and democratizations

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South Korean democracy in light of Taiwan Erik Mobrand

Traditional approaches to democratization are concerned primarily with the question of transition to democratic regime types. What explains why transitions happen when they do? The assumption underlying this question is that transitions—defined as changes in formal institutional structures—matter a great deal. White’s introduction to this volume offers a critique of this assumption: since the formal institutions of any state may or may not be defining features of its politics, democratic constraints on power and formal institutions may not go together. Persistent authoritarian institutions may conceal actual dispersal and separation of power; democratic institutions may not guarantee anti-democratic informal practices disappear. If the assumption about transitions is relaxed, then an alternative research program presents itself. Instead of the transition question, a sequence of questions highlighting the ambiguous role of formal institutions can be asked about any democratization. What changes under authoritarian institutions suggest that the conditions for democratization are imminent? How do those changes, which may occur mostly in informal or non-state situations, link to reform of formal institutions? How much do democratic transitions actually transform politics? These questions open up possibilities that are largely overlooked in conventional approaches. Pluralization may make local politics contentious long before national institutions reflect those shifts in power. Illiberal forces for proto-democratization, understood here as the empowerment of a wider range of actors under formally authoritarian institutions, may be crucial for setting the conditions for democracy. Change in a state’s formal institutions may bring greater or lesser change to politics. This chapter examines these issues in the context of two recently established democracies in East Asia. Observers have lauded South Korea and Taiwan as two of the most successful new democracies.1 Because their democratic transformations occurred at roughly the same time, the two East Asian countries are often seen as having similar politics. After all, the recent political histories of Taiwan and South Korea share many features. Both were under Japanese rule for at least three decades until 1945. Both states were staunchly anti-communist American allies in the years after the Pacific War. Mid-twentieth century civil wars shaped their states, which were left controlling territories perceived only as parts of larger nations. Authoritarian regimes governed each society in


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subsequent decades. Between the 1960s and 1980s dictators oversaw rapid industrialization. Transitions to democracy followed in the 1980s and 1990s. Scholarship on Taiwan’s democratization has drawn attention to the role of local actors connected to elections.2 These actors are precisely the sorts of precursors to democratization highlighted in this volume. Research on South Korea’s democratization, however, has looked more to national actors without connections to electoral or party politics. Dissidents, labor activism, and a mass movement gain focus in such studies. Have scholars of South Korea missed the significance of local actors? Or did different forces drive democratization in these societies? This chapter answers these questions by examining the contribution of local and electoral actors to South Korea’s democratization against the backdrop of their roles in Taiwan. The conceptual framework from the volume’s introduction structures the comparison. The chapter compares the two societies in the following ways: first, potential for diffusion of power under authoritarian rule; second, links between proto-democratization and transition; third, changes to parties and elections after transition. The comparison reveals striking differences between these two seeminglysimilar democracies. Viewed against Taiwan, the marginalization of local forces in South Korea has had a profound impact on democratization well beyond the transition’s completion.

Elections and legitimacy under authoritarianism Japanese colonialism and its aftermath shaped the states that were built in South Korea and Taiwan. Colonial rule and subsequent wars had centralizing effects. In the second half of the twentieth century, states in both places were highly effective compared to many others in the developing world. However, regimes in South Korea and Taiwan took contrasting approaches to building local control and legitimacy. Local cooptation in Taiwan In Taiwan the Kuomintang (KMT) and the state were centralized around their apex in the president and party chief, and massive repressive forces were tightly controlled. As a Leninist-party state, though, the Republic of China (ROC) built a cellular structure that relied on local agents. Further, the KMT arrived on Taiwan at first as a temporary base, bringing massive numbers of supporters who were subethnically distinct from Taiwanese. In early 1947 harassment of a cigarette vendor led to rioting, which the regime suppressed violently. The incident sharpened the mainlander-local divide and compounded the KMT’s legitimacy crisis.3 In order to build legitimacy—and give the appearance of representing “free China”—the émigré regime held local elections. Local elections, including at village and township levels, were taken seriously and sustained throughout the period. Elections for local councils used a system of single, non-transferable voting (SNTV) in multimember districts. Shelley Rigger argues that this system was

South Korean democracy in light of Taiwan 21 crucial for shaping the evolution of electoral and party politics in Taiwan.4 The system encouraged political hopefuls to pursue highly local strategies of campaigning. For the KMT to win seats, the key was to ensure that each candidate won the right number of votes—too many votes would hurt other KMT candidates. Candidates developed networks for delivering precise numbers of votes in their jurisdictions. Other parties were banned, so to win office aspirants had to join the KMT. Since the KMT won nearly all seats, joining the KMT represented an opportunity to gain power. At the local level, then, the KMT came to be made up of local people. The KMT preserved its dominance in local elections by fostering and manipulating “local factions” (difang paixi). Organized at the county level and below, a local faction was a “purely local institution devoted to electoral mobilization. They [were] motivated by their own interests, and they [fought] fiercely for power and influence.”5 Local factions competed hard because elected positions offered access to valuable resources for generating wealth or distributing patronage. Local office provided many goods that could be distributed: jobs, local improvements (e.g., roads, lights, community centers), and assistance in the bureaucratic problems of businesses (e.g., licenses, tax audits, pollution standards, land-use regulations, electric power) and of ordinary citizens (e.g., population and land registration, dispute mediation, government and Farmers’ Association benefits).6 These clientelist networks were reliable and durable. Since running under the KMT banner made winning nearly inevitable, faction-affiliated KMT candidates could make good on their promises to clients. Until 1968, 65 percent of KMT nominees for county magistrates and city mayors came from local factions.7 The KMT had multiple methods for ensuring that local factions did not challenge the party. By banning opposition parties and holding only local elections, the regime could prevent independent candidates from organizing across districts. Local factions were therefore powerless at the national level. Within districts, the KMT cultivated rivalries between factions. In most counties and townships, at least two factions competed for power. The KMT could alternate nomination between the factions to balance one against the other.8 The KMT, to be sure, led a dictatorial regime uninterested in sharing power. The party had massive reach and intervened tremendously in people’s lives, for example by forcing children to learn Mandarin and mobilizing Taiwanese to identify as Chinese. Input from various sectors of society did not inform central policy. Elections were set up so that the KMT would win. Yet at the same time, the KMT aimed to gain support from local elites through elections. This bargain affected what the KMT was at the local level. It also empowered actors on the fringes of the regime.


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The establishment of the Republic of Korea In the immediate aftermath of the Pacific War Korea was in a situation quite different from Taiwan’s. The days and weeks following Japan’s surrender on August 15 saw the most exciting local politics the peninsula has experienced in modern times. Peasants organized into collectives. Workers formed unions. Residents assumed responsibility for administration and policing. These activities were overwhelmingly local. Communities acted spontaneously.9 One national leader, Yŏ Un-hyŏng, tried to coordinate some of these activities through the Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence. Yŏ founded the People’s Republic of Korea (PRK) on September 6. The Americans landed the next day. The American military leadership, which ruled southern Korea for the next three years, mistook local activism for Moscow-inspired communist insurgency. The PRK was immediately dismantled and Yŏ ignored. The American Military Government had two priorities: restoring order and eliminating “leftists.” The attack on local mobilizing took two forms. First, the regime re-instituted Japanese modes of discipline, including reviving the National Police and inviting back much of the personnel. These moves centralized power. Second, the Americans relied on other, rightist local forces to wipe out activism. Throughout the 1945–48 period the authorities collaborated with “rightwing youth groups” (uik ch’ŏngnyŏndan) to suppress perceived communist activities. These groups were a diverse lot: they included colonial-era street gangs, militias that had trained under fascist-inspired Korean leaders in China, and men who had fled the north.10 The Republic of Korea (ROK) state was founded as an organization for fighting local activism. From the outset its aims were to destroy local organization. While the KMT on Taiwan needed to reach out to local groups in order to build legitimacy, the regime in South Korea did the opposite. The Americans had increased the state’s repressive resources but they and the leaders of the new republic had failed to stamp out activism. Violence continued after 1948, culminating in the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950. Three years later hundreds of thousands were dead and nothing was resolved.11 One effect of the war was to expand the state’s coercive capacity. Even before the war President Syngman Rhee took other measures to gain control over the means of violence. He consolidated militias external to the state into one organization that was more institutionally integrated into the state apparatus. A more significant move was the promulgation of the National Security Law, which allowed the state to detain and prosecute suspected leftists. In the early 1950s Rhee began to develop the country’s first major ruling party. The Liberal Party by the late 1950s had a massive presence throughout the country. A youth vanguard, organized in cells throughout the country, carried out violence, intimidation, vote-buying, and vote-rigging on behalf of the party. In the party’s upper echelons, the state and the party could hardly be distinguished. By 1960 the Liberal Party was the closest organization South Korea has

South Korean democracy in light of Taiwan 23 had to a political machine. In the elections of March 1960, Rhee and company used nearly every possible method to rig the elections.12 Rhee went too far. Protests erupted before the election; the death of a student at the hands of police fueled outrage. On April 18, the president’s security chief unleashed a pack of hoodlums on demonstrators from Korea University as they returned to campus. The next day police fired on thousands of demonstrators. Pressure on Rhee reached its zenith. Rhee fled to Hawaii and the regime collapsed. The “April Revolution” of 1960 became a touchstone for subsequent democracy movements in South Korea. Coup and centralization in South Korea The parliamentary regime that followed Rhee’s departure proved unable to deal effectively with the problems. Courts were lenient on those who had organized the rigged election and done violence to protestors. In May 1961 a group of junior military officers took charge of the government in a coup. The military regime claimed to be the inheritors of the “April Revolution.” The coup was justified as a “revolution” in the spirit of the April 1960 uprising. Within days those connected to the Liberal Party were detained. The junta gave tough sentences to several Liberal Party ringleaders. Five people were executed by the end of the year for their parts in the March election. The regime forced “illicit profiteers” to turn over funds and to use capital for specific productive goals. The military regime, and the republics that followed, built institutions that relied remarkably little on local agents. Core organs of repression were highly centralized: the military, the national police force, the bureaucracy, the intelligence service, and legal instruments like the National Security Law. At the local level, hardly anybody was entrusted with much authority. A new set of election laws and party laws were implemented with the return to civilian rule in 1963. South Korea’s military rulers took an opposite approach to elections and party organizing from the KMT. The leaders chose not to restore local elections. After all, the coup leadership did not have the legitimacy problems that the KMT did. Only the president and the National Assembly would be elected in the new system. Instead of banning parties as in Taiwan, the Park Chung Hee regime set up a rigid system of controls on parties and elections. Opposition parties could form—indeed, the regime banned candidates from running independently. The regime preferred to fight against an organized opposition rather than against individual opponents. The logic was that the regime party would be better able to gain access to finance, use media, and deploy coercive instruments if necessary. The regime wanted an opposition that had no choice but to be loyal. The loyal opposition did little more than act as “a safety valve for many explosive social issues.”13 Party law stipulated how parties should organize. A party had to have its base in Seoul and have a presence in a number of provinces. A party could consist of a central party plus a number of branch parties, located at the congressional constituency.14 The congressional district rarely corresponded to a meaningful social


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unit. In rural areas, a congressional district could comprise three or four counties, or a small city with a county attached. Parties were permitted to establish liaison offices in counties, but these were not major centers of party activity. The contrast with Taiwan is striking: in Taiwan, county organization was a relatively large unit of local politics; in South Korea, most organizing occurred at units larger than the county. With strict regulations on parties and without local elections, neither opposition nor ruling parties had incentives to mobilize at the local level or try to coopt local elites. The electoral system and regulations were designed to benefit large parties, which the rulers had advantages in building. The National Assembly included a portion of at-large seats that were allocated by percentage of district seats won. The largest party gained at least half of these seats, and the second party far fewer. This system paved the way for Park Chung Hee’s Democratic Republican Party, awash in cash from the beginning, to dominate the Assembly. The opposition had to organize on as wide a scale as possible in order to stand a chance at winning some of the at-large seats. Through the process of competing in elections under these rules, the opposition came to resemble the ruling party in organization. It developed a national organization with little local presence. The opposition parties were geared toward contesting National Assembly and presidential elections. When the opposition came too close to winning, the regime turned away from elections. In 1972 Park Chung Hee launched an auto-coup, as such events are called in Latin America, and direct presidential elections were suspended. From 1980, when mass protests were suppressed in Kwangju, the regime again outlawed political activities.15 Chun Doo Hwan, who was president from 1980 to 1987, continued the basic methods of rule set up by Park Chung Hee. The forms of authoritarian rule in South Korea and Taiwan were distinct. In one, local actors and interests were sidelined; in the other, local agents were empowered—though only insofar as their power remained local. Elections performed different tasks. In Taiwan, elections were key sources of local legitimacy, even though they were neither free nor fair. In South Korea, where the division between ruler and ruled had no communal component and where providing security and order made shoring up legitimacy a secondary concern, elections were taken less seriously and none were held for local posts after 1961. In part because of these electoral contexts, political parties were entirely different sorts of organization despite rulers being equally dictatorial. In Taiwan the KMT actively engaged local political actors. In the ROK, neither ruling nor opposition parties mobilized at the local level, in part because elections gave no incentives for doing so. Instead, parties remained Seoul-based collections of national politicians.

Precursors and paths to democracy One approach to explaining democratization is to study elite actors in order to understand how negotiation processes lead to democratic openings. Democracy results when hardliners and reformists compromise.16 This perspective captures

South Korean democracy in light of Taiwan 25 aspects of the transitions in Taiwan and South Korea. Neither place democratized through revolution. Government-led reforms were crucial. Authoritarian rulers eventually conceded so that they could continue to play a part in politics after the transition. Rulers in both societies were successful at this game. South Korea’s pro-regime party won the first direct presidential election in 1987, and the KMT did the same in Taiwan in 1996. Even though reforms were critical to both transitions, the reform paths differed. Taiwan meandered toward democracy. As early as the 1970s the KMT began to recruit more Taiwanese into the party and state. Slowly, elections were held to replace some officeholders appointed on the mainland before 1949. In 1987 Chiang Ching-kuo proclaimed the end of martial law and allowed opposition parties to operate legally. The early 1990s saw the introduction of elections for more offices as reform within the KMT continued. The first direct presidential elections were held in 1996 and the opposition took the executive in 2000. South Korea’s transition, by contrast, was sudden. Regimes in South Korea became more repressive before opening. The 1970s saw a new constitution which eliminated direct presidential elections and gave the president expanded powers. In the late 1970s, while the KMT was exhibiting greater tolerance for opposition politics, South Korea was at its most repressive. The year 1980 saw unprecedented violence by the state. Then, suddenly, on June 29, 1987, Roh Tae Woo announced a program of immediate political liberalization.17 In the 1990s these paths appeared to reveal that South Korean democracy was more vibrant than Taiwanese. In South Korea a mass movement supported by vocal dissident opposition figures had forced former military men to concede to popular demands. This power seemed potent. In Taiwan fewer liberal voices could be heard and there were fewer street protests. There was no single moment as significant as Roh Tae Woo’s June declaration. There was much more ambiguity. Where did democratization begin or end? Were reforms in the 1970s and 1980s simply authoritarian adaptations—like local elections, which were in no way democratic—or did they constitute a move toward something new?18 The KMT appeared able to string ROC citizens along and make them dependent on the regime. Another way to think about these different paths to democracy is that they reflect distinct pressures to democratize. What were those pressures? This section identifies the precursors to Taiwanese democracy in new local forces and then examines South Korea’s path to democracy in light of the Taiwanese experience. Precursors to democracy are understood here as illiberal dispersals of power under authoritarianism. Observing differences in the precursors to democracy can inform reconsideration of the relative progress of democratization in these two societies. Local power and proto-democratization in Taiwan The persistent divide between mainlanders and Taiwanese continued to inform how the KMT maintained effective rule on the island. Another response to this


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legitimacy problem, besides holding local elections, was to encourage Taiwanese to enter business rather than high politics.19 Since business power could be transformed into political influence, the KMT kept a tight leash on large enterprises. Big firms were run mostly by mainlanders or by the party or state. Taiwanese were given space to operate small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which were less threatening. SMEs came to be a massive part of Taiwan’s quick industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s.20 The SME boom generated wealth at a local level on the fringes of the party-state. The SME boom combined with local elections to produce unintended consequences. Locally-generated wealth became political investment. Entrepreneurs put their resources into competing in local elections. Entrepreneurs could develop constituencies using their roles as employers, temple committee members, and community leaders. The reinvestment of local wealth in politics gave local leaders leverage vis-à-vis the KMT. The party’s vast resources formed one pillar of its power over communities. The party could not only fund candidates’ election campaigns but could also grant access to patronage tools like credit cooperatives. Once entrepreneurs found their own ways of making money and their own supporters for winning elections, the KMT’s resources were less valuable. They could run as opposition candidates and still have a chance at winning: “As local factions became efficient vote-buying machines and their leaders entered national politics, the KMT began to lose control of these powerful groups that used to almost entirely rely on the party to thrive politically and economically.”21 There was nothing liberal about local factions, which were motivated by narrow, parochial, and often business interests. But their increasing influence recast configurations of power. The rise of local networks of entrepreneurs and community-based politicians dispersed power away from the KMT leadership. These proto-democratic shifts pushed the regime to adopt liberalizing reforms. “Elections,” wrote Chu Yun-han in the early 1990s, “have turned out to be the principal mechanism through which changes in the social structure brought about by rapid industrialization were translated into a political force for weakening the entrenched authoritarian order and for pushing the democratization process forward.”22 As local factions gained financial independence from the KMT, party affiliation became less valuable. Candidates could run on their own. During the period of transition, from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, electoral contestation intensified. The KMT was challenged from below, by the very agents who had been developed to ensure political control. From 1989 local factions started siding more with the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), since the KMT was no longer a sure winner. These factions had no loyalty to the KMT. Besides, the KMT was dependent upon them rather than the other way around. Competition meant a shifting balance of power to the local factions.23 Of course, had the regime responded differently to these new pressures, democratization may not have been the result. But pointing to elite reforms without examining the pressure for them hardly gives a more satisfactory

South Korean democracy in light of Taiwan 27 explanation. The dispersal of power generated by the rise of local electoral networks was a key force behind Taiwan’s democratization. Central power and democracy by decree in South Korea A search for parallel antecedents to democratization in South Korea reveals a different story. There was no SME boom or any equivalent of local factions immersed in both elections and business. Instead, high money politics was the order of the day. The country’s industrialization had been founded on businessstate links at the most elite level. These connections had existed in the 1950s, and after the 1961 coup the peak of the state was able to play a greater role in shaping conglomerate activities. In the 1980s, under Chun Doo Hwan, the regime leaders enriched themselves with “donations” from the conglomerates. Later, as opposition figures gained winning potential, the conglomerates began making transferring funds to heads of major opposition parties as well. South Korean politics was perhaps no less corrupt than Taiwanese, but that corruption was organized in a fundamentally different way. South Korea’s high money politics was unlike the widespread clientelism of Taiwan that signaled the rise of a locally-based elite. Unlike in Taiwan, pluralization did not have a strong local dimension nor were new interests connected to elections. Instead, pluralization created contentious politics removed from the electoral realm. Industrialization created a working class more clearly defined and more self-conscious than Taiwan’s.24 The state openly gave conglomerate bosses discretion over labor management, a fact which facilitated political mobilization of workers. By the 1980s, a cultural movement sought to define and practice authentic ways of being Korean.25 This minjung, or common people’s, movement mixed with labor activism to produce mass protests on the streets. Demands on government varied among actors within the movement, but the large numbers of ordinary Koreans willing to take to the streets by mid-1987 revealed they were fed up with the current regime. These street demonstrations, combined with opposition demands in the National Assembly and indirect pressure from overseas with the Seoul Olympic Games looming, pushed Roh Tae Woo to announce democratic reforms. Resistance did have some local basis. In 1980 residents of the southwestern city of Kwangju revolted against Seoul. That region, traditionally Korea’s rice bowl, had been overlooked in industrialization under Park Chung Hee. The Kwangju Uprising was suppressed violently. The episode served as an inspiration to later mass movements. It also helped post-transition parties based in the southwest articulate a regional political identity, but in 1980 parties did not take a regional character. The most serious worker unrest of the 1980s originated in the industrial southeast, but it was largely disconnected from both the democratization movement and parties. That unrest occurred in the months just after Roh’s June 1987 announcement and no successful party represented labor interests. On the whole, the movement that generated pressure for the reforms was led by organizers based in the capital region who had national networks.


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Neither electoral institutions nor the political economy empowered local actors. The rise of local power and intensification of electoral competition seen in Taiwan never occurred in South Korea. No “political boom” happened, to use White’s term.26 After all, the ROK state and the electoral institutions in particular had been designed to exclude local interests. Precursors to democracy came from outside electoral politics, not from within it. While a process of retreat and adaptation to new forces defined Taiwan’s reforms, in South Korea Roh Tae Woo decreed democracy with one brief speech. Even though pluralization resulting from quick industrial growth was a common underlying factor in both transitions, pluralization took different forms and created distinct pressures for democratization.

Party and electoral politics after transitions The establishment of formal institutions for democracy marks the endpoint of transition-focused accounts of democratization. If democratization is understood as a process that involves more than state institutions, then the story continues beyond the transition. How did parties and elections change as Taiwan and South Korea made the transition? Transition and change in Taiwan Patterns of proto-democratization not only pushed Taiwan’s leaders toward reforms but also fed into post-transition politics. One change was in the KMT. The KMT retained power in the first presidential election and remained the most important political party. Yet the KMT transformed as the country democratized. Taiwanization in the 1970s had been an early change in the party. By 1988 the KMT had altered so much that a native Taiwanese succeeded Chiang Ching-kuo as party chairman and president of Taiwan. Lee Teng-hui’s KMT had a weaker hold on its clients, which meant higher echelons in the party had to work harder to keep clients within their fold. The competitive mechanism worked to constrain the KMT leadership. A related change was in elections. Local elections had invited campaigning through personal networks. Once provincial and national elections were introduced, elections involved two sorts of mobilization.27 In local elections, grassroots mobilization remained intense. Clientelism from the earlier period persisted well into the democratic era. Mobilization could get so exciting that vote-buying became a common practice.28 Leaders had to make promises to voters and not just to party bosses. Local connections between business and government invited “black-gold politics” (heijin zhengzhi): because money-making opportunities were at stake in local elections, entrepreneurs and underworld figures made alliances with politicians.29 In urban areas and in elections at larger units, issuebased campaigning was key. By stressing Taiwanese identity, the DPP was able to win votes away from the KMT. The DPP was especially successful in the southern part of Taiwan, where closer ties with China hurt the region’s large

South Korean democracy in light of Taiwan 29 numbers of blue-collar workers and farmers.30 The KMT and the DPP conflicted over political liberalization, identity, and the status of Taiwan. This framing of conflict allowed for competition within districts throughout the territory. The continuing power of the wealthy, massive KMT and lingering problems of election-related corruption—though much improved in recent years—might raise questions about the fairness of elections. A focus on the formal institutions of electoral democracy could lead one to conclude these issues of fairness constitute a limit to Taiwan’s democratization. Viewed in terms of politics more broadly conceived, Taiwan’s democratic transformation was profound. The changes noted above indicate that democratization was more than a simple shift from one type of state institutions to another. Democratization involved a party altering its methods of choosing representatives and contesting elections. It involved increasingly competitive elections that gave voters real choice. Elites appeared to control the process at each moment, but in the long run party and electoral politics changed drastically. Transition and the persistence of elitist parties in South Korea South Korea looked like a more promising democracy sooner than Taiwan. Elections came with few charges of vote-buying or gangster intrusion. Politicians who espoused democratic ideals gained power. Three former dissidents served consecutively as president. A view that extends beyond formal procedures and democratic ideals, however, reveals a more complicated picture. South Korea’s democratization was deprived of the dispersal of power that rising local networks had brought to Taiwan. Since democracy came by decree, the impetus for reforms did not necessarily have lingering effects on electoral contestation or party organization. There was plenty of contention, but no new set of actors forced parties to change how they operated. The movement for democracy was good at pushing the regime to make one-off changes to fundamental state institutions, but it was less good at exerting continual pressure on parties. In the absence of pressure to operate in new ways, South Korea’s major parties were more susceptible to continuing elitist traditions from the authoritarian period. One continuity was in elite composition. The old opposition became the basis for the major parties that followed, and they absorbed elements from previous military regimes. The regime candidate Roh Tae Woo won the first presidential election, and his party merged with former opposition figure Kim Young Sam’s group. The largest conservative parties since have come from this party. Elections have pit Kim Young Sam’s parties and their successors against Kim Dae Jung’s parties and their successors. The post-1987 parties of both Kims can trace their origins back further to the Korean Democratic Party that was formed in 1945.31 That party was made of leading conservatives—most of whom had remained in Korea and done well under the Japanese—picked by the United States to run the country after the American departure. Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae Jung, the first two post-1987 presidents without military backgrounds, cut their teeth in the organization that succeeded the Korean Democratic Party in


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the 1950s. The opposition of the 1950s briefly gained power in 1960 and then remained the opposition throughout the period from 1961 to 1987. This opposition grouping, regularly wracked with factional conflict, was hardly a force for new social demands. The opposition parties that became mainstream after 1987 were distinct from the organizations that promoted labor activism in the 1970s and 1980s. The exclusion of labor from electoral politics made South Korea a “conservative democracy.”32 Even when former labor activists entered politics, they did so through the major parties.33 Newcomers did arrive. A labor party won seats in the National Assembly in 2000, though not enough to form a negotiating bloc. In 2002 the country elected Roh Moo Hyun, a human rights lawyer who had long been on the fringes of party politics, as president. The example of Roh shows that some new forces have been able to enter politics at the highest level. Another continuity was in party organization. Parties did not undergo significant restructuring after 1987. The major parties had been built in the authoritarian period under rules and incentive structures designed by the military rulers. Those organizational forms were maintained into the post-authoritarian era. Parties did not update their constitutions, their organization structures, or their procedures. In fact, party constitutions all looked remarkably similar to the 1963 party constitution of Park Chung Hee’s Democratic Republican Party. Parties continued to have meager structures and few ordinary members. The constant mergers, splits, changes of party name, and factional tension that wracked parties undermined the institutionalization of roles, selection procedures, and party congresses. One reason for the lack of change was that the laws governing parties were hardly updated. Minimal reforms to the party law occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s; the law continued to stipulate how parties must organize. Even when former democracy advocates gained power, they chose not to reform the strict laws governing party organization. The deeper reason for continuity is that flimsy party institutions served the interests of high leaders. The permanent state of emergency caused by the threat of splits and mergers gave party leaders an excuse not to institutionalize their parties. This situation allowed top party leaders greater discretion in party affairs. They did not need to make bargains with members or local chapters in order to run their parties. Some reforms occurred in the mid-2000s, but these measures actually removed parties further from citizens and ordinary members.34 One area of party organization where leadership has been especially autocratic is candidate selection. In the authoritarian era, both the ruling and opposition parties maintained top-down systems of nominating candidates for National Assembly elections. After democratization, the major parties did not give up these habits. Candidates lists have usually been drawn up by small numbers of party officials, who have excluded other members from the process. In general and local elections, party bosses have nominated candidates who were most loyal or who gave the most in donations. This approach is not necessarily strategic for winning elections, because locally popular candidates could be overlooked.35

South Korean democracy in light of Taiwan 31 The oligarchic tendencies of the nomination system have been compounded by the fact that elections have not been fought over issues. The basic divide between parties has been along regional lines. Two major parties have claimed separate regional bases while a third has had somewhat less control over another. The regional party system, while outwardly appearing to be an expression of local interests, was built and maintained by national party leaders based in Seoul. The framing of partisan conflict in regional terms has given party bosses great power over their parties and over electoral outcomes. National party leaders could negotiate possible alliances with each other to determine presidencies and control in the National Assembly. These monopolies make post-1987 South Korea resemble the period of the Solid South in the United States, when Southern Democrats and Republicans in the Northeast had an implicit alliance that kept Republicans in power for most of the first third of the twentieth century. Issue-based politics can nationalize conflict, breaking up monopolistic holds on power and making elections intensely competitive.36 In South Korea, this sort of reframing has not occurred. Party elites have managed political conflict expertly, opting to agree to fight over regions rather than something which might threaten their power and prestige. Voters within monopolized regions have had little choice, while those elsewhere had choices between parties that conflicted on something they cared little about. The system of regional monopolies has expanded party leaders’ power over nominations. Within a party’s dominant region, nomination for a National Assembly or local race has effectively meant election. Potential candidates have had little leverage against party bosses because they need the party name in order to win. The resulting situation is one where candidates have had greater incentives to please party superiors than to cultivate local constituencies. Even after reforms in the early 2000s encouraged the use of primaries, central party leaders have found ways to minimize the impact of greater participation in the nomination process. The regional party structure has diminished the role of citizens in electoral politics. Parties have also used legal regulations to stamp out competition. Setting strict election laws and punishing election violations have been such high priorities that regulating and monitoring has suppressed mobilization. Democratic South Korea inherited a framework for regulating and monitoring elections from the authoritarian period. That framework had been developed under military rulers for controlling elections rather than for spurring lively competition. After 1987, the regime governing elections was not overhauled. The election law squeezes out opportunities for voters to contact or learn about candidates. The law states exactly what forms of campaigning can be used. It stipulates the types and sizes of written promotional material, and the number, length, and format of public appearances by candidates. The law limits campaign periods to a short 17 days for general elections. Long before the campaign period begins, candidates are forbidden from releasing records of their legislative activities or holding book launches. Since the early 2000s, elected politicians have allowed regulations to pile up even further, in the name of weeding out “corruption.” Under


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these conditions, candidates have hardly been able to reach out to voters and voters have had little chance to gain information that would allow them to make informed choices. These regulations have hurt new politicians and helped candidates who are known widely as individuals or because of their parties. Regulation has been useful to leaders of parties that rely little on campaigning to remain contenders. In supporting the rigid election law, legislators have diminished the role of voters and elevated the roles of bureaucrats and prosecutors. Taiwan’s KMT is surely a more solid organization than any South Korean party but its leadership relied on coopting local figures who were later able to challenge the party. South Korean party elites have avoided the vulnerability that accompanies making such deals. The major parties in South Korea have therefore been able to maintain elitist habits from the authoritarian era. In both societies, political patterns established before democratization spilled over into electoral politics after transitions. Transitions in both places mattered a great deal, especially for protecting citizens from state repression. But the significance of the transition for parties and electoral competition varied. In Taiwan the transition meant a transformation of the party and the nature of electoral competition. Such changes had contributed to the initial proto-democratization and became thoroughly wrapped up in what the transition was. In South Korea—and this is a key lesson of the Taiwan comparison—the transition did not force major changes to parties or electoral competition. The sharpness of the break toward formal democratic institutions paradoxically facilitated continuities in how parties operated. Elections became largely free and fair, and the opposition could win power, but how parties operated and competed changed strikingly little in comparison with Taiwan.

Conclusion South Korea’s democratization has been vastly different from Taiwan’s. The two societies have differed at every stage, from precursors under authoritarianism, to pressures for institutional change, and up to the significance of the transition for electoral and party politics. Standard approaches to democratization miss these findings. Defining democratic development narrowly as a transition of regime type fails to capture the earlier factors that shape how democratization proceeds and the sorts of democracies that result. The transitions vocabulary is better at capturing the formal elements of a regime rather than the informal ones which can shape democratic politics profoundly. Locating the origins of democracy in social demands for democracy or in elite negotiations is also insufficient. Stories of Taiwanese or South Korean democratization that stress social demands capture one part. Elite processes were also critically important. But these two sets of stories, even when taken together, underspecify the paths taken. Thinking about democratic development as a continuous process, paying attention to informal politics, and examining the local arena give a different perspective, one that helps identify and account for the distinct patterns of change in Taiwan and South Korea.

South Korean democracy in light of Taiwan 33 Skeptics may hold that post-transition issues of party organization and electoral competition are unrelated to democratization, because they come after the transition is completed. Such a perspective is valid, but it means embracing a definition of democratization narrowly centered on formal institutions. The danger of a narrow definition of democratization is that it may not help answer the really important question of how democratic institutions function. Institutions in themselves are not particularly significant; it is what they do that makes them relevant to political life and important to study. This comparison illustrates the value of this volume’s approach to democratization. One theme in this approach is the difference between formal state institutions and actual politics. Autocracies like pre-transition Taiwan can disperse power more than might be recognized. Proto-democratization can turn up in places with forthrightly illiberal elites. Democracies like South Korea can also be more elitist than the institutions suggest. Elites can dominate democracies just as they might any other type of polity.37 Such domination hardly means that ordinary citizens have no power. They might, but that power depends on political struggle rather than on the habit of voting. Democratic institutions allow for a variety of political forms. Perhaps understanding that variety is as important as understanding change of regime type. A second theme is that local politics can shape democratization in crucial ways. Taiwan’s proto-democratization was local. In South Korea, the sidelining of local interests by central forces had an enduring impact on what democratization meant. A third theme is that democratization can be viewed as a long process, beginning before articulated demands for democracy appear and continuing beyond change in institutions. This perspective on democratization helps identify breaks and continuities over time and similarities and differences across democratizing experiences.

Notes 1 As one piece puts it, “Korea and Taiwan have been known as two of the most successful transitions in the current wave of global democratization.” See Y. Chu and D.C. Shin, “South Korea and Taiwan,” in L. Diamond and L. Morlino (eds.) Assessing the Quality of Democracy, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005, pp. 204–205. 2 Y. Chao, “Local Politics on Taiwan: Continuity and Change,” in D.F. Simon and M.Y.M. Kau (eds.) Taiwan: Beyond the Economic Miracle, Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 1991, pp. 43–68; M. Chen, “Local Factions and Elections in Taiwan’s Democratization,” in H. Tien (ed.) Taiwan’s Electoral Politics and Democratic Transition: Riding the Third Wave, Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 1996, pp. 174–192; Chen Mingtong, Difang paixi yu Taiwan zhengzhi bianqian (Local factions and political change in Taiwan), Taipei: Yuedan chubanshe, 1995; B.J. Dickson, “The Kuomintang before Democratization: Organizational Change and the Role of Elections,” in H. Tien (ed.) Taiwan’s Electoral Politics and Democratic Transition: Riding the Third Wave, Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 1996, pp. 42–78; J.B. Jacobs, Local Politics in Rural Taiwan Under Dictatorship and Democracy, Norwalk: EastBridge, 2008; S. Rigger, Politics in Taiwan: Voting for Democracy, New York: Routledge, 1999; H. Tien, The Great Transition: Political and Social Change in the Republic of China, Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 1989, chap. 7; Lynn T. White, Political Booms:



4 5 6 7 8 9


11 12 13 14 15 16

17 18 19 20 21 22

Erik Mobrand Local Money and Power in Taiwan, East China, Thailand, and the Philippines, Singapore: World Scientific, 2009, chap. 6. For descriptions of the events following February 28, see T. Lai, R.H. Myers, and W. Wei, A Tragic Beginning: The Taiwan Uprising of February 28, 1947, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991, pp. 102–135; G.H. Kerr, Formosa Betrayed, London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1966, pp. 254–258. Rigger, Politics in Taiwan. Ibid., p. 83. J. Bosco, “Taiwan Factions: Guanxi, Patronage, and the State in Local Politics,” in M.A. Rubinstein (ed.) The Other Taiwan: 1945 to the Present, Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 1994, p. 119. Chen Mingtong, Difang Paixi, p. 183. C. Wu, “Taiwan’s Local Factions and American Political Machines in Comparative Perspective,” China Report, 2001, vol. 37, 57; Chen Mingtong, Difang Paixi, pp. 152–153. B. Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War, Vol. 1: Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945–1947, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981; Kim Kwang-su, Chibang chŏngch’i ŭi t’amsaek: Honam ŭi chŏngch’i (An inquiry into local politics: Honam’s politics), Kwangju: Chŏnnam taehakkyo ch’ulp’anpu, 1997; G. Shin, Peasant Protest and Social Change in Colonial Korea, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996, chap. 1. Ryu Sang-yŏng, “Haebang ihu chwa-uik ch’ŏngnyŏn tanch’e ŭi chojik kwa hwaltong” (The organization and activities of left-wing and right-wing youth groups after liberation), in Chŏng Hae-gu et al., Haebang chŏnhusa ŭi insik 4 (Understanding history before and after liberation, 4), P’aju: Han’gilsa, 1989, pp. 51–107. Cumings, Origins, I. Han’guk hyŏngmyŏng chaep’ansa p’yŏnch’an wiwŏnhoe, Han’guk hyŏngmyŏng chaep’ansa (History of Korea’s revolutionary trials), Seoul: Han’guk hyŏngmyŏng chaep’ansa p’yŏnch’an wiwŏnhoe, 1962. J.J. Choi, Labor and the Authoritarian State: Labor Unions in South Korean Manufacturing Industries, 1961–1980, Seoul: Korea University Press, 1989, p. 220. Party Law, Article 3 and 10, Kukka pŏmnyŏng chŏngbo sent’a (State legal information center), On cycles of party institutionalization and collapse in this period, see B. Ahn, “Korean Political Parties and Political Development: Crucial Elections and the Process of Institutionalization of the Political Process,” Korea Journal, 1978, vol. 18, no. 1, 30–41. A. Przeworski, Democracy and the Market: Political and Economic Reforms in Eastern Europe and Latin America, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991; G.A. O’Donnell and P.C. Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions About Uncertain Democracies, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986. This contrast can be seen in figures through the Polity scores for Taiwan and South Korea. Taiwan shows a gradual rise over time, while South Korea shows a sudden leap in 1988–89. These questions are asked in T. Cheng, “Democratizing the Quasi-Leninist Regime in Taiwan,” World Politics, 1989, vol. 41, no. 4, 471–499. G.S. Shieh, “Boss” Island: The Subcontracting Network and Micro-Entrepreneurship in Taiwan’s Development, New York: Peter Lang, 1992, chap. 7. Y. Wu, Political Explanation of Economic Growth: State Survival, Bureaucratic Politics, and Private Enterprises in the Making of Taiwan’s Economy, 1950–1985, Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2005. K. Chin, Heijin: Organized Crime, Business, and Politics in Taiwan, Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 2003, p. 152. Y. Chu, Crafting Democracy in Taiwan, Taipei: Institute for National Policy Research, 1992, p. 48.

South Korean democracy in light of Taiwan 35 23 Rigger, Politics in Taiwan, pp. 144–145. 24 On this pattern of “proletarianization” in South Korea, see H. Koo, Korean Workers: The Culture and Politics of Class Formation, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001. 25 N. Abelmann, Echoes of the Past, Epics of Dissent: a South Korean Social Movement, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996; N. Lee, The Making of Minjung: Democracy and the Politics of Representation in South Korea, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009. 26 White, Political Booms. 27 J. Bosco, “Faction Versus Ideology: Mobilization Strategies in Taiwan’s Elections,” The China Quarterly, 1994, no. 137, 28–62. 28 C. Wang and C. Kurzman, “Dilemmas of Electoral Clientelism: Taiwan, 1993,” International Political Science Review, 2007, vol. 28, no. 2, 225–245. 29 Chin, Heijin. 30 Y. Chu, “Taiwan’s Year of Stress,” Journal of Democracy, 2005, vol. 16, no. 2, 50. 31 Pak Ch’an-p’yo, Han’guk ŭi 48-yŏn ch’eje: chŏngch’ijŏk taean i pongsoe toen posujŏk p’aekwŏn ch’eje ŭi kiwŏn kwa kujo (Korea’s ’48 system: The origins and structure of a conservative hegemonic system that obstructs political alternatives), Seoul: Humanit’asŭ, 2010. 32 Ch’oe Chang-jip, Minjuhwa ihu ŭi minjujuŭi: Han’guk minjujuŭi ŭi posujŏk kiwŏn kwa wigi (Democracy after democratization: The conservative origins and crisis of Korean democracy), revised edition, Seoul: Humanit’asŭ, 2005. 33 One example is Kim Mun-su, a former labor activist who later joined the main conservative party. 34 In 2005, the branch party (organized at the congressional district) was eliminated as the local tier of legal party organization. It was replaced with a much larger unit, the provincial party chapter. One reason given was that the branch party system made branch party heads too powerful and allowed for corrupt practices. The reform pushed parties further from local society. Further, the reform specifically hurt the minor Democratic Labor Party, the only party in South Korea to have a grassroots organizational structure and large numbers of active members. 35 In more recent years, balloting has been introduced to select some candidates. These balloting procedures have changed in every election and have allocated great weight to opinion surveys. This reform has opened up parties to new candidates, but the use of opinion surveys still favors candidates who are well know and does not encourage voter mobilization (because candidates do not known who will be polled). 36 E.E. Schattschneider, The Semisovereign People: A Realist’s View of Democracy in America, Hindsdale: The Dryden Press, 1960. 37 This point about elite domination was made long ago by G. Mosca, The Ruling Class, trans. Hannah D. Kahn, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1939.


Taiwan’s democratization and mainland China’s future Shelley Rigger

In August 2012 Taiwanese human rights activists invited Chen Guangcheng, the PRC human rights campaigner who left China early in the summer after sheltering in the U.S. embassy in Beijing for several days, to visit Taiwan. According to Lin Chia-lung, the Taiwanese legislator who issued the invitation, “The first thing [Chen] said was: ‘Today’s Taiwan is tomorrow’s China. China must follow the democratic path that Taiwan took.’ ”1 Chen Guangcheng is hardly the first to propose that Taiwan’s democratization might serve as a model for the PRC. The idea that Taiwan’s experience has special relevance for mainland China comes easily to those who believe culture and history shape national destinies. Taiwan and the PRC both are peopled primarily by Han Chinese. Until a few centuries ago their ancestors lived together on the Chinese mainland, and their cultural roots draw on the same ancient sources. In recent decades they have shared strong economic and social ties. Many PRC citizens even consider Taiwan and the PRC to be parts of a single nation whose political paths have temporarily diverged. Skeptics of democracy in China often cite its ancient culture as a reason for their pessimism, so the fact that Taiwan has managed to overcome those putative obstacles and become a democracy makes it an even more valuable point of reference for those—like Chen—who believe change is possible in China. Another line of argument links Taiwan to China’s democratization in a very different way. For political scientists seeking explanations for how and why nations democratize, the PRC and Taiwan are, in a sense, “before and after” cases. Taiwan underwent a gradual democratic transition in the 1980s and 1990s; scholars have thoroughly dissected its transition in search of explanatory factors. The PRC, in contrast, has some characteristics that seem to predict democratic transitions, but it has not yet democratized. For China specialists, the question of whether and when the PRC will experience democratic reforms is a matter of intense interest. For political scientists, it is a potential test of models that have been debated and refined through decades of scholarly effort. This chapter assumes both approaches are worth exploring. It lays out what we know about Taiwan’s democratization and measures the extent to which the PRC’s current trajectory resembles Taiwan’s development at comparable moments in its history. Taiwan and the mainland share a past, and while they

Taiwan’s democratization and China’s future 37 are not under the same government today, their extensive economic and social interactions ensure they share a present and a future. The chapter views the two sides’ experiences with regard to a range of factors political scientists assess to be important in democratization: regime type, regime adaptation, legitimacy crises, economic development, social mobilization, external factors (including international pressure and demonstration effects), and political culture. The chapter also recognizes an important caveat in the study of democratization: while it is possible to separate conceptually the influences of various factors, in practice, those factors interact to drive political change. The empirical story can never be neatly disentangled according to conceptual categories.

Regime type The literature on democratic transition is replete with discussions of authoritarian regime types and their relative chances of democratizing. Geddes distinguishes three types: military, one-party, and personalist (Geddes 1999). Other authors add additional categories, including monarchy, competitive/electoral authoritarianism, and dominant/hegemonic party regimes. Studies of the relationship between regime type and democratization typically seek to (1) determine which types of regime are more likely than others to make the transition to democratic outcomes, and (2) trace the routes different regime types travel as they make their transition process. According to Geddes and others, single-party regimes—which she defines as regimes in which “access to political office and control over policy are dominated by one party, though other parties may legally exist and compete in elections”—are “quite resilient” and resistant to change (Geddes 1999: 121–122). Although political competition was a significant factor in Taiwan’s political transition, its pre-reform system clearly fits Geddes’ definition of a single-party regime. The Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalist Party became Taiwan’s ruling party in 1945 when Japan ceded the island to the Republic of China. Four years later Communist forces drove the KMT from mainland China, but it remained the ruling party on Taiwan for many decades. Until 1987 the only opposition parties allowed to operate on the island were small and powerless, their existence tolerated as window dressing over the KMT’s single-party status. The ROC conducted competitive elections for numerous local offices, but most candidates were KMT members. Those who were not ran as independents because coordinated campaigning under an alternative party banner was forbidden. Its status as a single-party regime put Taiwan in a category within which democratic transitions are relatively rare. To make matters worse, the KMT’s Leninist organizational model gave it a particularly robust form of single-party authoritarianism. T.J. Cheng (1989) and Bruce Dickson (1997) have detailed the degree to which the Kuomintang’s Leninist roots helped it ward off reform and change. As Cheng wrote early in the transition,


Shelley Rigger With a high organizational capacity, a dominant ideology, and above all, a deep penetration of society, a Leninist party is predisposed to steer the course of political change. Moreover, a Leninist party may be expected to do its utmost to resist the painful process of institutional transformation from a hegemonic, privileged party into an ordinary party in a competitive political arena. (Cheng 1989: 472)

On the other hand, as Nathan and Chou have written, the KMT’s Leninist elements were, from its earliest days, in tension with other impulses. For the KMT, Leninism is valuable as an organizational blueprint rather than an ideological wellspring. Ideologically, the democratic ideas embedded in Sun Yat-sen’s political writings and the party’s anti-communist (and therefore pro-Western) alliances pulled it in a more liberal direction (Chou and Nathan 1987: 278–279). In practice, the most significant manifestation of this liberal character was the Republic of China constitution, a document infused with democratic aspirations and institutions. On Taiwan, the KMT chose not to alter the constitution, but to suspend it, during the authoritarian era. As a result, the constitution became a resource for democratic activists, a talisman they could point to as proof that democracy was a higher expression of ROC values than KMT single-party government. When it comes to regime type, there is both significant overlap and significant divergence between the ROC under the Kuomintang and the PRC under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The designation “single-party regime” applies to both, and both ruling parties were built on a Leninist model. Nor are competitive elections solely the province of the KMT’s Taiwan. Competition in PRC elections is limited and non-CCP candidates face huge obstacles, but there are elections in the PRC, and there have been moments when reformers within the Chinese government wondered aloud whether those elections might be a first step toward a more fully-realized electoral democracy. On the whole, though, the PRC is richer in the qualities of single-party governance that resist change than those that are more permissive of it. Unlike the KMT which “justified itself as a moral and technocratic vanguard capable of guiding national construction and gradually introducing full constitutional democracy,” the CCP still claims to be a vanguard party that embodies the will of the Chinese people (Chou and Nathan 1987: 278). The KMT once argued that multiparty elections, while desirable in theory, were too risky during a period of national emergency. The CCP, in contrast, rejects as a matter of principle the idea that electoral democracy structured around multi-party competition is an appropriate mechanism for discerning and realizing China’s national interests. In sum, then, while Taiwan’s experience proves that single-party regimes can democratize, the differences between the KMT and CCP suggest that the democratization literature’s pessimistic predictions regarding single-party regimes’ potential for democratization may well hold true for the PRC.

Taiwan’s democratization and China’s future 39

Regime adaptation In looking at regime types, democratization theorists consider not only the likelihood of a particular regime democratizing, but also the process by which a transition might occur. Huntington identified three distinct transition processes: transformation, replacement, and transplacement. “Transformation” refers to a transition in which “elites in power took the lead in bringing about democracy.” In a “replacement,” the authoritarian regime is overthrown by the opposition, while in cases of “transplacement,” “democratization resulted largely from joint action by government and opposition groups” (Huntington 1991a: 114). Huntington found that among single-party regimes, transitions tended to be top-down affairs, with state actors playing a strong—even dominant—role. This raises an important question: If a party has the ability to rule unchallenged, why would it initiate, or even allow, change? Here much of the literature derives from an observation by O’Donnell and Schmitter. In their seminal work on democratic transitions they found that splits within authoritarian regimes were a key driver of change (O’Donnell and Schmitter 1986). As Geddes points out, one reason single-party regimes are relatively resistant to democratization is that they are less likely to split than other types of authoritarian regimes; Huntington, meanwhile, finds they also are less likely to step aside than other types of regimes, especially military governments. Clearly, Kuomintang-led Taiwan does not conform to these expectations: it was a Leninist single-party state that democratized, in part because of splits in the ruling party, and in part because the ruling party decided to relinquish its role as the “permanent ruling party.” According to Dickson, the KMT was able to make the transformation because it successfully adapted to a new environment (Dickson 1998). That new environment was the product of factors that are discussed elsewhere in this chapter. For now, what is interesting is how the KMT reached its decision to adapt to—as opposed to ignoring or resisting—changes in its environment. In Dickson’s view, whether or not a single-party regime will make adaptations that may bring democracy into being depends on the composition of regime elites, the existence of meaningful feedback mechanisms between state and society, and whether challenges to the regime are perceived as hostile or benign. Most of the literature on single-party regimes suggests that the privileges regime elites enjoy prevent them from breaking with their party. What Dickson shows us is that even within a Leninist party, changes in the political environment provoke differences of opinion. Because not all members of a party will recognize the same solution to a new problem, new problems inevitably create schisms. Those schisms, in turn, can provide opportunities for political change. In the 1970s and 1980s, Taiwan faced a host of new problems. Some KMT politicians preferred to stand pat, but others believed change was necessary. At that point, Dickson’s second factor—the existence of feedback mechanisms— came into play. As he writes, “in the early 1970s, the KMT invigorated local elections to become a referendum on its policies and changed its campaign


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strategies in light of this feedback” (Dickson 1998: 356). As I have argued elsewhere, the opportunity to use elections to overtake one’s political opponents was especially valuable to Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan’s president from 1988 to 2000 (Rigger 1999). As a vice-president who moved up when his predecessor died, Lee’s political position vis-à-vis the standpatter faction was weak. To strengthen it, he used elections to demonstrate and reinforce his popularity. Once he had established himself as a “man of the people,” Lee’s conservative opponents’ political resources were totally inadequate to defeat him. Dickson’s electoral feedback mechanism served the transition in two ways: it gave the public an opportunity to show enthusiasm for reform (by voting for the opposition as well as KMT reformers), and it gave Lee Teng-hui a leg up on his more conservative KMT competitors. To retain that advantage, though, President Lee needed to stay in front of the reform process. The result was a virtuous cycle of ever-deepening democratization. A third factor Dickson identifies as a driver of adaptation is the nature of the new challenges facing an authoritarian regime. Internally, he writes, successful adaptation requires that party reformers have to be stronger than hard-liners, that the party has to be stronger than the opposition, and that moderates in the opposition have to be stronger than extremists. All three conditions were met in Taiwan. (Dickson 1998: 357) How the regime perceives the external challenges it faces also matters: In Taiwan, KMT politicians recognized that becoming democratic would improve the ROC’s international position. Dickson’s assessment of the PRC in the late 1990s was far less optimistic than his view of Taiwan a decade earlier. While PRC elites were far from united, none of the party’s major factions advocated democratization—and they still do not do so today. Likewise, the PRC shows little sign of opening itself to feedback from society. Instead, the preference for repression that Dickson noted in the late 1990s is still strong. To the extent that Chinese authorities pay attention to the electronic and other popular discourses that have proliferated in the past decade, they do so less in the hope of responding systematically to popular preferences than in an attempt to identify—and neutralize—the most dangerous grievances. The goal of grassroots elections in the PRC is to manage problems and relieve pressure on local authorities, not to provide accountable grassroots governance. Finally, the CCP’s conviction that “bourgeois liberalization” is a Western plot to undermine China has not diminished, meaning democratization is associated with weakness, not strength. In 2012 Slater and Wong published a short article that challenges the claim that single-party regimes are necessarily less amendable to reform than other authoritarian regime types. In fact, they argue, explaining the KMT and other dominant parties’ willingness to reform is not so difficult after all, because “unlike ruling militaries, ruling parties can democratize without losing

Taiwan’s democratization and China’s future 41 power. . . . Democratization may thus be more incentive-compatible for authoritarian parties than the conventional wisdom suggests” (Slater and Wong 2012: 3). In some cases, they argue, ruling parties continue to thrive after making concessions to pro-democracy forces. As they observe, “the very strength that helps dominant parties sustain authoritarianism can also help motivate them to end it” because the power advantage they enjoy over their opponents is large enough to give them confidence that they can win in a democratic competition (Slater and Wong 2012: 12). The obvious question arising from the Slater and Wong hypothesis is if the dominant party is strong, what motive would it have to change the rules under which it had achieved success? Slater and Wong hypothesize that a party might adopt what they call a “concede to thrive” strategy when it sees its popularity and access to resources beginning to wane—when it is, so to speak, past its prime. Signals that such a stage has been reached include electoral shocks, economic turmoil, popular challenges to the regime’s legitimacy, and loss of patronage by powerful international friends. The KMT is one of the cases Slater and Wong used to develop their ideas, and it fits their description well. But what about the CCP? Is it a good candidate to “concede to thrive?” Asking the question this way suggests a problem with the theory: while signals of incipient decline are easy to see in retrospect, it is difficult to know, at any particular moment in time, whether a ruling party has hit its apex. Given all the reasons a dominant party has to hang onto power, it is hard to see why it would decide to change its ways just at the apex of its power. There is little doubt that the Chinese Communist Party would win even a flawlessly-fair election in China today, as there is no opposition force capable of mounting a coordinated electoral challenge. The CCP has 80 million members in every corner of China; it would be a prodigious mobilizational force even if there were opposition parties in China. In this sense, it is a good candidate for the concede-to-thrive hypothesis. But has the CCP reached its prime? Is it time for the party to reinvent itself as a democratic competitor? That is harder to judge. It is not subject to electoral shocks, since it does not hold national elections, and it does not rely on international patronage. It does rely on economic performance to sustain its popularity and legitimacy, so a major economic set-back could indicate that it is time for a change in strategy. There is no precedent for such a move, though, which leads up back to the earlier question: How do we anticipate—or even recognize—an unprecedented event? Economic catastrophe might well force the CCP to try something new, but the fourth element of the Slater–Wong thesis—popular challenges to the regime’s legitimacy—inspires pessimism. Unlike in Taiwan and the other countries from which they developed the theory, public dissent remains very limited in the PRC. We do not see, as we did in Taiwan, Korea, and Indonesia, open challenges to the CCP’s political monopoly. Mass demonstrations against the regime itself (as distinct from the actions of local officials) are rare, opposition parties unheard of. In short, the CCP seems to be thriving without conceding.


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Legitimacy crises Huntington’s widely-read book The Third Wave sought to explain a series of democratic transitions that took place in the 1970s and 1980s, including Taiwan’s. One of his central observations was that legitimacy crises touched off many of the third wave transitions. Two factors, in particular, made authoritarian regimes vulnerable to these crises. The first was a global trend toward acknowledging the desirability of democracy. As Huntington put it, A world democratic ethos came into being. Even those whose actions were clearly antidemocratic often justified their actions by democratic values. Explicit argument against democracy as a concept almost disappeared from public debate in most countries of the world. . . . [Even] Communists . . . regularly paid tribute to the strength of democratic values by emphasizing the democratic elements in their ideology . . . (Huntington 1991a: 47) Within this pro-democracy global atmosphere, each authoritarian regime confronted particular challenges to its individual legitimacy claims. One of the more common quandaries was regimes which had based their right to rule on economic performance losing support when they failed to keep their economic promises. In some cases, though, the opposite was true: an authoritarian regime that succeeded in delivering good economic performance was no longer able to justify its continued power on the grounds of economic necessity. As Huntington writes, “By achieving its purpose, it lost its purpose” (Huntington 1991a: 55). Another common path was for authoritarian states to lose their legitimacy as a result of military defeat. A legitimacy crisis played an important role in Taiwan’s democratic reform process. While the KMT boasted good economic performance and effective governance throughout the authoritarian era, it justified its monopoly on political power on what it claimed was its unique ability to represent and ultimately unify the entire Chinese nation—including the mainland. To make that claim stick, the KMT needed it to be affirmed by the international community. So long as the United Nations and the United States recognized the ROC as the legal government of all of China, it made sense that the interests of Taiwanese people would be subordinated to the imperative of sustaining the ROC. But that logic fell apart in the 1970s as one global player after another began recognizing the CCP government in Beijing as the legal government of China. Those events created a two-fold legitimacy crisis for the KMT regime (Huang 1996: 108; Yeh 2002: 50). Without international recognition, the ROC’s claim to China was undercut; without a valid claim to represent China, the KMT’s insistence that democratization must be deferred until after unification was no longer persuasive. When the rationale for maintaining a single-party system evaporated, KMT members’ morale plummeted. The loss of recognition also emboldened the regime’s opponents and strengthened their cause. After all, if unification was no longer a realistic ambition, then the purpose of the authorities

Taiwan’s democratization and China’s future 43 on Taiwan must be to serve the people of Taiwan. And for that purpose, democracy would do just fine. Both Chiang Ching-kuo, Taiwan’s president from 1978 to 1988, and his successor Lee Teng-hui used democratic reforms to rebuild the ROC’s legitimacy. Two recent scholarly papers give serious thought to the possibility that the PRC party-state may soon face a legitimacy crisis. Both Vivienne Shue’s 2004 paper, “Legitimacy Crisis in China?” and Holbig and Gilley’s 2010 contribution “Reclaiming Legitimacy in China” challenge the view that the CCP’s twentyfirst century legitimacy rests on economic performance and popular nationalism and is therefore imperiled by forces beyond the CCP’s control. These authors argue that the CCP regime’s legitimacy is more complex, adaptable, and durable than it appears on the surface. Thus, we may infer, while the authoritarian KMT staked its legitimacy on a metric it did not control—does the world acknowledge our claim to represent China?—the CCP regime is built on a more stable foundation. Shue suggests that by linking the contemporary regime to pre-modern concepts of state legitimacy—Truth, Benevolence, and Glory—the CCP establishes a standard that transcends its day-to-day performance. As she puts it, “The present regime stakes its legitimacy, as I read it, not on its technical capacity to steer and to grow the economy, but on its political capacity to preserve a peaceful and stable social order under which, among other good things, the economy can be expected to grow” (Shue 2004: 29). This broadly-based legitimacy is unlikely to collapse in the face of one, or even many, economic or political setbacks. Holbig and Gilley generally agree, emphasizing not only CCP legitimacy’s durability, but also its adaptability: The key to the party’s search for legitimacy, we claim, lies in understanding its ability to construct and influence the subjective values and meanings against which its performance is measured. There has been a clear shift in emphasis from the economic-nationalistic approach to an ideologicalinstitutional approach. (Holbig and Gilley 2010: 396) CCP leaders recognize that when it comes to legitimacy, economic performance and nationalism are double-edged swords; they prefer sources of legitimacy that do not create more problems than they solve. The most powerful of these is “the innovativeness of party theory and the vitality of the CCP resulting from its ability to reform itself from within” (Holbig and Gilley 2010: 406). Although these authors see the CCP party-state’s legitimacy claims as robust, they are not sanguine. Both papers emphasize that there are frequent—indeed, nearly constant—challenges to the CCP’s authority all over China. Shue is particularly interested in religious challenges to the CCP’s truth claims, especially those emanating from Falun Gong. Holbig and Gilley observe that the CCP behaves as if it were facing a legitimacy crisis even though such a crisis is not evident from the data they analyze (Holbig and Gilley 2010: 399). One area


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where Holbig and Gilley find the CCP especially challenged is in its effort to establish legitimacy based on institutionalization. The CCP, they argue, would like citizens to recognize it as the source of good and responsive governance, an aspiration that is frustrated both by the degree to which responsiveness can be confused with individual empowerment (not the CCP’s intent) and by the frequency with which PRC authorities, in practice, provide bad governance to their people. Overall, then, while it is probably unwise to expect a few quarters of slow economic growth to force the CCP to embrace liberal democracy, the party documents and statements reviewed by these authors suggest party leaders are well aware of the risks a legitimacy crisis could pose to the regime’s survival. As they are not prepared to concede, they instead devote considerable efforts to designing and implementing new forms of legitimacy.

Economic development According to Geddes, the most reliable predictor of democracy is economic development (Geddes 1999: 140). The notion that there is a correlation between GDP and democracy goes all the way back to Seymour Martin Lipset in 1959; his hypothesis survived four decades of testing to receive Geddes’s imprimatur. Lipset argued that it is not economic growth alone, but development (or modernization), that predicts successful democratization. Economic change sparks social and cultural changes—many of them associated with the growth of the middle class—which in turn generate demands within society for democratization. As Welzel and Inglehart put it, “The major effect of modernization is not that it makes democracy more acceptable to elites, but that it increases ordinary people’s capabilities and willingness to struggle for democratic institutions” (quoted in Wucherpfennig and Deutsch 2009:5). Still, though strong, Lipset’s correlation is not perfect. As T. J. Cheng has written, “The demand for democracy does not always create its own supply” (Cheng 1989: 472). In Taiwan, however, there is good reason to believe that changes to society that were wrought by the island’s rapid development did play a role in forcing the KMT to supply democratic reform. Taiwan experienced breakneck development between the 1950s and the 1980s. Annual GDP growth averaged nearly 9 percent; the fruits of that growth were distributed relatively evenly. The results were explosive increases in education, industrialization, urbanization, and overall living standards—exactly the kinds of development Lipset said were conducive to democratization. Led by an army of entrepreneurs, Taiwan’s growing middle class acquired the resources, skills, confidence, and connections to participate in politics. Some joined a liberalizing KMT; others lent their financial and political support to a rapidly-growing pro-democracy opposition (Rigger 2004: 287). The idea that Taiwanese—who were filing patents, running global businesses, and winning prizes—were unready for self-government was laughable. Mainland China’s economic development has followed a different path. In terms of GDP growth, urbanization, and industrialization its performance has

Taiwan’s democratization and China’s future 45 outpaced even Taiwan’s. But on the intervening variables between growth and democratization that Lipset proposed, China’s performance is less promising. Whereas Taiwan’s export manufacturing sector was dominated by independent firms, China’s entrepreneurs still rely heavily on political connections for their success (He and Feng 2008: 11). They thus have less incentive than their Taiwanese counterparts to openly support a political opposition. At the other end of the social spectrum China’s household registration system undermines a sense of national citizenship by putting geographic limits on individuals’ political rights. In addition, China’s highly unequal income distribution diminishes the chances that a politically-potent middle class will develop.2 As Victor Shih has written, “Instead of an enlarging urban middle class, China is increasingly splitting into a small upper class that spends freely on luxury goods, and a remaining population whose earnings and savings are eroded by inflation and state confiscation” (Shih 2011). In short, the PRC may turn out to be a case that validates Lipset’s original hypothesis: economic growth without social and ideological change is not conducive to democratization.

Civil society The idea of social change brings us to another key variable in the democratization literature: the purposeful actions of individuals committed to political change. O’Donnell and Schmitter argue that once an authoritarian regime begins to liberalize, its opponents typically move swiftly into the newly-available public space. They describe a “popular upsurge”—a cascading sequence of popular mobilizations that begins with “gestures by exemplary individuals who begin testing the boundaries of behavior initially imposed by the incumbent regime” then expands into broader and broader sectors of society until a full-scale mobilization is underway (O’Donnell and Schmitter 1986: 49). Picture the “People Power” demonstrations in the Philippines that ended the Marcos regime. Other scholars have elaborated and qualified society’s contribution to democratization. Kamrava and Mora (1998), for example, argue that certain types of civil society organizations are more able than others to advance the cause of democratization. They emphasize the need for groups that are self-regulating, internally democratic, and autonomous from the state. Economic development patterns that empower society are conducive to a civil society capable of advancing the democratic cause; those that empower the state, such as the exploitation of natural resources, are not. Of course, economic development and civil society are closely related. In Taiwan, both trends followed the democratization-friendly path. With smallscale, export-oriented manufacturing driving its economic growth, Taiwan was perfectly positioned to develop an autonomous civil society capable of pivoting into democratic activism. The PRC, in contrast, shows few signs of developing a civil society that can sustain large-scale mobilization for political change. China’s civil society organizations are still heavily influenced by the state, and hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens’ livelihoods still depend on state-linked


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organizations, including state-owned industrial and service companies. China’s vast size also makes it difficult for activists to link up and create national networks. These factors, undergirded by a security apparatus dedicated to crushing political resistance, make for a gloomy forecast regarding the potential for civil society and social mobilization to lead the PRC to democracy. Anti-government demonstrations—even violent ones—may erupt from time to time, but without civil society organizations to coordinate and direct them, they are unlikely to gain the necessary structure and coherence to lead a democratic wave.

External factors External forces play into democratization in two ways: international pressure and what Huntington calls demonstration effects, or “snowballing.” The existence of a near-global democratic norm compels states to at least pay lip service to democracy, but direct pressure is not unheard of. Negative sanctions—think of the economic and sporting boycotts of South Africa during Apartheid—are one approach. Positive sanctions—such as the European Union’s requirement that nations hoping to become members must be democratic—are another. In a few cases, most notably Japan at the end of World War II, military action has been used successfully to force democratization. Demonstration effects are present when, as Huntington puts it, Successful democratization occurs in one country and this encourages democratization in other countries, either because they seem to face similar problems, or because successful democratization elsewhere suggests that democratization might be a cure for their problems whatever those problems are, or because the country that has democratized is powerful and/or is viewed as a political and cultural model. (Huntington 1991a: 100) Snowballing also tends to have a geographic element, with democracy spreading from Portugal to Spain to Southern Europe, from one Latin American autocracy to another, from the Philippines to Korea and Taiwan. For Taiwan, both variants of international pressure were important democratization drivers. It was one of several East Asian states that democratized in the 1980s and 1990s, including South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and (one might argue) Japan, suggesting that snowballing was likely a factor, but it also received strong pressure from a key ally. During the height of the Cold War, the KMT regime was a stalwart in America’s Asia-Pacific anti-communist network. As such, it benefitted from a Cold War-era tolerance for Potemkin democracies. As the Cold War wound down, however, American politicians increasingly sympathized with Taiwan’s democratic activists. In the 1980s several members of the U.S. Congress began playing close attention to Taiwan’s political development. Pressed by Steve Solarz, Jim Leach, Claiborne Pell, and Edward

Taiwan’s democratization and China’s future 47 Kennedy, the U.S. government began leaning on the KMT to respect human rights and undertake political reform. As Richard Bush writes, Solarz’s and Leach’s critique of the KMT regime was not sufficient itself to lead Chiang Ching-kuo to the counterintuitive judgment that the way to preserve the party’s dominance was to open up the political system. But it certainly helped, along with the promise that a democratic Taiwan would have a stronger claim on American support. (Bush 2004: 209) Is the international environment similarly favorable to democratization in the PRC? Unlikely. First, there is little evidence that a “fourth wave” of democratization is under way. While the words “Arab Spring” and “fourth wave” appeared in a number of titles in 2011, prudent authors included question marks (cf. Diamond 2011). Moreover, the PRC is not a nation that follows trends easily. It has integrated deeply into a market-based global economy, yet its leaders insist that their economic system—“socialism with Chinese characteristics”—is unique in the world, and uniquely suitable to the Chinese nation. There is an entire school of political theory devoted to explaining how and why “Western-style” democracy is inappropriate for China. In short, it is hard to imagine the PRC regime succumbing to “snowballing.” External pressure, too, has been unavailing as a method for bringing about democratization in the PRC. After the Tiananmen crisis in 1989 governments around the world imposed economic sanctions aimed at punishing what they saw as a violation of human rights. Throughout the 1990s, the U.S. Congress sparred with Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton over whether and how the U.S. should use its influence to push China in a more liberal direction. In 1993 Clinton tied China’s trade status to its progress on human rights; a year later he reversed the policy, implicitly admitting there was little the U.S. could do to change China. In 2000 Congress abandoned any pretense of tying trade and human rights when it approved Permanent Normal Trade Status to the PRC. Since 2000, worries about the effects of Chinese trading practices on the U.S. economy have largely replaced debates over advancing human rights or democracy in China. American officials still raise human rights with their Chinese counterparts, but their efforts are pro forma; few expect them to produce real changes in Beijing’s policies.

Political culture Finally, we come to the idea with which we began: because Taiwan and China share a past, they must share a common future. In other words, these two ethnically-Chinese societies’ common cultural heritage dictates a common political destiny. To assess this idea we pose two questions. First, is Confucianism (the ideology that has shaped Chinese views of state power for more than 2,000 years) incompatible with democracy, as skeptics of Chinese democracy aver?


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Second, apart from Confucianism, how similar are the political cultures of Taiwan and mainland China? There is a substantial intellectual debate over whether Confucianism as an ideology can accommodate democratic practices (see Tu 1984; Huntington 1991b; Fukuyama 1995; Tan 2004, as well as many statements by Singapore’s founding leader, Lee Kwan-yew). Rather than rehearse these debates, however, it should be enough simply to point out that in practice, societies whose roots lie in the Confucian world do sustain democratic politics. Not only Taiwan, but also South Korea and Japan stand as living proof that a Confucian past does not dictate an authoritarian future. If the PRC’s political culture is incompatible with democratization, it cannot be Confucius’s fault alone. Taiwan and the PRC followed different paths of political development despite their common Confucian heritage. Is there another way to understand political culture that might shed light on this fact? Almond and Verba’s path-breaking study of political culture and democratic institutions, The Civic Culture, defines political culture as “specifically political orientations—attitudes towards the political system and its various parts, and attitudes toward the role of the self in the system.” Political culture, they argue, helps to determine the type of political institutions that emerge in a particular society (Almond and Verba 1989: 12). Citing Lucien Pye, Richard Solomon and others, Tianjian Shi says Chinese political culture normalizes a hierarchical relationship between individuals and the state, and inclines Chinese citizens to “forfeit their private interests for the harmony of society” (Shi 2001: 403–404)—traits that are unlikely to encourage bottom-up democratization. However, Shi’s quantitative comparison of political norms in Taiwan and China finds that despite their shared Chinese heritage, political culture differs in Taiwan and China. For example, “In democratizing Taiwan political trust is more contingent on government performance. In the authoritarian PRC political trust depends more on traditional values” (Shi 2001: 415). So while Chinese culture writ large may not encourage democratization, lived Chinese culture is not the same in all times and places. Taiwan’s experience shows that the link between deep cultural traits and contemporary political attitudes is not determinative; it also shows that attitudes can and do change. According to another of Shi’s studies, just before the island’s democratic transition, Taiwanese appeared to hold highly authoritarian attitudes toward politics—more so than their PRC counterparts. Those views (or people’s willingness to express their views honestly) changed dramatically as the transition unfolded (Zweig 2002: 27). To say that Taiwan’s path is not necessarily the PRC’s path is not to say that it cannot be. In fact, Taiwan stands to play an outsized role in the mainland’s political development because many PRC citizens—including Chen Guangcheng—view Taiwan as a uniquely meaningful point of reference for their own aspirations. They believe Taiwan’s experience contains lessons for China that the democratic transitions in Portugal, Chile, and Poland do not. Culture may not be destiny, but for Chinese hoping to live in a democratic China, the

Taiwan’s democratization and China’s future 49 success of Taiwan’s democracy is inspiring and encouraging. The expectation that as goes Taiwan, so goes mainland China may not be good prophecy, except insofar as it is self-fulfilling prophecy.

Notes 1 Reuters, “Chen Guangchen to visit Taiwan,” Taipei Times, September 2, 2012. 2 According to the CIA Factbook, China’s Gini coefficient (a measure of income inequality in which higher scores indicate less equitable distribution) is about 0.48, on par with Sri Lanka and Madagascar, compared to Taiwan’s score of approximately 0.33, which puts it between France and Canada.

Works cited Almond, Gabriel and Sidney Verba. 1989. The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. Sage Publications (First published in 1963). Bush, Richard C. 2004. At Cross Purposes: U.S.–Taiwan Relations Since 1942. M. E. Sharpe. Cheng, Tun-jen. 1989. “Democratizing the Quasi-Leninist Regime in Taiwan,” World Politics 41, 4: 471–499. Chou, Yangsun and Andrew Nathan. 1987. “Democratizing Transition in Taiwan,” Asian Survey 27, 3: 277–299. Diamond, Larry. 2011. “A Fourth Wave or False Start? Democracy after the Arab Spring,” Foreign Affairs. May 22. Dickson, Bruce. 1997. Democratization in China and Taiwan: The Adaptability of Leninist Parties. Clarendon Press. Dickson, Bruce. 1998. “China’s Democratization and the Taiwan Experience,” Asian Survey 38, 4: 349–364. Fukuyama, Francis. 1995. “Confucianism and Democracy,” Journal of Democracy 6, 2: 20–33. Geddes, Barbara. 1999. “What Do We Know about Democratization after 20 Years?” Annual Review of Political Science 2: 155–44. He Kai and Huiyun Feng. 2008. “A Path to Democracy: In Search of China’s Democratization Model,” Asian Perspective 32, 3: 139–169. Holbig, Heiki and Bruce Gilley. 2010. “Reclaiming Legitimacy in China,” P&P: Politics and Policy 38, 3: 395–422. Huang Teh-fu. 1996. “Elections and the Evolution of the Kuomintang,” in Charles ChiHsiang Chang and Hung-mao Tien, eds. Taiwan’s Electoral Politics and Democratic Transition: Riding the Third Wave. M. E. Sharpe. Huntington, Samuel. 1991a. The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. University of Oklahoma Press. Huntington, Samuel P. 1991b. “Democracy’s Third Wave,” Journal of Democracy 2, 2: 12–34. Kamrava, Mehran and Frank O. Mora. 1998. “Civil Society and Democratisation in Comparative Perspective: Latin America and the Middle East,” Third World Quarterly 19, 5: 893–915. Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1959. “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy,” American Political Science Review 53, 1: 69–105.


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O’Donnell, Guillermo and Philippe C. Schmitter. 1986. Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies. Johns Hopkins University Press. Rigger, Shelley. 1999. Politics in Taiwan: Voting for Democracy. Routledge. Rigger, Shelley. 2004. “Taiwan’s Best-Case Democratization,” Orbis 48, 2: 285–292. Shi Tianjian. 2001. “Cultural Values and Political Trust: A Comparison of the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan,” Comparative Politics 33, 4: 401–419. Shih, Victor. 2011. “China’s Highly Unequal Economy.” The Diplomat. Online at http:// Shue, Vivienne. 2004. “Legitimacy Crisis in China?” in Peter Hays Gries and Stanley Rosen, eds. State and Society in 21st-century China. Routledge. Slater, Dan and Joseph Wong. 2012. “Conceding and Thriving: Strong-State Democratization in Asia,” Comparative Democratization 10 (2): 3, 12–15. Tan Sor-hoon. 2004. Confucian Democracy: A Deweyan Reconstruction. SUNY Press. Tu Wei-ming. 1984. Confucian Ethics Today: The Singapore Challenge. Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore. Wucherpfennig, Julian and Franziska Deutsch. 2009. “Modernization and Democracy: Theory and Evidence Revisited,” Living Reviews in Democracy, 1–9. Yeh Jiunn-Rong. 2002. “Constitutional Reform and Democratization in Taiwan, 1945–2000,” in Peter C. Y. Chow, ed. Taiwan’s Modernization in Global Perspective. Praeger. Zweig, David. 2002. Democratic Values, Political Structures, and Alternative Politics in Greater China. United States Institute of Peace.


Strategic hypocrisy Sovereignty, legitimacy, and commerce in archipelagic Southeast Asia Justin V. Hastings

Southeast Asia as a region presents something of a paradox. It contains some of the most dynamic economies in the world, with developed countries, such as Singapore, sitting alongside Indonesia and Malaysia, developing countries with robust growth rates. Increasing economic integration and regional travel have been aided and abetted not only by ASEAN and multilateral state-level cooperation, but even more by non-state actors—individuals and companies alike—that take advantage of modern communications and transportation technology to engage in international trade. At the same time, much of the transnational commerce and movement that give Southeast Asia its dynamism and draw it together as a region are poorly regulated by states, with people and goods crossing borders either turning state institutions to their own ends, or ignoring them completely. States are faced with the question of how they can simultaneously assert their authority over their territory, in part by controlling cross-border movement and commerce, while also encouraging economic development and building up legitimacy in the eyes of local populations. In this chapter, I first discuss the fundamental disjuncture between how states in archipelagic Southeast Asia view the political and economic geography of the region, and how non-state actors operating primarily in Southeast Asia’s border areas understand it. Specifically, while states have incentives to assert their authority over border areas, their assertions often do not align with the social and economics networks that exist among local residents on the ground. The result is an uneasy compromise between assertions of state power and the maintenance of state legitimacy, wherein states maintain formal rules for cross-border trade and commerce, but in practice often ignore them, leading to “strategic hypocrisy.” Second, I examine how this plays out in reality by looking at the border area around eastern Borneo where the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia meet. Formal and informal trade in both licit and illicit goods (such as illegal timber) in the area are intertwined, and to a certain extent regularized and institutionalized. I conclude with a discussion of the state of affairs seen in parts of Southeast Asia as an example of political participation and pluralism. Attempts to remove the “hypocrisy” inherent in the local situation may be damaging for state legitimacy. At the same time, with proper handling, democratizing states can use the situation to bolster both the quality of democracy, and the legitimacy of the state.


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The divergent geographic logics of Southeast Asia Particularly in its border areas, Southeast Asia faces two diverging geographic logics—the logic of control, and the logic of transnationality. The logic of control is top-down and state-defined—the standard political map of Southeast Asia, showing the internationally defined territorial boundaries of the different countries of the region, is what central states would like their actual control to look like, and formal policies are often designed to maximize control within the internationally defined borders. For the modern postcolonial states of Southeast Asia, this is problematic. The demarcation of any borders at all in archipelagic Southeast Asia is a relatively recent phenomenon. While the 1824 Anglo-Dutch agreement delineated the spheres of influence between British Southeast Asia and the Dutch East Indies, neither the Netherlands nor the British had yet established a solid presence over what would become their territories in Kalimantan (Borneo), and the Spanish had not yet established effective control over the southern Philippines. In the middle of the nineteenth century, the economic wealth that the colonial powers derived from Southeast Asia came largely from their control of strategic ports (such as Singapore, Medan, and Batavia), and from extracting rents from (in the easier to access areas) plantations. The frontier areas in the eastern archipelago were too remote to impact the key urban centers or the colonial powers’ economic interests. Beginning around 1870, however, as the British, Dutch, and Spanish began attempts to broadcast power to these remote areas, they began a process of formally demarcating their boundaries, setting up border posts and patrols, and, most importantly, criminalized and delegitimized the informal trade networks that had long criss-crossed the waters of the archipelago and the jungles of Kalimantan. Informal trade between different spheres of influence was now cross-border informal trade, and cross-border informal trade was now smuggling.1 These new “smugglers” adapted their routes and methods, and carried on with their business, much as before. The successor states—Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines—in eastern Southeast Asia faced a dual problem: they not only had to defend their external sovereignty claims, they also had to build “internal sovereignty.”2 In neither case had the former colonial powers done a particularly thorough job, and the successor states were left without the military power and administrative expertise of the colonialists. While the Southeast Asia countries were all internationally recognized as the legitimate states within their borders, what those borders were were (and are) contested. While there are competing territorial claims throughout Southeast Asia— between Thailand and Cambodia, China and Vietnam, and Singapore and Malaysia, for instance, the Mindanao-Sabah-Kalimantan Timur Triangle in particular is the site of a confusing mishmash of territorial claims which, accompanied by the need for all three states to support external sovereignty (particularly in the face of the weakness of internal controls), leads to perverse incentives regarding border enforcement and transnational commerce. First, Indonesia and Malaysia

Strategic hypocrisy 53 have ongoing border disputes. A previous dispute over the islands of Sipadan and Ligitan (which are east of Sabah and Kalimantan Timur) was resolved by the International Court of Justice in favor of Malaysia, largely due to Malaysia’s long-term occupation of the islands. The issue of the territorial waters and control of the continental shelf east of Sebatik island (between Kalimantan Timur and Sabah) has yet to be resolved, and has led to several clashes and near misses between Malaysian and Indonesian maritime patrol vessels, including one in 2009 when the Indonesian navy accused a Malaysian naval vessel of intruding on Indonesian waters.3 Second, the Philippines has long claimed Sabah for itself, arguing that the nineteenth century Sultanate of Sulu leased, but never formally ceded the northeastern portion of Borneo to the British North Borneo Company. Although Malaysia has successfully deflected the Philippines’ attempt to push the issue in international tribunals, and the dispute is formally in abeyance, the more practical point is the Philippine government has incentives not to enforce the border in ways that emphasize the separateness of Sabah, and the sovereignty of Malaysia over Sabah. For their part, informal networks rooted in transnational ethnic ties have incentives to cross the border without genuflecting to manifestations of Malaysian or Philippine state authority (such as border checkpoints). Indeed, by one Malaysian estimate, approximately 750,000 Filipinos live in Sabah, some illegally, and some legally after a process of legalization and (in some cases) naturalization.4 The traditional means of establishing internal control are problematic for Southeast Asian states. One of Jeffrey Herbst’s indicators for how African states have attempted to broadcast power across the territory circumscribed by their external boundaries is the density and location of the roads built across that territory, the implication being that roads allow the physical movement necessary to maintain supply and communication lines between administrative outposts and the central government.5 Yet the archipelagic physical topography of the region renders the means of broadcasting state power seen in Africa difficult in insular Southeast Asia. There are only two international land boundaries in the region. Both of them are in Borneo, the first between Indonesia and East Malaysia, and the second between Brunei and East Malaysia.6 There are, moreover, few government-built roads crossing between Indonesia and Malaysia in Borneo—in fact, there is only one official international land border crossing on the island, at Entikong between Sarawak and West Kalimantan, although there are a number of “traditional” crossings where local residents are allowed to cross. All of the rest of the official crossings among Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines are along sea routes, which are more difficult for the authorities of both states to patrol. In the place of the actual broadcasting of power, states have often set up formal procedures and institutions in an attempt to channel and otherwise control transnational movement and trade (as well as extract rents). Indonesians who wish to go abroad as laborers (for men) or domestic workers (for women), for example, require permission and documentation from the Ministry of Manpower,


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either in Jakarta, or in a local office near the point of departure from the country.7 States have also sometimes gone to great lengths to establish physical markers of internal control. The city of Wamena, in the middle of the Indonesian province of Papua, for instance, is entirely surrounded by mountains and lacks roads to the outside, and was constructed almost entirely of materials flown in on Indonesian military planes. In contrast with the logic of control, the logic of transnationality is bottom-up and followed mainly by non-state actors. Precolonial state power hewed closely to the geography of the Southeast Asian archipelago: state power was largely not based on controlling large swathes of territory, but on controlling sea trading routes, raising manpower and, in the larger islands (such as Sumatra and Kalimantan) controlling rivers on which goods from the hinterland were transported to the sea. State authority largely followed a core-periphery model, with the peripheral territories of precolonial states occasionally breaking away as the core weakened.8 Before and during colonial rule, ethnic groups were not necessarily confined to contiguous territory, but followed the trade routes to different islands, sometimes far afield. Bugis sailors from Makassar in southern Sulawesi, for instance, traded and established settlements throughout archipelagic Southeast Asia. In some cases, this led to the informal expansion of state power, such as the quasi-state slaving raids of the Iranun and Balangingi in the eighteenth century from their homes near Mindanao to as far west as Sumatra.9 More recently, in other examples, Bugis have spread to both Kalimantan Timur in Indonesia and Sabah in Malaysia, Indonesians live in Mindanao, and Dayak ethnic groups live throughout Borneo. The relationships among residents on the ground in Southeast Asia thus often are territorially spread across international borders—the path of least resistance for communications and trade for certain social groups is not within the territory of a single state, but between the territories of two states. This is particularly the case in border areas, where the closest and most convenient market for buying and selling goods may be on the other side of the border. The most salient point is that the populations of many parts of Southeast Asia have strong incentives to cross borders and otherwise ignore the sovereignty claims made by postcolonial states. When the two logics—control and transnationality—collide, there are problems for both states and local populations. The new institutional economics approach to state formation thinks of state institutions in terms of their role in reducing transaction costs, in particular policing and enforcement costs of agreements, when citizens are engaging in commerce and interactions beyond the local level. More indirectly, state institutions are also supposed to reduce search and bargaining costs by providing the basis for economic institutions that allow consistent and active markets to exist. In reality, for a variety of reasons, institutions can also encourage stagnation, and provide perverse incentives.10 Going through state institutions can itself create costs, particularly in comparison to using informal networks and rules. In many border areas of Southeast Asia, it is arguable that “properly” using formal state institutions, particularly institutions dealing with traveling and doing commerce across international boundaries,

Strategic hypocrisy 55 costs more than bypassing them, in no small part because of the nature of those state institutions (which it often seems are created for the purpose of extracting rents from their own populations). Legally, for instance, Indonesian citizens who want to work outside of Indonesia (as domestic helpers, among other things) must get approval from the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, go through a training program, and then receive exit papers (the processing for which can also take some time).11 Every step provides an opportunity for delay by inefficient bureaucracies and rentseeking by corrupt officials. Immigration officials at Indonesia’s international airports, for instance, often demand bribes from returning domestic helpers before allowing them to proceed into the country.12 The Indonesian government is also capable of cutting off any formal exit approval for years at a time, as it did with domestic helpers bound for Malaysia in 2009, and for Saudi Arabia in 2011 during disputes with their governments.13 Likewise, a 2008 World Bank study estimated that Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia were only transferring approximately 10 percent of their remittances through formal institutions, using informal mechanisms for the rest, due to the high costs and inconvenience of formal routes.14 State institutions, and formal institutions in general, face a certain level of ambivalence about not only their usefulness, but also arguably their legitimacy. The populations operating according to a logic of transnationality have also created institutions to help them mitigate the costs associated with cross-border movement and trade in Southeast Asia—they are informal, even considered “illicit” by states, or occupy a gray area in which participants use formal institutions in ways which might be considered illicit, even corrupt. These institutions’ workings are smoothed by underlying networks of individuals, on both sides of the border, who are connected by both economic and social ties. These bottom-up informal networks are not primarily criminal or political: their primary purpose is not necessarily to break the law, and they do not necessarily make legitimacy claims, either on behalf of or in defiance of the state. Rather, these networks’ purpose is for the most part social and economic. Because the same ethnic groups, and in some cases families, live in both countries, the residents on either side of the formal border often want to visit their relatives with a minimum of transportation and administrative costs. In some cases, such as the Krayan district of Kalimantan Timur that borders Sabah, the local residents (Dayaks) live in Indonesia and farm their land every day on the Malaysian side.15 The networks are also economically important: they allow residents on either side of the border to export products for income, and import goods for consumption, with a minimum of transaction costs (which are mitigated partly because of the familial and ethnic ties across the border). This is especially important in border areas where the hinterland that provides the goods is located on one side, and the market for those goods on the other: Tawau in Malaysia provides the market for Indonesian-produced commodities from Kalimantan Timur, for example.16 The cross-border social and economic networks of eastern Borneo are somewhat akin to the grassroots resistance to state power in China described by Kate


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Zhou (this volume), which has befuddled authorities and even, in some cases, such as post-Mao agricultural reforms, forced the state to change its own formal policies. The structural essence of the resistance—unorganized, informal, distributed—makes it harder for state authorities to crack down. Furthermore, the brazenness of some resisters—unregistered open-air churches and impromptu land reform being good examples—does not suggest subversion, but a more nuanced political participation in which resisters simply get on with their lives, even if this goes against state regulations, regardless of whether they end up making an overt political statement or not. As with Zhou’s grassroots resistance, the non-state networks in eastern Borneo largely derive their power from aligning more closely with what the local population wants to do (and the way in which it want to do it) than the state does. It is the state that is caught off-guard and sometimes even forced to change its policies, formally or informally. The successor states in archipelagic Southeast Asia—Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines (and to a certain extent Singapore)—are faced with a dilemma: they have strong incentives to improve internal control and even authority, particularly by attempting to shunt the local populations attempting to engage in cross-border movement and trade through formal state institutions. At the same time, informal institutions actually more closely align with the transnational logic of the local populations in the border areas, and as such often might be viewed as more useful, or even more legitimate, than state institutions. What results is a certain amount of strategic hypocrisy, where the local state purposefully turns a blind eye to the behavior of local transnational networks in order to garner the support of the local population. In an uneasy compromise, Southeast Asian states tolerate gray market institutions that often access formal institutions through informal local social and economic networks as a way of lowering the costs of dealing with the state. In this way, the formal institutions of the state (and thus the state’s sovereignty claims) are not totally ignored, and informal interaction with the state has itself been semiinstitutionalized. Bizarrely then, from the viewpoint of many Western observers, the state gains the population’s support by not enforcing the laws and regulations it itself has put in place. As Wissenburg notes, “political reality is about power not legality.”17

The Mindanao–Sabah–Kalimantan Timur Triangle In large part because of the political geography of the region, with its hundreds of small islands spread out across contentious borders overlaid onto ethnic and social networks by the colonial powers relatively recently, the Mindanao–Sabah– Kalimantan Timur Triangle—the region at the border of Sabah in East Malaysia, Kalimantan Timur in Indonesia, and Mindanao in the southern Philippines— exemplifies the social, political, and economic dynamics at work in Southeast Asia, and the dilemmas faced by states and non-state networks. In this section, I examine the dynamics of the local transnational economic and social networks, which have by and large flourished on account of self-interested benign neglect

Strategic hypocrisy 57 from states, before moving on to the more sophisticated (and arguably more institutionalized) black market and gray market activities that have also taken hold in the region. Local social and economic networks The coastal boundary between Sabah and Kalimantan Timur has particularly dense local social and economic networks. Nunukan, the largest city on the Indonesian side of the border, is separated from Tawau, on the Malaysian side, by Sebatik Island. The island has approximately 80,000 residents, with the formal international boundary running in a straight line through the middle of the island.18 The geography of the area encourages close interaction between people on either side of the border: Sebatik is within sight of Tawau—the Malaysian side can be seen from the island’s naval port, and is close enough that it is possible to order martabak (a traditional Malay dish) from Tawau, and have it delivered by speedboat to Sebatik.19 But the ties go beyond mere physical proximity. Sebatik and Tawau share ethnic ties; residents on both sides of the border are mostly of Bugis ethnicity, with the Bugis living in Tawau descendants of Indonesian settlers and former temporary workers arriving over the past 150 years.20 Economic conditions on both sides of Pulau Sebatik are similar—Sebatik’s standard of living is higher than the Indonesian average, as is the cost of living. One Indonesian naval officer told an interviewer that he felt poorer in Sebatik than in Surabaya (the Indonesian navy’s headquarters).21 The local authorities on both sides appear to take a relaxed attitude to transnational movement and commerce that is truly local. The boundary that cuts through the middle of Pulau Sebatik is crossed by a number of footpaths and, in some places, buildings. Residents have social visit passes that allow them to cross the border to visit friends and relatives (and some older people, according to one interview, have both Indonesian and Malaysian identity cards, which is otherwise not allowed under Indonesian law), as well as trade in the markets in Tawau. The customs inspectors in Tawau are inclined to allow in most trading goods from Kalimantan Timur, with the exception of furniture and batik. While the passes do not allow local Indonesian residents to work in Malaysia, since they are allowed to stay in Sabah for one month, some Indonesian Sebatik residents do work illegally, and then return to Sebatik every month to renew their time in Malaysia.22 Border crossing is similarly lax. A research team studying illegal logging in the mid-2000s, for instance, reported that no Indonesian officials bothered to check their documents when they came from Tawau and entered Indonesian waters near Sebatik.23 For local residents, then, both Indonesia and Malaysia have adopted a stance of benign neglect, in part bowing to the reality of the ease with which local residents can ignore state institutions and rely on their own social and economic networks if they so choose.


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Transnational commercial networks Transnational commerce and movement on a larger scale are built in part on the local informal social and economic networks described above but, given that they involve people from outside the region (who often initially have no connection to local networks), present more of a quandary for governments. The Malaysian state of Sabah imports migrant workers from Indonesia and the Philippines, and primary commodities from Indonesia. Aside from agricultural products brought from Indonesia, and manufactured everyday goods (such as electronics) brought from Malaysia that exceed the monthly personal limits established by the cross-border trade agreement between Indonesia and Malaysia,24 informal trade networks in the region appear to specialize in producing and moving illegal forestry products, and transporting Indonesian workers, both licit and illicit, to and from Malaysia. Due to the nature of the goods being smuggled, the illegal logging industry seems to require fairly high levels of interaction with local government officials. Foreign companies have set up sawmills and imported bulldozers for their illegal logging operations in Kaltim (Kalimantan Timur), an investment of resources that could not be accomplished without at least minimal levels of local government collusion. In 2005, for example, illegal logs crossing from Kaltim into Malaysia dropped to an estimated 200,000 cubic meters, suggesting the scale of the operations.25 Yet the number of illegal logging convictions and cases (or more generally, any cases involving illicit cross-border activity) taken up by the police has been comparatively low. In 2009, Nunukan regency was holding 21 prisoners for illegal logging crimes. Among prisoners implicated in cross-border crimes, none were being held for smuggling, and two people were being held for immigration violations.26 Between 2005 and 2009, Sebatik itself recorded only 11 cases of illegal logging.27 In 2010, Nunukan regency as a whole saw only one reported case of smuggling, two cases of the illegal presence of foreign citizens, and eight cases of illegal natural resource exploitation.28 There is likely underrecording of cases and bias inherent in the data (specifically, these are cases that the police chose to take up for one reason or another), so the question is perhaps not why smuggling and illegal logging cases are so “rare” but what these particular suspects had to do to get caught and convicted. The relatively low numbers of official criminal cases could be because multinational corporations, the local state, and local inhabitants come together in mutually “beneficial” informal networks that result in few convictions. The networks that oversee the logging process from harvest to sale have disparate, specialized roles for individual members, of whom only a portion are either local residents or local government officials who ensure the safe passage of the cargo. Companies from both sides of the border, for instance, often contract out harvesting logs to “small bosses” (bos kecil), or hire people whose only purpose is to transport the logs, taking delivery in Indonesia, and delivering them to Malaysia.29 Illegal logging is a ready source of income for local residents in Kaltim, and provides faster returns than farming. Logging companies also promise to

Strategic hypocrisy 59 provide for loggers’ families while they work in the forest, thus creating a dependent relationship. These activities are not limited to formal companies, however—local residents are capable of harvesting logs and finding buyers in Malaysia in their own informal networks.30 Local cooperatives are also sometimes given permits by kabupaten (regency) governments to engage in forestry as a means of local development. Lacking the resources to take advantage of these concessions, the cooperatives sell off their concessions to companies that can, resulting in illegal exportation of logs.31 Local residents (and their social and economic networks) thus come to serve as sub-contractors for larger, more formal enterprises. While these local partners are often exploited, they (and their networks) often serve as entry points for outsiders wishing to take advantage of the cross-border gray and black markets. How smugglers negotiate the routes used for smuggling also gives insight into the configuration of roles among different sectors of the economic and political spheres. A police official in Kalimantan Timur identifies three entry points for illegal timber moving from Kaltim to Sabah: across the open sea, through rivers and overland by way to Keningau in Malaysia, and through Sebatik.32 The sea route is traversed by ships in size ranging from container ships down to small wooden boats. The route to Keningau is characterized by dozens of illegal logging roads (jalan tikus) crossing the border further inland, past dozens of border guard posts set up in theory to stop the smugglers, although in reality as of 2004 the total number of guards along the entire Kalimantan–East Malaysia border amounted to less than an infantry brigade.33 In both cases, researchers report that smugglers ease their way by bribing guards and officials. One smuggler, admittedly operating between Kalimantan Barat and Sarawak, described having to pay off five or six patrols for every trip across the border, at a cost of 50,000 Rupiah (approximately US$6) per officer on each patrol team.34 The route from Sebatik ends in a number of private ports near timber processing facilities in which smugglers can offload their cargo without oversight from customs officials.35 According to one report, in the mid-2000s, there were 40 small companies specializing in timber processing based in Tawau, ready to receive exports from Indonesia.36 The networks needed to engage in such largescale operations thus necessarily involve smugglers interacting on a regular basis with a series of coopted police, local governments, border guards, and customs officials. While straight-up bribes and the avoidance of any documentation, as above, are certainly part of these operations, the smugglers also rely on the typical tricks of the gray market, such as genuine documents obtained through illicit means, underreporting or misreporting of the contents of trucks and ships, and origin falsification (usually smugglers claim their logs are from the Philippines when entering Malaysia by sea).37 The networks that transport illegal workers across the border between Kaltim and Sabah appear to be unevenly formalized. Large numbers of Indonesian workers are recruited in other parts of Indonesia through social and familial networks, and then brought by brokers working on behalf of sponsors in Malaysia from their homes through Nunukan and Tarakan to Tawau.38 Access to these


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networks by the migrants thus does not depend on very local connections in Nunukan (although the networks themselves are embedded in the political economy of the Nunukan-Tawau area).39 Upon the conclusion of their contracts, the Indonesian workers return to Nunukan and Tarakan to “recycle” their travel and work documents for another stint in Sabah, or simply travel to Malaysia on visit passes and overstay their visas. Researchers reported that the formal document “recycling” process in Nunukan in 2003 could take a month and required large quantities of documentation (including a birth certificate),40 which at the time encouraged migrants to obtain documents more quickly through semi-illicit channels. Nunukan has migration agents who are skilled in obtaining the proper documents quickly and efficiently through their connections to local government officials in both Indonesia and Malaysia.41 These documents are known as aspal (asli tapi palsu—genuine but false), and are not limited to Nunukan. They are genuine documents, obtained from the officials who were authorized to issue them, but obtained on the gray market, generally through local agents who capitalize on their informal network connections with government officials to accelerate or smooth out the process of document generation and approval.42 The formal institutions of the Malaysian and Indonesian states thus are in fact being used by migrants, but in ways that take advantage of informal networks and minimize transaction costs for users. With that said, there is some evidence that with concerted effort, states are able to reduce transaction costs sufficiently that formal use of formal institutions comes to be seen as more desirable. Since 2003, the process of working in Sabah is now sufficiently formalized that most Indonesian workers (most of whom work on plantations in Sabah) do in fact enter Malaysia on temporary working visas arranged by labor recruitment agencies based in Indonesia. In recent years, the local Indonesian government has increased the efficiency with which it processes papers for Indonesian citizens to return to work in Malaysia once their temporary working visa has expired—the wait time is now less than a week.43 Whether this is through the formal system or the aspal system is unclear, but official statistics for immigration appear to capture more activity than those for illegal logging, although not all by any means. There were 8–9 recorded international passenger ship arrivals per month in 2007 at the Port of Sungai Nyamuk in Sebatik, for a total of 102 ship arrivals, with 3484 passengers departing (presumably for Malaysia) and 6860 arriving.44 The local Sebatik government recorded 22,811 Indonesian arrivals from Malaysia (and 22,450 departures), but only 139 Malaysian arrivals, and 120 departures in 2006.45 These formal entrants in Sebatik represented only a small percentage of the total legal border crossers in Nunukan regency. By contrast, the immigration office in Nunukan regency recorded 152,996 Indonesians departing for Malaysia, and 132,399 departing for there in 2010, while 12,346 Malaysians arrived in Nunukan, and 12,908 departed.46 Yet, as with illegal logging, Nunukan also has less institutionalized migrant networks that interact with the state primarily through bribery and avoidance, and these networks do involve the provision of transportation services by local residents. Nunukan is sufficiently close to the border that private speedboats

Strategic hypocrisy 61 make the journey quite quickly—Tawau can be reached from Sebatik island (which itself is 15 minutes from Nunukan) in half an hour in one of numerous small boats that carry local traders across the border.47 The proximity means that boats smuggling everyday goods or people between Indonesia and Malaysia are both common, and commonly subject to demands for bribes by a series of police and customs officials, who stop boats at several points during their journeys to receive payouts.48 In practice, this method of entering Malaysia often appears to be used by migrant workers who do not have the money or necessary documents to obtain either real or aspal documents. They board boats in Sebatik, and wait for the right time to cross over to the Malaysian side.49 The Sabah–Mindanao– Kaltim region is thus characterized by semi-formal networks that sit comfortably alongside formal state institutions. Yet the region also has informal networks that serve as back-ups for the semi-formal networks, and as a means for locals to move quickly around the area. Formal state institutions, in other words, are only one of a menu of options available to those seeking to cross borders.

Conclusion Unlike many of the other chapters in this volume, the strategic hypocrisy of states and non-state actors in Southeast Asia is not wholly a story of democratization or even resistance. Grassroots “resistance” to authoritarian state power is not an issue in these particular parts of Southeast Asia. Indonesia and the Philippines are both multiparty democracies (however flawed), and Malaysia’s regime is nominally democratic, if semi-authoritarian and single party-dominant (and voters in east Malaysia generally vote for the ruling coalition in any case). While regional Islamist terrorist organizations such as Jemaah Islamiyah and ethnic separatist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group would certainly deny the fundamental legitimacy of the central state if asked, the individuals and businesses enmeshed in cross-border social and economic networks would probably not, and the willingness to adopt formal measures such as temporary work visas when the costs of doing so are low does not suggest a wholesale rejection of the state or its institutions per se, or an overt desire to democratize the polity. With that said, the delicate dance between the state and non-state actors certainly is interrelated with the quality of democracy as practiced in these countries, and can be seen as a manifestation of pluralism. Marcel Wissenburg describes political pluralization as “the emergence of polities other than the state, where polity stands for any form of social organization within which (among other things) politics takes place . . .”50 What goes on in eastern Borneo certainly fits: there are entities besides the central or local state that command resources and attention, and the most operationally viable (and perhaps even most legitimate) local economic and social institutions may not be part of the state at all. The people involved in cross-border social and economic networks may not see themselves as political actors, but they are nonetheless participating in a political economic system that only sometimes includes the state, and even when it does, uses the state in ways that may be viewed as illegitimate by the center.


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While the peculiar challenges of archipelagic Southeast Asia, especially the relative ease with which cross-border networks move along sea lanes among thousands of islands, bring the dueling logics of control and transnationality into sharper relief, and the semi-formalized state/non-state institutions at work in the borders may be particularly well defined in Southeast Asia, there is little reason to believe that Southeast Asia is unique in some way. Many states, after all, are struck with the problem of asserting internal control within the borders of their externally recognized territory, and these borders often represent impositions into the lives of residents on either side of them, rather than confident geographic assertions of state power. There are many situations around the world where the state maintains legitimacy only to the point that it does not try the patience of its citizens. What’s more, to the extent that political scientists (as opposed to geographers) have traditionally focused on the norms and institutions at the geographical and political core of countries, “strategic hypocrisy” may be more the norm for interaction between the state and non-state actors in border areas where countries meet than we otherwise think. The way in which the Indonesian state asserts its power, for instance, and the way in which people interact (or do not interact) with the local state, may look quite different to someone in Jakarta or other major cities than someone on the geographical periphery of the country. While people in both Jakarta and border areas can choose to interact with the state, or avoid it, to carry out their social and economic activities, people in border areas have options involving other countries, and networks that extend beyond the reach of the formal Indonesia state. In conclusion, Southeast Asian states face state-building challenges that, in some ways mirror those of other postcolonial states, and in others are shaped by their particular geographical circumstances and historical legacies. The archipelagic geography of the southern part of Southeast Asia is both a blessing and a curse. The informal social and economic networks that have spread across the region have benefited local residents who would not otherwise have access to needed goods and services. Yet because these networks often cross international boundaries, they often conflict with the state-led logic of control over the territory claimed by the state. Because states either do not have the capacity to crack down, or the desire to alienate local populations, informal networks continue to operate in border areas, and semi-formal networks arise that minimize the costs associated with dealing with state institutions. Precisely because international boundaries do not correspond well in Southeast Asia with the social and economic ties that are experienced by many residents on a daily basis (witness the residents of Sebatik who hold both Malaysian and Indonesian ID cards), states run the risk of losing support from their populations if they cut off these transnational networks in a bid to assert a logic of control. It may be that improving the quality of democracy in states with limited capacity to broadcast their power over all of their putative territory requires some amount of strategic hypocrisy. Streamlining state institutions (such as immigration, manpower, and customs) to decrease the time and costs associated with using them (such as by decreasing tariffs and customs inspections, and easing

Strategic hypocrisy 63 regulations and costs associated with obtaining visas), and formally recognizing transnational social and economic networks at a national level, rather than relying on local governments’ hypocritical acquiescence (which also opens the way for corruption) would effectively bring informal social and economic networks in from the cold, and could potentially improve the legitimacy of the state, and the quality of the state’s democracy. States that are democratizing or seeking to improve the quality of their democracy cannot rely solely (or even primarily) on coercion to assert their authority over territory and the people who inhabit that territory, and in any case, there is little evidence that Indonesia and the Philippines in particular even have sufficient coercive capacity at their borders. States that are unable to deliver services and public goods that would justify local residents in border areas actually making formal use of formal institutions need some other way of building legitimacy. The next best option may be simply to leave residents alone, recognizing that the state may overall have an interest in maintaining the appearance of external sovereignty. In this interpretation, the most legitimate government is one that recognizes and acts in accord with the wishes of its population, even if the de facto result is a seeming retreat of the state. The role of the state must be seen as one that encourages the operation of grassroots networks, thus improving residents’ lives, rather than placing obstacles in their paths. In a democracy such as those in Southeast Asia, in other words, it is the state, not the citizens, that should adapt.

Notes 1 Eric Tagliocozzo, Secret Trades, Porous Borders. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. 2 Robert Jackson, “Sovereignty in World Politics: A Glance at the Conceptual and Historical Landscape,” Political Studies 47: 3, 1999, pp. 431–456. 3 Amir Tejo, “Navy Was Set to Fire on Warship,” The Jakarta Globe, 4 June 2009. 4 Jojo Malig, “Wikileaks Cable: Filipinos ‘Troublesome’ in Sabah,” ABS-CBN News, 18 August 2011. 5 Jeffrey Herbst, State and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000. 6 Arguably the two bridges connecting Singapore and Malaysia also form a land boundary. 7 Michele Ford and Lenore Lyons, “Travelling the Aspal Route: Grey Labour Migration through an Indonesian Border Town,” in The State and Illegality in Indonesia, Edward Aspinall and Gerry van Klinken (eds). Leiden: KITLV Press, 2011, pp. 107–122. 8 G. Carter Bentley, “Indigenous States of Southeast Asia,” Annual Review of Anthropology 15, 1986, pp. 275–305; Colombijn Freek, “The Volatile States in Southeast Asia: Evidence from Sumatra, 1600–1800,” Journal of Asian Studies 62: 2, 2003, pp. 497–529. 9 James F. Warren, Iranun and Balangingi. Singapore: Singapore University Press, 2002. 10 Douglass C. North, “Institutions,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 5:1, 1991, pp. 97–112; Douglass C. North, Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.


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11 Ford and Lyons, “Travelling the Aspal Route,” pp. 107–122. 12 “Migrant Workers in Saudi Arabia: Beheading the Golden Goose,” Economist, 3 July 2011. 13 Ibid. 14 Raúl Hernández-Coss, Gillian Brown, Chitrawati Buchori, Isaku Endo, Emiko Todoroki, Tita Naovalitha, Wameek Noor, and Cynthia Mar, “The Malaysia–Indonesia Remittance Corridor: Making Formal Transfers the Best Option for Women and Undocumented Migrants,” in World Bank Working Paper Series. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2008, p. 49. 15 Justin V. Hastings, Author Interview, Academic Expert on Cross-Border Issues, Jakarta, July 2011. 16 Ibid. 17 Marcel Wissenburg, Political Pluralism and the State: Beyond Sovereignty. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2009, p. 2. 18 Badan Pusat Statistik Kecamatan Sebatik, Kecamatan Sebatik Dalam Angka 2010, Sungai Nyamuk: Badan Pusat Statistik Kecamatan Sebatik, 2011. 19 Hastings, Author Interview, Academic Expert on Cross-Border Issues, Jakarta. 20 Mita Noveria, “Mobilitas Penduduk Sebatik-Tawau: Dari Perdagangan sampai Pengobatan,” in Dinamika Mobilitas Penduduk Di Wilayah Perbatasan, Aswatini (ed.). Jakarta: Pusat Penelitian Kependudukan, LIPI, 2007, pp. 51–56. 21 Hastings, Author Interview, Academic Expert on Cross-Border Issues, Jakarta. 22 Ibid. 23 Awani Irewati, “Perdagangan Lintas Batas Kalimantan Timur-Sabah: Kasus Illegal Logging,” in Kebijakan Indonesian Dalam Menghadapi Kejahatan Lintas Negara: Kasus Illegal Logging Di Kalbar Dan Kaltim, Awani Irewati (ed.). Jakarta: Pusat Penelitian Politik, LIPI, 2004, p. 80. 24 Haning Romdiati, “Perdagangan Ilegal Dan Mobilitas Penduduk Di Wilayah Perbatasan,” in Mobilitas Penduduk Di Wilayah Perbatasan Dan Kegiatan Ilegal, Aswatini (ed.). Jakarta: Pusat Penelitian Kependudukan, LIPI, 2008, p. 113. 25 Ibid., p. 116. 26 Badan Pusat Statistik Kabupaten Nunukan, Kabupaten Nunukan Dalam Angka 2010. Nunukan: Badan Pusat Statistik Kabupaten Nunukan, 2011, pp. 125–126. 27 Badan Pusat Statistik Kecamatan Sebatik, Kecamatan Sebatik Dalam Angka 2010, p. 43. 28 Badan Pusat Statistik Kabupaten Nunukan, Kabupaten Nunukan Dalam Angka 2010, pp. 119–124. 29 Mita Noveria, “Penyelundupan Kayu: Aktivitas Ilegal Dalam Mobilitas Penduduk Di Perbatasan Kalimantan-Malaysia,” in Mobilitas Penduduk Di Wilayah Perbatasan Dan Kegiatan Ilegal, Aswatini (ed.). Jakarta: Pusat Penelitian Kependudukan, LIPI, 2008, pp. 155, 158. 30 Ibid., pp. 144–145. 31 Ibid., p. 147. 32 Ibid., p. 150. 33 Ibid., p. 142. 34 Ibid., p. 156. 35 Ibid., p. 151. 36 Ibid., p. 144. 37 Irewati, “Perdagangan Lintas Batas Kalimantan Timur-Sabah,” pp. 81–84. 38 Tri Nuke Pudjiastuti, “Implementasi Kebijakan TKI ke Sabah: Kasus di Nunukan dan Tarakan,” in Kebijakan Luar Negeri Indonesia Terhadap Masalah TKI Ilegal Di Negara-Negara ASEAN, Awani Irewati (ed.). Jakarta: Pusat Penelitian Politik, LIPI, 2003, pp. 97–98. 39 Aswatini, “Wilayah Perbatasan Indonesia Dalam Konteks Pengerahan Tenaga Kerja Indonesia (TKI) Ilegal,” in Mobilitas Penduduk Di Wilayah Perbatasan Dan

Strategic hypocrisy 65

40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47

48 49 50

Kegiatan Ilegal, Aswatini (ed.), Jakarta: Pusat Penelitian Kependudukan, LIPI, 2008, pp. 105–136. Tri Nuke Pudjiastuti, “Implementasi Kebijakan TKI ke Sabah: Kasus di Nunukan dan Tarakan,” p. 103. Ibid., pp. 93, 104–105. Ford and Lyons, “Travelling the Aspal Route.” Hastings, Author Interview, Academic Expert on Cross-Border Issues, Jakarta. Badan Pusat Statistik Kecamatan Sebatik, Kecamatan Sebatik Dalam Angka 2010, p. 75. Ibid., pp. 91–93. Badan Pusat Statistik Kabupaten Nunukan, Kabupaten Nunukan Dalam Angka 2010, pp. 273–274. Daliyo, Mita Noveria, and Sumono, “Profil Kependudukan Di Wilayah Perbatasan Dan Faktor Berpengaruh: Kasus Kabupaten Nunukan, Kalimantan Timur,” in Profil Kependudukan Di Wilayah Perbatasan: Kasus Empat Kabupaten, Aswatini (ed.). Jakarta: Pusat Penelitian Kependudukan, LIPI, 2006, pp. 149–150. Justin V. Hastings, Author Interview, Investigative Journalist, Jakarta, July 2010. Aswatini, “Wilayah Perbatasan Indonesia dalam Konteks Penegrahan Tenaga Kerja Indonesia (TKI) Ilegal,” in Mobilitas Penduduk Di Wilayah Perbatasan Dan Kegiatan Ilegal, Aswatini (ed.). Jakarta: Pusat Penelitian Kependudukan, LIPI, 2008, p. 29. Wissenburg, Political Pluralism and the State, p. 2.


Democracy and inequality in Thailand The rise of the Red Shirts Erik Martínez Kuhonta

Introduction1 Thai people should respect the electoral system. Taking down government is not fair for people who elected government. You have to let people learn. If you don’t let people learn when will they have a chance? [You] have to be patient with the system. People will learn from electing Thaksin. We have to give democracy and poor people a chance. (Red Shirt medical doctor2) In Thailand’s contemporary history, democracy has often been linked to the middle class. In 1932, disgruntled civilian and military bureaucrats challenged King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) and after a bloodless coup, established a constitutional monarchy that had some trappings of democracy, including indirect elections, a Parliament, and a fledgling political party. In 1973, university students overthrew a military dictatorship that paved the way for democratic elections in which more than 40 political parties participated. In 1992, hundreds of thousands of professionals known as the “cell-phone mob” (mob mu thu) took to the streets of Bangkok to protest the usurpation of power by a military general. Their action, in conjunction with members of the working class, led to Thailand’s longest period of democratic governance, which came to an end after 14 years in 2006. In each of these events—1932, 1973, 1992—democracy was brought about in large part through the mobilization of individuals who can be classified as members of the middle class: civil servants in 1932, university students in 1973, and white-collar professionals in 1992. Furthermore, the monarchy was involved at a critical moment in defending democracy in 1973 and 1992. In addition, the 1997 Constitution, which is considered the most democratic in Thailand’s history, was also a middle-class initiative, as it was drafted by academics, bureaucratic elites, and groups in civil society.3 Democracy in Thailand has therefore always been associated with the Bangkok middle class and has also been linked at critical historical points to monarchical intervention. However, since the 2006 coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) Party from office, a new social force has emerged

Democracy and inequality in Thailand 67 to push for mass democracy. Known as the Red Shirts, this group hails predominantly from the lower classes in Thailand’s north and northeast. The Red Shirts are led and supported by a number of intellectuals and professionals in the middle class, and joined by some provincial businessmen and landowners, but are overwhelmingly from rural villages, the urban working class, and the urban informal economy. Unlike the middle-class movements that challenged military rule in the 1970s and 1990s, the Red Shirts arose not just to contest authoritarianism, but to push for a more just and equitable democratic system. Supportive of the populist policies of the Thaksin regime, the Red Shirts were especially incensed by the military putsch and by the unrelenting efforts of the Bangkok elite to deny the democratic will expressed at the ballot box by the majority rural electorate. In order to challenge the elites and to defend their political rights, the Red Shirts have mobilized on the street, established numerous media outlets on radio, television, and print, and campaigned arduously for Thaksin’s political parties. In this chapter, I argue that the mobilization of the lower classes as a force for democracy stems from three factors. First, Thailand has long been one of the most unequal countries in Southeast Asia. This inequality is rooted in various cleavages, including class, the urban-rural divide, and the Bangkok-periphery split. Such structural inequalities have created a mass of people with deep grievances that were ready to be mobilized and deployed. Second, Thaksin took advantage of this economic divide to politicize the rural sector as well as the urban working class. He did this by advancing pro-poor populist policies that largely benefited the lower classes and enabled them to feel that they had political and social rights that had never been so fully and forcefully articulated. Third, the 2006 coup and subsequent machinations by the judiciary and other elite institutions made it clear to the lower classes that an elite coalition involving the army, the aristocracy, the monarchy, and the Bangkok middle class was firmly opposed to Thaksin and his populist politics—and therefore to their own interests. Polarization between the elites and the lower classes helped to further sharpen the political consciousness of the poor and to reinforce their position and their call for mass democracy devoid of double standards. This chapter will first briefly survey the aggregate statistics on inequality in Thailand and the pro-poor populist policies launched by Thaksin to tackle the uneven distribution of income. Second, the chapter will describe the campaign to destroy Thaksin and TRT begun with the 2006 coup and continued through judicial intervention and rogue street mobilization by middle-class groups. The third section of the chapter will then analyze the rise of the Red Shirt movement in response to the coup and the power plays of the Bangkok elite.

Inequality and populist policies Although Thailand is considered one of the more successful newlyindustrializing countries having attained some of the highest growth rates in the developing world in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it has in the process become


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the most unequal country in Southeast Asia.4 As measured by the gini coefficient, Thailand’s distribution of income has been the worst in the region since the 1980s. In 1962, the gini coefficient was 0.414, but by 1986 it had reached 0.496. In 1992, the gini coefficient peaked at 0.536. Precisely during the period of the economic boom, inequality rose sharply. Notably, under democratic governments in the 1990s, inequality did not decline. Only under the Thaksin government did the gini coefficient dip somewhat, but it has hovered around 0.50 (see Figure 5.1). Most Thai governments have not sought to systematically address the growing income gap. They have focused instead on economic growth with the assumption that the benefits of growth would trickle down and reduce poverty. Growth has unequivocally reduced poverty, but it bears emphasizing that it has done so at a relatively slow rate and in an uneven manner. Compared to other Asian countries with a similar GDP, Thailand’s rate of poverty alleviation has been slower.5