[skip to content]

Department of Politics and International Studies

Taiwan's politics and cross-strait relations

Course Code:
15PPOC252
Unit value:
1
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Full Year

This course seeks to examine the political processes that have shaped the Republic of China on Taiwan since 1949, with particular emphasis on the last two decades, and the evolution and the future prospects of Cross-Strait relations. The course focuses on two core themes (1) an analysis of Taiwan’s domestic politics and (2) analysis of Cross-Strait relations. Units on Taiwan’s domestic politics will address a variety of issues, including the island’s democratic transition, Taiwan’s party and electoral politics, the quality of its democracy, competing national identities in Taiwan’s politics, the role of new social movements and the formulation of public policy under democracy. The sessions on Cross-Strait relations will examine topics such as the nature and sources of political conflict across the Strait, the security dilemma facing the two sides, the increasing economic integration across the Strait and its impact on security, the role of the U.S. in the dyadic relationship, and prospects for political reconciliation between the PRC and Taiwan.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  • An understanding of the political processes that have shaped the Republic of China on Taiwan since 1949
  • The ability to employ political science theories and frameworks to analyse Taiwan’s domestic and external politics
  • The ability to critically engage with the academic and policy literature on Taiwan’s internal and external politics
  • The ability to make formal oral class presentations and engage in discussions on the subject
  • The ability to produce analytical written work that shows a command of both political science theories and Taiwan’s political context.

Scope and syllabus

This is the first year-long postgraduate course in Europe or North America that focuses on Taiwan’s domestic politics and Cross-Strait relations. Taiwan’s political democratization, its identity politics and its contested international status have all contributed to making its politics one of the most researched topics in the fields of East Asian and Chinese politics. In addition, the increasing military imbalance across the Taiwan Strait and the paradoxical growth in economic ties between Taiwan and Mainland China – “paradoxical” since it has taken place against the background of the threat of conflict inherent in the dyadic relationship - help explain why Cross-Strait relations remain a focal point in East Asian international relations. Even more importantly, the future prospects of Cross-Strait ties are central to regional and global security because a Taiwan Strait clash is the only armed conflict which may result in the U.S. direct confrontation with China, a nuclear power with a huge military establishment.

The course seeks to examine the political processes that have shaped the Republic of China on Taiwan since 1949, with particular emphasis on the last two decades, and the evolution and the future prospects of Cross-Strait relations. The course focuses on two core themes (1) an analysis of Taiwan’s domestic politics and (2) analysis of Cross-Strait relations. Units on Taiwan’s domestic politics will address a variety of issues, including the island’s democratic transition, Taiwan’s party and electoral politics, the quality of its democracy, competing national identities in Taiwan’s politics, the role of new social movements and the formulation of public policy under democracy. The sessions on Cross-Strait relations will examine topics such as the nature and sources of political conflict across the Strait, the security dilemma facing the two sides, the increasing economic integration across the Strait and its impact on security, the role of the U.S. in the dyadic relationship, and prospects for political reconciliation between the PRC and Taiwan.  

The course will use Taiwan as a test case for Political science and international relations theories and frameworks. Although the course focuses on Taiwan, students will be encouraged to bring to bear a comparative approach in their investigation and analysis of its politics. Political developments in Taiwan will be compared with those that have taken place in mainland China and other developing countries, as well as in new democracies. Political processes in different time periods of contemporary Taiwanese history – for example, before and after democratization and changes of ruling parties - will also be compared. Finally, the interplay between economic interdependence and political conflict in the Cross-Strait case will be compared to that with two other contemporary examples of transnational relationships characterized by  political tensions and military rivalry: North and South Korea; India and Pakistan.

Thanks to the vigorous expansion of its Taiwan Studies Programme in recent years, the School has become the world’s leading centre of Taiwan Studies. An important part of its remit is to organize many Taiwan-related academic events. Students on the course will have the opportunity to attend  on-going events - seminars, lectures and workshops - organized by the Centre of Taiwan Studies, many of which will be directly related to topics covered on the course.  

The course will be of interest to students taking area studies programmes, such as MA Taiwan, Chinese, Japanese or Pacific Asian Studies. It is also available as a regional politics option for students on political science disciplinary programmes such as MSc Asian Politics, MSc International Politics and MA International Studies and Diplomacy.

The planned weekly lecture breakdown will be as follows:

Term 1
  1. Introduction to Taiwanese Politics and Cross-Strait Relations
  2. Contending Approaches to Taiwan’s Cross-Strait Relations
  3. Origin and Nature of Political Conflict across the Strait
  4. Authoritarian Rule: The Politics of Martial Law Taiwan
  5. Transition to Democracy
  6. Competing National identities
  7. Electoral Politics and Voting Behaviour
  8. Taiwan’s External Relations
  9. Cross-Strait Relations in the 1980s and 1990s
  10. Cross-Strait Relations in the 2000s
Term 2
  1. Party Politics in Taiwan
  2. Inner Party Democracy, and Local and Factional Politics
  3. Public Policy under Democracy
  4. Political Economy under Democracy
  5. Social Movements
  6. Changes in Ruling Parties of 2000 and 2008: Causes and Impacts
  7. China’s Evolving Taiwan Policy
  8. Role of the US in Cross-Strait Relations
  9. Security Dilemma across the Strait
  10. Cross-Strait Economic Integration and Security
Term 3
  1. Prospects for Political Reconciliation in Cross-Strait Relations and Democratic Consolidation in Taiwan

Method of assessment

Assessment is 60% unseen exam, 30% coursework, 10% seminar presentation