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The Impact of Democratization, Political Culture, and Diplomatic Isolation on Think-Tank Development in Taiwan

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Taiwan's landscape of think tanks, despite having emerged during a time of Leninist one-party governance and state-led economic development not unlike that in Mainland China, is today marked by a substantial agency in conducting both research and advocacy. This sets them apart from their counterparts on the mainland. We ask how this development was shaped by Taiwan's evolution as a political entity, especially its experience of gradual political liberalization and eventual full democratization by the mid-1990s. In its wake, multiparty competition, factionalism, the emergence of a vigorous civil society, and individual interest groups created an environment in which think-tank services were sought by many competing actors, offering a wide array of funding opportunities for policy research. Additionally, a political culture that stresses expertise and the need to conduct unofficial diplomacy often gave think tanks a privileged position within the system, and they served as key agents in conducting the kind of informal diplomacy made necessary by Taiwan's loss of diplomatic recognition from the 1970s onwards.

We further offer an overview of Taiwan's think-tank landscape, describing major groups (or types) of institutes and briefly portraying especially prominent cases within them. Finally, we provide two detailed case studies to show how these institutes operate in practice, and how the need for unofficial diplomacy and a recent government change have shaped their activities.
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Keywords: CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS; DEMOCRATIZATION; INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT; TAIWAN; THINK TANKS; TRACK-TWO DIPLOMACY; UNOFFICIAL DIPLOMACY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2018

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