Constitutional Reform on Taiwan: Fulfilling a Chinese Notion of Democratic Sovereignty?

30 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2010

Date Written: 1995


This article examines the political and constitutional reforms that took place in Taiwan beginning in the 1980s and accelerated rapidly in the 1990s, culminating in the direct popular election of the President - the first time in history the head-of-state of a Chinese polity was democratically elected.

Examining the roots of democratic notions in the Chinese political tradition, the author contends that far from being barren soil, liberal, humanistic Confucianism provided a background that allowed Republican Constitutionalism to develop in the early decades of the 20th century. Reviewing first classical Chinese thought, and acknowledging the existence of a proto-totalitarian Legalist tradition which contended with Confucianism for supremacy, the author then goes on to examine early 20th century Republicanism. Far from simply being a borrowing of Western, Lockean notions of democratic republicanism and constitutionalism, the revolution of Dr. Sun Yat-sen also looked to the Confucian tradition for inspiration. These ideas are reflected in the constitutions of the Republic of China.

Following the defeat of the Republic in 1949 by the communists and the establishment of the People's Republic on the mainland, authoritarian ruler Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan. From this island fortress he resisted communism, imposing however martial law and suspending the liberal Constitution of the Republic of China. Following the elder Chiang's death, however, his son Chiang Ching-kuo slowly lifted control and allowed for a partial liberalization. It was not until his successor, President Lee Teng-hui, however, that democracy was allowed to flourish, and the promise of Republican constitutionalism - and Confucian liberalism - was realized.

Keywords: Taiwan,constitutionalism,reforms,democracy,republic,elections,communist,authoritarian,international,revolution,Confucianism,communism,Chiang Kai-shek,Lee Teng-hui,Sun Yat-sen,China,constitution

Suggested Citation

Tozzi, Piero, Constitutional Reform on Taiwan: Fulfilling a Chinese Notion of Democratic Sovereignty? (1995). Fordham Law Review, Vol. 64, No. 3, 1995, Available at SSRN:

Piero Tozzi (Contact Author)

Alliance Defense Fund ( email )

Scottsdale, AZ
United States

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