Forging Taiwan's Legal Identity

74 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2018 Last revised: 24 Feb 2020

Date Written: November 1, 2019


The legal system in Taiwan is undergoing a transformation. Over a hundred years since the founding of the Republic of China and over thirty years since the end of martial law on Taiwan, a new legal identity is being forged. Public criticism of “dinosaur” judges and esoteric debates among law-trained elites have galvanized efforts to create a more inclusive discussion surrounding legal reforms. Taiwan is facing the challenge of moving from dinosaurs to dynamism.

This Article argues that transparency, clarity, and participation both are animating principles of the current reform debate and are beginning to emerge as characteristics of Taiwan’s inchoate legal identity. Embedding these values into Taiwan’s legal identity could, in turn, help foster a shared sense of identity among the populace regarding what it means to be Taiwanese.

The trajectory of legal reforms is largely a domestic matter, yet it is tied to considerations that extend beyond Taiwan’s borders. This Article cautions that reshaping Taiwan’s legal identity is a double-edged sword that has the potential to boost Taiwan’s international standing but also to further chafe cross-strait tensions. A question to watch is whether the shadow of Beijing might serve as a damper on legal innovation in Taiwan, a point of contrast that emboldens Taiwan to celebrate its distinct system, or perhaps some combination thereof.

Keywords: Taiwan, Law, Reform, Identity, China

Suggested Citation

Lewis, Margaret K., Forging Taiwan's Legal Identity (November 1, 2019). 44 Brook. J. Int'l L. 489 (2019), Available at SSRN:

Margaret K. Lewis (Contact Author)

Seton Hall Law School ( email )

One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102-5210
United States

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