Publication Date

April 2019


Joan Cho


College of Social Studies, College of East Asian Studies


English (United States)


This thesis explores the role of US political actors in Taiwan’s gradual democratization process and explains the logic of observed behavior. It asks two key questions: to what extent did the United States obstruct or support democratization on Taiwan, and what motivated this behavior? It studies the subject from the precarious formation of the island’s first opposition party in 1986 to that party’s presidential election victory in 2000. Research utilizes diplomat oral histories, public statements of US presidents and the Congressional Record, as well as additional newspaper archives, letters, and secondary sources. Findings from this study reveal that the United States was largely passive toward democratization on Taiwan, but with notable exceptions. However, once Taiwan began its democratization process, US actors were significantly more supportive of the government there in its conflict with authoritarian mainland China. This study contributes to existing literature on US democracy support by presenting the Taiwanese case study and suggesting several considerations that this literature may overlook, most importantly the disagreements between stakeholders within the US government and the unintuitive ability of the target states of democracy promotion to influence US behavior toward them.

Available for download on Thursday, April 15, 2021



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