Taiwan has undergone a peaceful transition to democracy over a period of more than a decade. Today, Taiwan is one of the freest and most vibrant democracies in Asia. Nevertheless, Taiwan's democracy still faces steep internal and external challenges. Some of these are common to many emerging and established democracies in Asia and beyond, including widespread popular dissatisfaction with elected leaders and corruption of public officials. Others are unique to the island’s ambiguous status in international affairs and its complicated relationship with the authoritarian People’s Republic of China.
Initiated in 2005, the Taiwan Democracy Project is sponsored by the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, with generous support from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco. The project sponsors a variety of activities examining democratic political and social change and the regional and international challenges confronting democracy in Taiwan, including the problem of cross-Strait relations.
The principal elements of the project are as follows:
▪ Annual Conference on Taiwan Democracy: Each year the project organizes at least one public conference addressing some of the challenges confronting Taiwan's democratic development, in comparative perspective. The most recent conference, held in October 2015, brought together a range of scholars and policy-makers to examine options and prospects for constitutional reform in Taiwan, in the context of widespread unhappiness across the political spectrum with how democracy is working.
▪ Speaker Series: The project holds lectures, seminars, and panel discussions by Taiwanese public officials, intellectuals, and scholars, and by U.S.-based scholars of Taiwan and of cross-Strait relations. Previous speakers have addressed a wide range of topics, including cross-Strait relations, Taiwan’s foreign policy and quest for international space, constitutional reforms, local and national elections, the development of judicial politics, the rise of student movements, and cross-Strait economic ties.
▪ Visiting Fellows: The project hosts occasional visiting diplomats, policy-makers, and scholars who are researching and writing about various aspects of Taiwan's democratic development and policy processes.
▪ Summer Internship Program: Each summer the project places one Stanford undergraduate in an unpaid policy or research internship with a research institution, government agency, or non-governmental organization in Taiwan. The internship must relate in some way to the mission of the Taiwan Democracy Project: to examine political and social change and the challenges confronting Taiwan’s continued democratic development, including the issue of cross-Strait relations. The project offers a stipend of up to $7500 for a three month stay. Information about applying for the 2016 internship can be found here.
▪ Taiwan Democracy Resources Archive: The project also serves as a clearinghouse for online resources about Taiwan. These include links to academic databases, journals, Chinese-language library portals, news sites, government agencies, political parties, and policy institutes. In addition, the project maintains connections with a global network of Taiwan Studies programs, fostering interaction and collaboration among scholars, policy-makers, and students interested in aspects of Taiwan’s democracy.