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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Nexus of Democratization: Guanxi and Governance in Taiwan and the PRC


This paper focuses on the extent to which, and the ways in which, the rise of one specific segment of the middle class, the bourgeoisie, contributes to a push for the institution of democracy in Taiwan and China. Taiwan appears--more or less--to fit the conventional theory, which alleges a link between economic growth, the emergence of a newly monied class, and demands for democracy, while China does not. The loyalties, allegiances, and resentments of businesspeople that were the product of the aims and behaviors of these two regimes can explain the divergent outcomes. The nature of the social connections of the bourgeoisie--their guanxi--those relations with others that so famously shape social, economic and political life in these two contexts--provides the most succinct and parsimonious explanation for businesspeoples’ role in the movement toward new forms of governance in China and Taiwan. The opportunity for democratization to unfold was in past in Taiwan, and seems presently in China, to be a function of capitalists’ contacts, a matter of which contact mattered most to them as they launched and developed their firms and their ventures.

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