Taiwan Studies Workshops

The Taiwan Studies Workshops are a new space for reflection that aims to bring together young and more established researchers around a specific theme in Taiwan studies.

Geneses of Taiwanese democracy: thinking and building the Republican State

Monday 22 March 2021

2:30-5:30 pm, online

The ongoing formation of a truly Taiwanese nation-state is accompanied by an increasing autonomy of Taiwan studies. We can only welcome this development, which has made it possible to understand the political and social dynamics of the island in all their plurality by emancipating itself from a Sinocentric reading. Nevertheless, contemporary Taiwanese society is partly based on a political framework that was formed on the mainland before 1949, and it is therefore essential to examine this framework in order to understand the democratisation that has been taking place since the 1980s.

The aim of this workshop is to offer students working on Taiwan an overview of the different ways in which the republican state was conceived and constructed in China before 1949. In contrast to a teleological interpretation of the transition from the Manchu Empire to the Chinese nation-state, the aim is to identify the successive responses to the paradoxical challenge of rebuilding a strong state while giving voice, at least in principle, to the sovereign people.

Félix Jun Ma will attempt to reassess the first republican experience of the 1910s through the case of the Progressive Party (jinbudang), situated at the hinge between the aborted attempt at a parliamentary monarchy and the subsequent efforts to institutionalise a strong state through law. However, the state was not the only possible horizon for thinking about the transformation of society, as Aurore Michelat will explain in relation to the Chinese anarchist movements between 1907 and 1927. Through the neglected contribution of the warlords to this transformation, Xavier Paulès will question the relevance of the still prevalent narrative according to which the modernisation of the republican state took place despite the centrifugal and external forces threatening it. Finally, David Serfass will show how the advent of party-states at the end of the 1920s led to a rethinking of the relationship between the strong state and democracy, thus founding the framework in which Chinese society is still evolving today and against which its Taiwanese neighbour is now trying to build its own model.

“The Progressive Party (jinbudang 進步黨) and the construction of a strong state in the early Republic of China”
Félix Jun Ma (Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3-ReSO)

“Building China without a state: a panorama of Chinese anarchist thought from 1907 to 1927”
Aurore Michelat (EHESS-CESPRA)

“The construction of the State under the Republic: plurality and convergences
Xavier Paulès (EHESS-CCJ) 

“Partis-States and popular sovereignty in China from 1920 to 1950
David Serfass (Inalco-IFRAE)