Taiwan’s democratic and economic development have been truly remarkable. In the process its direct democratic institutions have become a pivotal political tool for the citizen to guide major political decisions.
With Yen-Tu Su I discuss the astounding development of Taiwan’s direct democracy since its early days, and its crucial revisions and improvements in its usability since 2003. The now ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) made putting direct democratic institutions into practice one main campaign promise, and once in power revised the referendum law to give citizens more decision making power. The initiative, referendum and recall are now used on a regular basis, which also led to controversial discussions about the right balance of representative and direct democracy.
The founder of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-Sen, already in 1924 praised direct democratic institutions saying that referendums and recall are “the solutions to transforming China into the world's most advanced country”. The ideas of direct democracy were subsequently already enshrined into Taiwan’s first constitution of 1947. Once the country country made a consequential democratic turn in the 1990s, the people of Taiwan took the political leadership at their word and embraced direct democratic power as an opportunity to safeguard the country’s political destiny.
Yen-Tu Su is an Associate Research Professor at the Institutum Iurisprudentiae at the Academia Sinica. He got his bachelor and master in law from the National Taiwan University, and an LL.M and Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) from Harvard Law School, which is Harvard’s most advanced law degree. He has written and published numerous articles and book chapters on Taiwan’s democratic institutions. Internationally he is an important voice for Taiwan’s democratic development, for instance contributing an op-ed for the Washington Post titled ”Taiwan is revolutionizing Direct Democracy."
- Find the show notes with links to all material discussed here.
- Find more information about Yen-Tu Su's research and publications here.
- Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Yen-Tu Su.
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