The China Quarterly

Political and Media Liberalization and Political Corruption in Taiwan 1

Dafydd  Fell 

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This article examines the relationship between democratic and media reforms and political corruption in Taiwan. Has liberalization resulted in increased corruption or has it created a cleaner political system? I argue that the Taiwan case reveals the potential positive effects of multi-party democracy for tackling political corruption, as opposition parties have exploited a liberalized media to challenge and alter accepted but corrupt norms of governance. Pillars of the KMT party state such as its party assets, vote buying and the corrupt patron–client relationship with local factions were until the 1990s either openly or tacitly accepted as legitimate. The Taiwanese opposition parties took a latent political issue, corruption, and progressively broadened the scope of what is publicly acknowledged as corruption. By exposing cases of KMT government corruption and establishing new norms of clean governance it is possible that in the long term opposition parties can contribute to the creation of a cleaner political system.


1 The fieldwork for this research was made possible by a scholarship from the Center For Chinese Studies, National Central Library, Taipei, Taiwan.