Theodore Charm's ReportAbout Us

EATS Library Grant Recipient: Kai Yue Theodore Charm

Measuring and Explaining the Success and Failure of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU)

University of Tuebingen, Germany; School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London

Theodore Charms

I conducted my research at Tuebingen University Library, and SOAS Library, during 13-26 October. My research was titled: “Measuring and Explaining the Success and Failure of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU)”. It attempts to measure the rise and fall of the TSU with a number of criteria, including: electoral results, and human and financial resources. It then discusses various explanatory frameworks for the success and failure of the party, such as the political opportunity structure and the TSU’s cooperation with the mainstream parties. Most importantly, my research compares the TSU with the People First Party (PFP), to eliminate some potential explanatory variables and determine the critical factors concerning the success and failure of the TSU.

The main reason of choosing Tuebingen as my destination is its world-renowned European Research Centre on Contemporary Taiwan (ERCCT). ERCCT hosts a number of leading scholars in Taiwan Studies, such as Professor Gunter Schubert and Dr. Stefan Fleischauer. It also organizes academic events regularly, like the Taiwan Colloquium for researchers to discuss their projects. Through interacting with the Taiwan experts in the vibrant academic environment at ERCCT, I hoped to gain substantial insight on my project. Moreover, as the University of Tuebingen has an established tradition in Taiwan Studies, its library has a vast amount of Taiwan-related materials. Not only does the library have a large collection of books and academic journals for my reference, it also has considerable electronic resources for my studies. Fortunately, the vast majority of the Taiwan-related materials at the library are in either Chinese or English, my incompetence in German did not hinder my research at Tuebingen. I spent approximately half of my time reading journals like the China Quarterly and International Political Science Review, while the other half analyzing the books and articles of Je-Jae Spoon and Bonnie Meguid at the library.

Apart from reading academic materials at Tuebingen University Library, I intended to share my research findings with the ERCCT people. Thanks to the arrangement of Mr. Stefan Braig, I gave a 40-minute presentation on my research topic at ERCCT on 16 October. Luckily, there was an intensive discussion on my research after my presentation; hence I was able to receive constructive criticism for my project on the TSU. I was delighted that many scholars at ERCCT were interested in small parties in Taiwan.

After my visit to Tuebingen, I travelled to London and conducted research at SOAS Library. Due to the fact that I was a former student at SOAS, I felt like “coming home” being at SOAS. I had a joint presentation with my supervisor Dr. Dafydd Fell on 22 October. The title of the event was: “Measuring and Explaining the Impact of Small Parties in Taiwan: Cases of the Taiwan Solidarity Union and the Green Party Taiwan”. Upon answering a number of questions and comments from the audience, I obtained new perspectives for my research. I also acquired knowledge of the Green Party Taiwan, thus enhancing my understanding on the significance of small parties in Taiwan.

Theodore and his SOAS colleagues at the EATS Conference in Portsmouth, 2014. Photo by Gary Rawnsley.

After the fruitful talk, I continued my research at SOAS Library. SOAS is the world’s leading institution for the study of Asia, and its library is the most important library for Taiwan Studies. There are several shelves dedicated only to Taiwan Studies at the library, but I found the new Taiwan Resources Centre for Chinese Studies (TRCCS) particularly useful for my article. TRCCS holds a donation of a huge volume of books and DVDs published and produced in Taiwan, the majority of which is in Chinese. The books and DVDs cover different aspects of Taiwan, and I was delighted to find quite a few Chinese books and documentaries discussing Taiwan’s small parties. In addition, SOAS Library provided me with a range of databases for my research, especially the United Daily News (UDN) database. All related news up to ten years ago could be found on the UDN database; therefore the database enriched my empirical analysis to a large extent.

Upon completing my trip to Tuebingen and SOAS, I was enlightened with new perspectives in analyzing Taiwanese politics. I am grateful for the support from the people at Tuebingen and SOAS, in particular their constructive comments on my article. As a piece of advice for the young researchers in Taiwan’s politics, I would recommend them to learn basic Chinese and keep abreast of the political news of Taiwan. Since the English level of the older generation Taiwanese is generally not high, it is highly advisable to learn Chinese if they would like to conduct interviews with the local Taiwanese. Furthermore, news is essentially first-hand information for the analysis on Taiwanese politics, and researchers will find news databases, such as the UDN database utterly useful. My research has been enhanced significantly through obtaining information from those databases. Nevertheless, I find Taiwan’s politics dynamic and intriguing, and I would definitely recommend it to students interested in Taiwan. Once again, I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to EATS for their support in my research.

Kai Yue Theodore Charm received his MA degree from the Centre of Taiwan Studies, SOAS, University of London in 2014.