Although Taiwan was praised for its rapid economic growth in the post-war era and became an important and exemplary case of a so-called ‘East Asian economic miracle’, its economy has suffered from sluggish growth for the past two decades. Since 1997, the year of the East Asian financial crisis, the annual economic growth rate of Taiwan has dropped to a level hardly comparable with that in the past. Since the early 1990s, Taiwan has faced major political and economic transformations. Economic liberalisation has given Taiwanese companies the opportunity to grow into bigger and consolidated business groups, and globalisation has driven a massive exodus of Taiwanese businesses to China where they hope to implement low-cost strategies to ensure survival. Taiwanese companies have grown larger but have smaller profit margins and are mostly under the control of family names; small and medium-sized enterprises, once the backbone of the Taiwanese economic miracle, are being increasingly squeezed, and the once locally entrenched industrial clusters with various suppliers have become mobile and transient. Moreover, the movement from strong state-led developmentalism to a neoliberal market-oriented model has occurred concurrently with a decline in the capacity of once-capable bureaucrats to control the economy, shrinking fertility, population aging, consistently stagnant wages, decreasing income, and increasing wealth inequality. Taiwanese firms have increasingly become embedded into global production networks, and the recent US–China trade war pushed the supply-chain economy to the forefront of international political–economic conflict. Accompanying this considerable transformation involving liberalisation and globalisation are drastic changes to the market and social structure that have prompted sharp contradictions in the face of slowing economic growth and growing social unrest as well as political contentions both inside and around the islands. However, few studies have investigated what has happened to Taiwan and explained Taiwan’s prospects after this major economic transition. A related issue is the general debate on developmentalism and postdevelopmentalism in East Asia, for which Taiwan has been an important and much-debated case.

Our aim in this topical section of the International Journal of Taiwan Studies is to bring together inquiries that address the debates in the hope of facilitating dialogues regarding the issues related to the economic and social transitions in Taiwan. What have been the most salient structural features of Taiwan’s economic and social transitions in the past three decades, what are the major consequences of these transitions, and what challenges does Taiwan now face? We hope the issue will not only advance empirical understanding of the emergent phenomenon critical to Taiwan’s development but also contribute to a more theoretically informed discussion within the interdisciplinary field of Taiwan studies. Scholars from all disciplines of the social sciences are welcome to send their submissions on the following specific topics but also other topics to aid in achieving a global understanding of Taiwan’s path of transition.

  • Regarding the economic aspect of the transformation, how have firms and industries reacted to the great transformation prompted by market liberalisation and production globalisation? What are the structural features and economic consequences of the transition, and what are the implications for the future of Taiwan’s economic development?
  • Politically, to what extent is the once highly praised bureaucratic capacity of the developmental state still able to direct Taiwan’s growth through turbulent periods of economic and political transitions, or is it failing to do so? If so, what are the structural factors that have led to this decline in its capacity? How can the experience of Taiwan contribute to the debates in and theoretical orientation of the broader literature regarding developmentalism and postdevelopmentalism?
  • On the social side, what are the current features of the family and population structures that once drove the demographic dividend enabling rapid economic growth, and what are the foreseeable prospects and consequences of these structures’ inevitable decline? What is the situation in terms of increasing social inequality—most evident in the distributions of wages, wealth, and housing ownership—and what are the causes of this inequality as well as its association with the economic transition?
  • To what extent and how has neoliberalism influenced the developmental path of Taiwan’s economy? What are the market and societal consequences of the ideology of neoliberalism in contemporary Taiwan?
  • What are the typical innovation patterns of Taiwanese firms and the institutional and organisational mechanisms that both sustain and limit technological innovation in and the industrial upgrading of Taiwan?
  • In recent years, anxiety regarding the worldwide shortage of semiconductors, with prominent Taiwanese electronic suppliers being at the centre of this storm, has reflected the dire reality of intertwined technological production chains that often breach the boundaries of national security and international political alliances. What can be better made of for this new reality from the broader academic disciplines, and what can be foreseen regarding the role of Taiwan’s economy in the ever-contentious international political economy?
  • Is Taiwan’s experience uniquely different from that of its East Asian neighbouring economies, or are the challenges that Taiwan now faces a common feature of East Asian capitalism? What is the likely path of Taiwanese capitalism in the future? What new theoretical conceptualizations can be gleaned from the trajectory of Taiwan’s transition?

To signal your intent to write an article in this topical section please email an abstract of no more than 300 words, including paper title and author(s)’s name(s), by 31 October 2022 to the guest editors, Dr. Zong-Rong Lee (Academia Sinica) at zlee@sinica.edu.tw and Dr. Thung-Hong Lin (Academia Sinica) at zoo42@gate.sinica.edu.tw. Please send along a short bio describing each author’s titles, institutional affiliations, and research interests.

Timeline:

  • By 31 Oct 2022: Submission of abstract
  • By 30 November 2022: Decision by guest editors on invitations for manuscript submission
  • By 28 February 2023: Submit full papers online to the IJTS for double-blind peer review