This potential political decay, in most cases, is sidelined by other elements, such as independence-unification debates and ethnic disputes, and has become a real threat to Taiwan's political and economic system.
Political democratization involves the process of rationalizing authority -- replacing a large number of traditional, religious and ethnic political authorities by a single secular, national political authority. It also includes differentiating new political functions and developing specialized structures to perform those functions. It entails increased participation in politics by social groups throughout society, too. But instead of this, there has frequently been a decay of the administrative organizations inherited from the authoritarian or totalitarian era and a weakening and disruption of the political organizations developed during the struggle for democracy.
Social mobilization increases aspirations. Economic development increases the capacity of a society to satisfy those aspirations and therefore tends to reduce social frustrations and consequent political instability.
Social mobilization is much more destabilizing than economic development. The gap between these two forms of change
illustrates the need for opportunities for social and economic mobility and adaptable political institutions.
Political participation becomes the road for advancement of the socially mobilized individual. Social frustration leads to demands on the government and the expansion of political participation to enforce those demands.
The political backwardness of the country in terms of political institutionalization, however, makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the demands upon the government to be expressed through legitimate channels. Hence the sharp increase in political participation has given rise to political instability.
Although Taiwan has undergone a peaceful transition of power, in the absence of strong and adaptable political institutions, such increases in participation also mean the accumulation of instability and underground business, such as corruption and bribery. The direct product is the rise of black gold politics and members of organized crime taking political office. Legislators with criminal records and backgrounds in organized crime are clear examples.
In conclusion, political democratization and social mobilization tend to produce political decay unless steps are taken to moderate or to restrict the impact on political consciousness and political involvement.
While the government continues to talk about how to continue further reforms or build up an "advanced democracy" in Taiwan, what they should bear in mind instead is how to keep Taiwan from moving toward political decay.
Liu Kuan-teh is a political commentator based in Taipei.