Introduction of Taiwanese social movements since the 1980s

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  The Taiwanese social movements have been creating different kinds of social activities and mobilizations. Briefly, there emerged distribution politics, identity politics, and livelihood politics and so on since the 1980s.[1] Distribution politics like  labour movements demanded for more state intervention to allocate wealth or to promote the working class life. Identical politics such as educational movements and gender politics overwhelmingly emerged in the late 1980s . Livelihood politics like environmental movement, consumer movement and community movement asked for better life of quality. These movements became significant transformation of Taiwanese society. Having experienced different social movements, I will draw their difference and significance in the context of the Taiwanese politics of social movements. 


  According to the definition of Charles Tilly’s ‘spatial contentious politics’, Taipei becomes a space, where contentious politics and collective actions have been contesting state power after martial law lifted. Taipei as the capital and a metropolitan city has been playing a significant role on economical and political power.[2] Interestingly, insurgencies emerged around the Island with ‘forms of riots, rebellions, strikes, petitions, demonstrations, public meetings and so on. For example, there were at least twenty-five kinds of collective actions were organized and petitioned in front of the Parliament House in 1987. At least 734 riots, petitions and demonstrations occurred around the island at the time. The phenomena of emerging social movements were just like a volcano, which contained a huge power of explosion. [3]

   Furthermore, enormous public meetings boomed in Taipei in regards to human rights, democracy, socialism, and feminism, post-modernism and so on. Moreover, it was estimated that at least 2,894 protests occurred in 1988, which included farmers, labors, environmental issues, politically oppositional protests. Overall, these emerged powers that could be called as people’s power that had been transformed its energy into three ways of transformation.[4]

Firstly, it paved the way for party politics. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was organized on September 28,1986 and became the biggest opposition party by 2000. Small parties established but they did not play a significant role. The relationship between the DPP party and social movements was interdependence. Secondly, new social movements, environmental movements and anti-privatization movements, contesting state and capital forces by using direct and indirect actions, which relatively had more autonomy than the first kind of social movements. Thirdly, the livelihood politics that emerged in the circumstance of rethinking the development of modernism, which has driven consumers in the urban to link the producers in the rural, which have formed after the 1990s. The daily life politics has emerged in circumstance of building alternatives among social movements’ group.

Interestingly, the resource mobilization theory assumes that contentious politics paved the way for social movement actors to gain more political opportunity and social promotion in the condition of social transformation. Strictly speaking, the anti-authoritarian movement and social movements that were integrated by the anti-KMT alliance turned their political capital into the DPP government since 2000. Social movements’ leaders and the anti-authoritarian movement’s actors were cooperated into new government.

However, this section tries to debate what were Taiwanese social movements making the Taiwanese society? How did the Taiwanese social movements integrate and fragmented into two since the 1980s?

Social movements and Its Conflicts:

Debates of Taiwanese labour movement

    Different affiliations formed the labour movements from perspectives of thinking, which direct their net workings and developments. How is their different analysis in dealing with the labour movement in Taiwan? What were the arguments in relation to the struggle of the working class, having faced the tension among nation state, society and institution? How could the working class build the strategy of autonomy from rationalism and neo-liberalism?

    As Chung Yung –feng defined the emergence of social movements since the 1980s was due to,


The contradiction between capital accumulation and the relations of production, which found its expression in labour and peasant movements. There was rapid and successful industrialization, which helped to promote the capitalist’ productivity and, consequently, their benefits, but the wages of the workforce and the working contradictions were not improved commensurately. After island-wide land reform in the 1950s, the capital accumulated in rural districts from the labour of a productivity-motivated peasantry was trans-invested-following the policy of ‘squeezing agriculture for developing industry-by the kmt regime into the industrial sector.[5]


  According to the analysis of the Labour Rights Association, the Taiwan Labour Front, the Labour Action of Legislative Committee, the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions and Stated-enterprises Trade Unions and so on.. Debates of Taiwanese labour movements that emerged in the 1980s, having represented their different tactics and strategies for Taiwanese labour movement.

    The Labour Rights Association was formed in 1988 that has been actively involved in labour disputes, workers rights, anti-war, anti-Americanism and educational programmes, which attempt to form a social labour, center that in orientation with socialist China. The Labour Rights Association set up three branches in three main cities, which was seen as the basis of the new Lao Tung Tang (Workers’ Party). The Labour Rights Association thought that at least three reasons caused the labour insurgence in the 1980s.

First, the 1984 Labour Standards Law stipulated an eight-hour working day and 48-hour week. Therefore, labors demanded for raising wages and decreasing the working hour according to the law. Second, Labors required economic allocation for demanding more bonuses and asking employers to regulate bonuses. Third, labour fought for the autonomy of trade unions. They aimed to liberate trade unions are controlled by state corporatism and employers.?[6]

According to a female trade union leader, Huang Qiu-xiang, thought that the independent trade union movement was “the employers violate the law, the government goes no way and the labour itself enforces the law.” Three Ta-tung Company Union leaders, Zeng Shui-Jian, Bai Zheng-xian and Liu Yong took the same opinion with Huang Qiu-xiang. A sociologist, Wang Zheng-huan, observed that “Taiwan’s labour movement was relatively moderate comparing to others’ countries. Taiwanese labour neither demands for socialism nor syndicalism, which devotes to build a labor’s homeland. They just humbly required independent trade unionism and asked for the employers to obey the Labour Standards Law. [7] Nonetheless, Wang Zheng-huan pointed out that the labour movement in Taiwan should not only deal with labour themselves. It should connect with the transformation of political economy, social reform and individual liberation.

    In terms of the disputation of whether or not Taiwan has formed a class society, scholars and social movement leaders took different ideas. Xiao Xin-huang argues that Taiwanese social movements did not form a power of political and economic forces to contest the state. Therefore, Taiwan is a society with the class division, but not yet forms a class society. Zhau Gang found that the history of the Taiwanese labour movement is relatively late, therefore, the praxis of labour movement in Taiwan related to history, culture and social discourse or resource of contest is weak. [8] G.S.Shieh addressed that the mode of production belongs to middle side enterprises, which Taiwanese labours created a character of “voluntary obedience” without contesting.[9]

Main institutions of labour movement took different perspectives from above scholars. The chairman of the new Lao Tung Tang (Workers’ Party), Lin Shu-yang, pointed out that the working class of Taiwan with an object of class belonging but divided by the self-determination movement. Lin Shu-yang thought that imperialism is the last bondage of China, Therefore, unification is the priority of the working class?[10] The Labour Front, which promotes independent movement, having took an idea that if the DPP government sieges the power. National social welfare system and democracy of production could promote labors’ bad situation.

The Labour Action of Legislative Committee that has been fighting for decades, having avoiding the issue of independence and unification. They took more critiques to the KMT and the DPP government. Which these two governments liberated the labour market.[11] The Labour Action of Legislative Committee stresses the autonomy of sexuality and the class politics, For example, they deeply involved the sex worker movement.?Young advocates for labour movement such as The Turning to the Right went beyond the visions of the above organizations, for example, they explored the behaviors of Taiwanese employers, who exploited China’s labours and acted the solidarity with China labours.

   There existed the contradictory between the working class and the progressive Intellectures. Trade Union leaders Luo Mei-wen and Zeng Mao-xin complained that the labour movement was mislead by Intellecture that in relation to the independence and unification movement.


 First stage: Independent Trade Unions Movement.

   In general, Taiwanese labour movements could be analyzed into three phases from 1980s to the 2000s. Independent trade unions movement would be the first stage. In the first stage before martial law leased, agents of labour initiatives created the capacity for labour by claiming their rights. The Association of Taiwan Labour Assistance that was set up in 1984 and was organized by human right lawyers, Intellectures and anti-authoritarian activists, established and provided legal service for labor. On the other hand, the KMT regime had to issue the Labour Standards Law under the pressure of the American protectionism. (According to the Americans Article 301)[12] The independent trade unions movement was encouraged by the support of the Labour Standards Law . The yellow trade unions have been replaced through the free election from rank and file. I also participated the trade union movement at the time while Nan-Ya Plastics Company Union, Far East Textile Company Union, Taiwan Petroleum Workers Union, Taoyuan Airport Sevices Co.Union, Union of Container Truck Drivers and so on led the movement. Accordingly, it was estimated that there were about 2.1 millions of workers participated the independent trade unions. In order to win the election, the independent trade union movement mobilized labours to overthrow the yellow unions.

According to Qiu Yu-bin’s definition, the Trade Union Law that mandated in the 1940s restricted the development of trade unionism. Because the characteristics of the KMT state corporatism preempted the structure of trade union and prevented the mobilization of trade union. [13]Ironically, due to the antagonism between the Chinese Federation of Labour (CFL) that was set up by the KMT in 1935 and the communist-led All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) in China, the KMT government controlled trade unionism. Although the CFL withdrew to Taiwan, representatives ‘elected’ in China became ‘ life members’ of the CFL and the CFL was a hierarchical organization, which exercised power from national down to provincial and from country right down to plant level.[14]

  The CFL exercised the anti-communist ideology and pressed the autonomy of the working class. According to the Union Law, all unions should be ‘directed and supervised’ by the government. The Union Law states that all workers in specified industries with 30 workforces are obliged to unionize and only one union is allowed in any workplace. In fact, the Union Law divided unions as industry-based unions and service-based unions that caused the working class could not form a powerful alliance. However, the government has the right to:

  1. Undid unions or withdrew leadership if workers ‘disturbed peace and order’;     

2. Intervened proceedings of union elections and stationed government officials at such evens;

3. ruled on whether elections require the constitution of the union;

4. Asked for personal histories of office-bearers, and veto candidates at union elections.[15]

 Accordingly, there were only 8% of the 1600 manufacturing enterprises employing over 30 people. By 1983, 35% of Taiwanese workers were involved in manufacturing and 42% in service industries. However, 22% of manufacturing workers were employed in small enterprises and the largest enterprises employed only 2.5% of workforces. The stated-owned enterprises only occupied 14%.[16] Significantly, the independent trade union movement could be defined as large-sided industrial trade union movement such as pre-stated owned enterprises and private enterprises.    

On the other hand, the driving forces of the independence trade union movement were economical motivation. As Qiu Yu-bin defined that the bonuses movements encouraged labours to demand their rights and formed a collective power, which was only limited in industry-based unions. Because serviced-based unions were relatively small enterprises(less than 30) or self-employers, who could not fit the requirement of the Labour Standards Law. Therefore, the labour movement that was led by the union leaders of industry-based unions hardly considering integrating service-based unions. As a result, single industry-based unions’ collective action became the character of the independent trade unions movement.

Surprisingly, two labor representatives that presented the DPP party entered the Legislative Yuan in 1987, which encouraged the labor movement had more confidence to contest the KMT regime through cross-factories boundary. On the other hand, when martial law leased, freedom of speech, publishing, assembly, association and movement also help the working class dare to fight against the legitimacy of the KMT. Under the increasing pressure of the labour movement, the KMT government set up the Labour Committee, which chairperson is mandate by Legislator. The Labour Committee aims to regular the conflicts of the working class and provides a decent environment for the capitalists.



The second stage: fragmentation and the formation of the labour party

 It would be a shift for the labour movement from 1989 to 1997, while the labour movement came cross the boundary of one single industry-based union. Moreover, in 1988,socialists, trade union leaders, and politicians formed the Labour Party, which was the first party claimed the working class has a right to build its own agency. On the other hand, China opened its market for international capital, more and more Taiwanese industries afraid that the emerging labour movement would jeopardize capitalists’ interests.

 At the time, main trade union leaders in the Yuan Hua(Far East Textiles Company) trade union strike stimulated the KMT regime and Taiwanese capitalist block collaborated to intervene  the labour movement. As a result, hundreds of trade union leaders and activists were charged as criminals. On the other hand, anti-privatization campaign started contesting the KMT’s liberal agendas. Meanwhile, factories have been moving to China or Southest Asian to escape compensation. The worker who had lost their jobs protested and mushroomed around the Island in the 1980s.

  There was a turning point for Taiwanese labour movement that the strike of Far East Textile Company. An accounting staff, Hsu Cheng-kun, assisted Far East Textile Company Trade Union to demand more workers’ annual bonus. On 19 August 1988, Far East Textile Company Union, which locates in Hsinpu town, Hsinchu county, rejected their company’s work regulations. According to the regulation, Hsu Cheng-kun did not report for the duty in Taipei and asked him to leave the company. Far East Textile Company Trade Union decided to support him but the general secretary of the union,Lo Mei-wen and one of the trade union leader, Tsang Kuo-mei were fired. The union informed Hsinchu county government that on 13 May they would hold a 24 hour general meeting to vote on a strike. On May 14, 1278 workers voted to strike and only 58 against it. Interestingly, the county government announced that the strike did not apply to legal procedures and was illegal.[17]

  Although the strike failed to protest these three leaders of Far East Textile Company Trade Union, one of leaders, Lo Mei-wen, turned his effort to the Workers Party. Originally, some members of the Workers Party came from the Labour Party that were organized by leftist intellectures, trade union leaders and progressive members in 1987. Because the leadership within the Labour Party could not negotiate each other due to ideological disagreements and strategy for the labour movement. They formed another working class party named the Workers Party. [18] 

   Chairperson, Lo Mei-wen, criticized the Labour Party’s leadership compromised  parliamentarianism than strengthened the working class interests through the labour movement. Generally speaking, the Labour Party provided legal advices for workers and negotiated labour disputes under the law. The Chairperson of the Labour Party, Wang I-hsiung(a lawer), addressed: " we perform the duty of a brake when participating in any dispute.We try to make the management’s demands more reasonable, but we would also consider the fairness of those demands. If we only take the side of labour, we will do harm to society as a whole.”  The character of Labour Party would be seen more moderate.

   In contrast, the Workers’ Party developed more progressive. Their statement that was shown on March 1989 at their conventional conference stated,


   Socialism is the only ideology which proposes political, social and economic alternatives to the fundamental values of capitalism. Its aim is to hasten a change in the existing ownership structure and initiate social reforms. However, we realize that a democratic socialist approach is better suited to the social, political and economic conditions in Taiwan. Therefore, we have established the Workers’ Party on the basis of the general principles of socialism, carefully kept in line with the political and economic reality in Taiwan. [19]  


  In fact, the leadership of the Workers’ Party led the Labour movement and presented the working class interests. For example, they protested factories’ workers interests for being fired due to these cheap labour factories withdrew to Mainland China after 1989.[20] Overall, both the Labour Party and the Workers’ Party did formed a strong working class force and became week when the nationalist movement has been mobilizing since the 1990s. The nationalist politics mobilized the working class identity into Taiwanese national identity. The DPP party was the winner.  


Third stage: anti-privitization

     The third stage of the labor movement related to anti-privitization movement and mobilization of the National Trade Union, which called for a reduction in working week from 48 hours a day to 44 hours a week. Ironically, the unemployment rate has been increasing and the Taiwan’s economy has been weakening with the highly international competition.

       Overall, the Taiwanese labor movement formed a strong party or association to challenge the capitalist society. Instead, they make efforts on the legitimization of rational relation between the capitalists and the working class.







Chart2 :Taiwan labour movement and transformation of labour policy from 1980s-2000/3/19


Establishment of legal supporting association for Taiwanese Labour Organization formed by people outside ruiling party who shared different ideologies. Mainly provided legal service for workers.


Mining accident in Mei Shan in the north; caused the death of 177 people.


Influenced by American protectionism, the labour coalition in the US established Charter 301  in order to resist the influx of cheap products from Taiwan. The Kuomintang government announced the enforcement of Basic Labour Law so as to enhance the salary level of workers.


The set up of DPP. This was a populist political party. It absorbed a lot of votes from labour. However, it pushed heavily for the privitization of national resources and enterprises in the Legislative Yuan.


Telecom workers Wan Cong Songand Xu Meiying were elected as labour group legislative members with high votes. In the past, this type of legislative member was elected by votes within the Kuomintang as official legislative members.


The enforcement of Martial Law inTaiwan. This law had constructed the freedom of association and expression in Taiwan for 40 years.


The establishment of the Council ofLabour Affairs. The Council was subordinate to the Legislative Yuan and the head of this committee was appointed by the head of the Legislative.


The establishment of the Labour Party. This party had diverse strategies, although it focused mainly on the mobilization of mass workers. Members included legislative members who shared humanitarian values of labour union and leftist intellectuals. This party later separated and its influence became limited.


Strike on the public bus service of TaoYuan. The bus driver, Zeng Mao Xing, who was also the leader of the labour union, led the srike for five days.


The establishment of the independent Alliance of National Lanour. This coalition allied with about ten independent labour unions that became active development in a few years. It aimed at manifesting the power of independent labour union..


About 1,400 railway workers and drivers went for strike, in a show of strength and solidarity on Workers’ Day on 1 May.


One of the main players of nationallabour union, Chinese Oil trade union, went on strike for better welfare for workers.


Srikes of railway labour union in MiaoLi aimed at fighting for salary adjustment.


The closing of the textile factory XinGung. Most of the workers there wer female. They kicked off a long-term struggle.


Demonstration of ‘ Two Bills and one Case.’. The main idea was to fight against the legislation of labour unions and the unfair legislative amendment of Labour Basic law. The demonstrtion also tried to support the five union leaders being persecuted in the strike of the railway labour union in Maio Li.


Strike in factory of Yuan Dun Chemical Fibre in Xin Zhu(northern Taiwan). The labour union of Yuan Dun Chemical Fibre claimed justification for their action by pointing out that the employer suspended the year-end bonus of an auditor of the union without reason. However, this action was crushed both by the national police force and the emplyer.


Demonstration against the exploitative labour law. Organising bodies included the Legal Supporting Association for Taiwan labour, the Labour Rights Association and the Labour Association. They fought against the legislation of labour union, the amendment of Labour Basic Law and the privitization of government enterprise.


The establishment of the Labour Party(Laodong Dang). This party split from Workers Party. Members included labour unionists, leftist intellectuals and political prisoners,etc. This party advocated national unification and ideas of socialism.


Prisident Lee, Teng Hui recommended military leader general Hao, PoCun as the head of Legislative Yuan. The government and the capitalists started crusing the ever-growing labour movement. Independent labour unions took the lead. A staffmember of the labour union of the factory of Ren Wu Chemistry was fired by the employerillegally. Organizations of labour movement and social movement formed the Alliance of Anti-military government fighting against Hao PoCun as the head of Legislative.


Legislative Yuan authorized Hao PoCu as the head of Legislative Yuan, In order to crush the members of social movement and labour movement, Hao PoCun suggested the Bandit of Anti-military government fighting against Hao PoCun as the head of Legislative Yuan.


Anti-bad labour law working group started spreading ideas all through Taiwan



The issue of the health of women workers became more visible.




Union leader , Zeng Mao Xing nearly three months owing to Yuan Fa strike.


The labour union leader Yuan Kun Quan who was active in south Taiwan was jailed because of his support the labour of Factory An Quang and Shi Quan Mei. Yuan Kun Quan was the leader of the independent labour union movement. With his support, succeeded in resuming as Yellow labour union.


Strike launched by Chi Lung bus trade union in order to fight for the right to work.


Demonstration of workers’ solidartyin ‘ Three laws ,one case.’ ‘ The three laws ‘ included anti-Labour Basic Law, Labour Union Law and the preferences of emlpyers on legislation relating to negotiation among labour groups. ‘ The one event’ referred to the action supporting Chi lung bus trade uion.


Some state-owned banks demonstrated inorder to demand the right to be protected under the Labour Basic Law. In the past, staff of banks were not allowed to organize in labour union. However, along the current of pritisation , the staff of state banks changed. They asked for protection from some basic legislation and the right to organize labour union.


May I demonstration on anti-privatisation policy.


The establishment of Taiwan Journalist’s Association.


Teachers could organize labour union.


Demonstration on may 1 for Security. Since there was a hung influx of migrant workers, more than 3,000 people and more than 40 organisations gathered in Kaohsiung to fight against the influx of migrant workers and the insurance law on workers; health, asking for amendments of factory-closing protection law, policy insupporting childcare and two days off the work..


Workers’ demonstration on anti-legislative oppression. After martial law, more than 300 labour union members were persecuted. Therefore, they organized this action to express their grievances towards the government.


Dream of a new society-May 1 dream-accomplishing demonstration by employees. They asked for a holistic unemployment social security system, actualization of ‘the three laws,’a policy on anti-privitization, the endorsement of Bill of Vocational Accidence and monitoring on Labour Safety.


Anti-unemployment demonstration by aboriginals. They also referred to labour insurance on unemployment.


Democratic Progressive Party seized state power.


The establishment of the ChineseFederation of Labour ROC


Foreign priests Yuan Wen Xiong, PuShi Guang who had supported the right of migrant workers were not allowed into the country.


The Workers’ Action Committee ledmembers of more than 10 labour unions to attend the Conference of Economoc Development co-organised by the government and the capitalists. They asked the government to set up cross-departmental working groups to deal with guarrels between workers and employers.




Proposal of shortening working hours. The proposal of shorter working hours of 84 hours per weeks was passed in Council of Labour Affairs.



Various labour union organizations and Intellectures got together to support the movement against Taiwan entrepreneur’s oppression towards Niagara spinning workers.


The Chinese Federation of labour ROC supported the workers of Continental Carbon in America in resisting the oppression of Taiwan corporation HeXing.

      Source: Labour Front, Labour Rights Association, China Times, United Time, Coolloud: 1984-2000, Complementary information: Chung Hsiu Mei,2002


  Small Farmers and Peasant Movement

   Seven mass protests of Taiwanese farmers occurred from 1987 to 1988 demanding a wider transparency of agricultural policies that were dominated by the KMT regime. There were two organizations mobilized in these actions. The Farmers’ Right Association presented a more radical agenda such as the policy of an autonomous agriculture that promoted farmers’ bargaining power and intervened in the market mechanism.

  The Farmers’ Right Association mobilized farmers against the import of American fruits and meats that affected Taiwanese peasants survival as well. The organization built many branches around the island.

  On the other hand, the Farmers’ Right Assembly also mobilized farmers to contest the statist agricultural policies. In fact, it preferred more commodification in dealing with land and market. Unquestionably, the Farmers’ Right Assembly was consistent with the agendas of the Democratic Progressive Party for accumulation of its political capital. For instance, they stimulated the 520 Riot, which was a shift of the Taiwanese farmers’ movements. There were 130 farmers and activists arrested and the movement, therefore, blocked until in 2002.

  The short period of the Taiwanese farmers’ movements had contradictions within the movements in regards with their different political attitude. In conclusion, the movement hardly defines as a farmers’ autonomous movement. It was imposed a complicated situation that created by elites and activists had a competition for seizing the power.

Environmental Movements

  The emergence of Taiwanese Environmental movements occurred in the late 1970s, while Taiwan society could not endure economic development with highly polluted, highly energized and water wasted industrialization. For examples, the public health alerted poisonous dioxin through burring cables in Tainan County. Chemical waste pollution and heavy metal pollution exist among nineteen rivers.  

  Generally speaking, there were four kinds of environmental movements’ communities those advocacy different environmental issues since the 1980s. Firstly, Environmental consciousness raising group was addressed by magazines such as “Life and Environment” magazine, which claimed protecting the Tamsui mangrove ecosystem, the migratory brown shrike and campaign to protest North-eastern coastal landscape. Progressive magazine “Xia Chao” advocated the Anti-Nuclear Movement. Nuclear Plan One, Nuclear Plan Two and Nuclear Plan Three operated around in 1978, in 1981 and in 1984. The position of “Xia Chao“magazine called for radical resolution for environmental issues and suggested Taiwan should de-link dependency from American-Japanese economy. These magazines reported environmental issues that challenged the KMT government’s inability to solve the environmental problems.  

  Secondly, western educated ecological academics played a significant role to address the importance of environmental movements. These scholars introduced knowledge and information in dealing with introduction of National Parks and embarkment of the dispute of nuclear waste and nuclear pollution. And they also engaged the debate over reservoir commercial use and promotion of Wildlife Conservation Law. Generally speaking, these scholars were divided into two. One of them was integrated into state projects to legitimize the KMT’s environmental policies or became supervisors for environmental schemes. Moderate environmental scholars Ma Yi-kong and Han Han aimed to introduce beauty of endangered species and landscapes and so on. Their followers appealed “to the rationality of ecology and its objective understanding of natural order to raise public awareness of environmental issues.”[21] The moderate faction seemed not to intervene politics in reality.

Other scholars took their sides in opposition of the KMT government and against Nuclear plant Four, where locates in Kong Liao village. The Anti-Nuclear Four movement followed the step of the Anti-authoritarian movement. Scholars such as Dr.Jun-yi Lin and Dr.Yao-sung Lin led the argument of the Anti-Nuclear Four movement, which they thought that anti-nuclear means against dictatorship of the KMT. If the KMT was down, then the Anti-Nuclear Four movement would be successful. However, when the DPP government became the ruling party in 2000, President Chen still announced his government would not give up to build Nuclear Plant Four.

Overall, academic communities who involved the environmental movements were beneficiaries of promoting job opportunities. Ironically speaking, the environment on the whole gradually deteriorated. As Lin Yih Ren defined “ Most ecologists worked as consultants to government and promoted awareness of environmental problems in a top-down approach.”[22]

 Thirdly, grass rooted environmental communities developed since 1985. At the time the mobilization of the first grassroots anti-public hazards NGO in Taichung county and the campaign fought against Du Pont investment in Lu Kang Town. The campaign mobilized national-wide campaigners to Lu Kang Town. The environmental issue not only became local, but called for national and international support. In the following year, 1985,  Movement of Shang-Huang Pesticide led local farmers to against a pesticide company to pollute water in Xin Zhu city. And Tao aborigines protested the nuclear waste dumped in Orchard Island.

Through more and more concrete environmental struggles from below, the number of local self-help environmental protests occurred. As a result, the KMT government was imposed to mandate “Environmental fundamental Act” under the pressure of legislators.

  Fourthly, community –based environmental movement would be the fourth phases for Taiwanese environmental activities in the 1990s. As Lin Yih Ren conclude,


 After 1993, the structure of Taiwan’s environmental movements has undergone a fundamental change, from an emphasis of anti-KMT authoritarianism towards a concern with’ place making ‘ at both national and local levels. In drawing upon the discussions about the power struggles within political parties. I argue that the concern of ‘place making’ is an incomplete and on-going project and of much relevance to the agenda of Taiwan’s environmental politics. [23]


Accordingly, the community –based environmental movements are much more dealing with project identity to incorporate local government’s agendas to resolve environmental issues.

To sum up, Taiwan environmental movements shifted social movements politics for demanding better life. However, the movement failed to build broader alliances to challenge the capitalist system and policy of industrialization.  


Gender Politics :Taiwanese Feminist movements and their debates 


  Lu, Hsiu-lian, the present Taiwanese Vice-President, claimed that in terms of the new feminism movement in Taiwan since 1971, new feminism could be defined as” learn to behavior like a human being , then decide to be women or men”. [24] She considered basic human rights were priority for women’s liberation.  Lu, Hsiu-lian has influential impacts among academic and middle class women. Since the 1970s though, many women have felt their enemies were their grandfathers, fathers and husbands. [25]And their political positions were against patriarchy and the KMT government.

  Since 1982, those women who were influenced by American Academic , feminism organized a women’s group, “Awakening Society”, which aimed to raise women’s consciousness, support female leadership and build gender equality.[26] After martial law lifted, many different women’s groups mushroomed.  For example, “ Warm life” supported prostitution and changed gender stereotypes. “ Homemaker’s Union and Foundation” organized organic consumers and lobbied environmental issues since 1989.[27]”Divorced Women Association” encouraged divorced women to discovery their abilities . ?other groups see chart 1?

   According to Ku, Yen-Lin’s analysis, these women organizations mainly focused on five areas of women’s issues and strategies. [28]Firstly, concern about young prostitutes from remote areas and aboriginals communities and in contesting the trafficking women behavior. Secondly, in relation to job opportunity and gender discrimination in the workforce. Thirdly, they wish to banish sex industries involving young prostitutes and public sex advertising.

Fourthly, to make egalitarian laws, including the separation of wife and husband’s property, adolescent social welfare law, changing Taiwan and China’s marriage law and civil law. Fifthly, to educate gender about equality. Sixthly, in seeking political involvements, increasing the proportion of MP. And seventh, to stop sexual harassment, rape, wife beating and male violence.

  From 1985 to 1995, the Taiwanese Feminist movement forged a strong power, demanding their rights of gender. By the 1990s, gay and lesbian groups emerged and shifted the division of the Feminist movement.[29] Many “women’s studies groups” formed initially in the universities and targeted on the issues of sexual harassment. These militant campuses students supported any cases of harassment by men.   

   Actually, the confrontation between groups of “gender politics” and “ sexual politics” could not be separated in terms of issues of national identity. The main leaders of “gender politics” have joined the cabinet of the new government. [30] Their ideas are expressed in terms of state intervention for women’s rights and protections. As Lin Huang- mei claimed: the women’s movement should be about dealing with women’s daily life. For example, child care , elder care, community security and a universal health care system would link women’s movement’s strategies with ordinary people.[31]


   In contrast, the “ sexual politics” groups fight for women’s sexual liberation. Their famous slogan is :” I want sexual orgasm, I don’t want sexual harassment?[32]  They critique “ gender politics” as “ gender reductionism” and “ universalism”. They distinquish between they are made up of “ good women feminism”, “ main stream feminism”, and “ state feminism”. “Good women feminism” emphasizes the value of family, correct sexuality and reproduction. “ Main stream feminism” and “ state feminism” belong to some feminist agencies have good resource and political relations. [33]The “ sexual politics” groups  is trans-gender and trans/gender. They are transnational and gender boundary and support the legalization of Psychedelic drugs , sex workers, surrogate motherhood and so on. Ho, Chun-lei defines that women’s emancipation of sexualities are to act initially and practice different sexualities in order to fight for sexual autonomy and sexual equality.[34]



In Maria Mies Patriarchy & Accumulation on a World Scale, she takes social/ist- ecofeminism notions to critique international women’s movements. [35] Mies finds that although feminist movements have different ideas and practices concerning women’s liberation, they can be seen as a power that divides the lines of class, race and nation. Under the solidarity of sisterhood , western feminists fail to recognize that racism and colonialism are the results of patriarch and accumulation in the global relation of production . As a result, feminists neither achieve their goals nor become sisters. The feminist movement is the process of fragmentation. [36]

Mies sees ‘the feminist movement as basically an anarchist movement which does not want to replace one?male?power elite by another?female?power elite, but which wants to build up a non-hierarchical, non-centralized society where no elite lives on the exploitation and dominance of others.’[37]Mies argues that the new feminist movement’s adoption the term ‘ patriarchy’ as a universal strategy, is misleading. This is ‘ patriarchy’ could not exist without the interconnected capitalist system as well as in the world scale relations of production and reproduction.[38] Mies therefore distinquishes, the ‘ housewification’ of women in the North as?unpaid?consumer-housewives and in the South as ?unpaid?producer-housewives. [39]

    Mies also disagrees with Marx and Engel’s distinction between production and reproduction, which characterized men as the major power of human production. In contrast to their theory, Mies thinks women appropriate nature , they were ‘first subsistence producers and the inventors of the first productive economy’. [40]Mies cites little evidences to show that women had produced more daily needs than men. ‘Woman-the-gatherer’ compare to ‘ men –the –hunter’ had contributed more economy in human history.

Unfortunately, ‘man-the hunter’ invented tools not only for hunting animals but also for killing man and he kidnapped women and children for his private property. Mies makes a further argument that’ man-the –hunter’ under feudalism and capitalism  pushed women into becoming a commodity in a asymmetric marriage market. Mies summarizes that the predatory hunter parasitizes women’s production, and therefore t needs to manipulate a system based on the unequal divisions of labor in order to control the wealth. [41]

  The core vision of Mies’s social/ist- ecofeminism is simple. There is ’ human happiness’, autonomy of the production of life itself, and anti-consumerism. So the subsistence economy is the model of her theory of society. This is because our daily basic needs ?food, clothing, housing ?could be meet by only  necessary labor . Women in the above concept of labor could reduce non-wage and emotional work and have more leisure time. [42]Mies’s alternative economy includes that men should bear responsibility for sharing domestic and community works.?production of life, childcare, work for community?Her ideal society is without a center or hierarchy, and would de-link their economies from the exploitative world market system so as to build self-sufficiency not only in the underdeveloped countries but also in the developed countries.[43]

    In what way Mies and the Taiwanese feminist movement connected? I do not tend to follow Mies theoretical framework in her judgment of the Taiwanese feminist movement.  This is because it has its own particular historical development, although Mies has strong criticism to a middle class and urban feminist movement.

   I agree when Mies points out that a ‘feminist middle-class movement’ in any country is an absolute historical necessity.[44] Whether middle class, working class or housewives, women are facing various forms of male-violence in their daily life. Mies’s experience of transgressing developed countries and underdeveloped countries, addressing the unbalance of labor division of international production. Although Mies has sympathies with the international women’s women, she deeply analyses the key solution for women’s unhappiness, dependence, and insecurity, as being in its material roots. Her notion could be applied to my criticism of the Taiwanese feminist movement.

  The first and second generations of the Taiwanese feminist movement have played vanguard role[45] in the abolition of prostitution. However, they fail to point out the employment alternatives for those sex-workers. As Taiwanese feminist scholars Cheng & Hsiung have stressed patriarchy and capitalism dominate Taiwanese state and society. ‘This impress a double burden’ as a “acceptable and even aspired to women’s role in the service of national development.” [46] Namely, the commoditification of Taiwanese women has started the international tourism and production. For example, the main sex tourists were American from 1957 to 1973. Later on, Japanese men were increasing its sex population to 824,000 by 1987. Companies supported this form of leisure consumption. Although the school of ‘sexual politics’ has given great support to sex workers, they do not recognize the whole process of the international sex industry as a colonial objectification of women’s body.

   To some extent, Taiwanese social movements reflect narcissistic self-indulgence metropolis’s feminists highlight the values of’ her-story telling’ is considerable. First, those who rephas enthusiasm to collect her-story memory could exclude other race, class, and territory women. As another Taiwanese feminist scholar Hsiao-chuan Hsia in her study of transnational marriage of ‘Foreign bride’.[47] She notices these foreign brides have not yet been accepted by Taiwanese society. They are also ignored by main stream feminists.    

   Finally, the experiences of the Taiwanese feminist movement beyond Taipei failed to theorize their theories and practices in order to challenge the other Taiwanese feminisms.  For example, women activists who have been campaigning in the rural and aboriginal communities ignore the thinking of social-ecofeminism. They miss the point of women’s material autonomy.  But I am wondering the model of Mies’s utopia could be applied to our practice. However, dare to think or fight and dare to win.


Chart Four: The division of continuities and discontinuities feminism in Taiwan


  Groups / Characters



Awakening Society

1.      Women’s liberation

2.      Gender equality

3.      Consciousness raising

4.      Anti- sexual harassment

5.      Make egalitarian laws and amend civil law


Academic feminism research room

1.      Set up feminism curriculums in the university

2.      Held feminism conferences



Taiwan women SOS association

1.      Anti-trafficking women

2.      Anti-domestic violence

3.      Abolish sex industries

4.      Support comfort women’s campaign

5.      Make youth protection law and domestic violence law


Divorced women association

1.      Consulting psychological therapy

2.       Providing layer service

3.      Job skill training program

4.      Amend civil law


Taiwan women’s rights association

1.      Female her story making

2.      Women health care conference

3.      Organize East-Asia conference


Campus women studies group


1.      Discuss sex, sexual and sexuality

2.      Find autonomous body

The center for the study

Of sexualities


1.      Support surrogate motherhood

2.      Transgenderism/ sexual plurality/ beast love

3.      Support sex workers




[1] Edited by Xu Zheng Guang & Song Wen-li(1989) Taiwanese Newly Social Movements, Ju-liu Publisher, Taipei,p24-25

[2] Chapter Two have outline Tilly’s notion.

[3] Yang Du(1986) People’s power, Yuan Liu publisher, Taipei


[4] Yang Du(1986) People’s power, Yuan Liu publisher, Taipei


[6] resource from “1997-1998Taiwan Human Rights Report”

[7] Resource from “Fighting for dignity:  History of Ta-tung Company Union”(2001)  The Labour Front

[8] Zhau Gang(1996) p:145

[9] G.S.Shieh(1994) Manufacturing Consent Under Market Despotism: The Piece-Rate System and the Formation of the Subjectivity of Taiwanese Workers, Taiwan: A Radical Quarterly in Social Studies, No17,July

[10] Lin Shu-yang(2001),p5

[11] Chen Su-xiang(2000)

[12] American Federal Trade Union Alliance boycotted the product from Taiwan, where used cheap labours. Therefore, the KMT government enforced the Labour Standards Law to increase the wage. 

[13] Qiu Yu-bin(2004) The Taiwan Labour Movement under the Rule of the Legacy of Authoritarian Governance. presenting in Taiwanese Sociology Conference.  

[14] Taiwan- After a Long Silence: The Emerging new Unions of Taiwan. Asia Labour Monitor,1990

[15] Ibid 15

[16] Ibid 21

[17] Taiwan- After a Long Silence: The Emerging new Unions of Taiwan. Asia Labour Monitor,1990


[18] Ibid p80

[19] Ibid 82

[20]Ku Lao Forum(2005/07/26)

[21] Lin Yih Ren() A Historical Review of Taiwan’s Environmental Movements

[22] Ibid

[23] Ibid.

[24] In 1971, she came back from American and involved in political movement and feminist movement.

She was sent in to the jail for five years because the Formosa event, which KMT arrested anti-KMT forces that asked for democracy rights. Her national identity is Independence. And she belongs to the state-feminist.

[25] Wang,1999, p57-

[26] Wang,1999,63

[27] Chiang,2000:241

[28] Ku,2001

[29] Manuel Castells has more details in Taiwanese gays and lesbian’s history.?1997, 206-212?He defines its movement as “ right to autonomy of the body”. 

[30] The main actors are academic feminists who engaged in feminist movement from 1980s and 1990s.

[31] Kar,We-po,2000

[32] Castells,1997:209

[33] Kar,We-po,2000

[34] Ho, 2002,9

[35] Mary Mellor(1997) Feminism Ecology, Polity Press,UK

[36] Maria Mies(1998) Patriarchy & Accumulation on a World Scale, Zed book, London and New York pp7-18


[37] ibid p37

[38] ibid p38

[39] ibid 206

[40] Maria Mies(1998) Patriarchy & Accumulation on a World Scale, Zed book, London and New York,pp55-56

[41] ibid pp60-71

[42] ibid 212

[43] ibid 220

[44] ibid 206

[45] According to Kar, We-pos definition.?2000? They are” Good women feminism”,“ Main stream feminism” and “ state feminism”. I would say they are belong to continuity of women’s liberation.?see chart?

[46]  Cheng & Hsiung ,54:1993

[47] Hsia, 2000: 46

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