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Baum: Breaking authoritarian bonds

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Baum. 2005. Breaking authoritarian bonds: The political origins of the Taiwain APA. Journal of East Asian Studies 5.

See notes from Baum's "Presidents have Problems Too" to understand the theory.


Why would a president voluntarily tie his own hands by supporting an APA--especially a president that doesn't expect to lose any time soon? Answer: To improve the president's control over his own executive branch.


In Taiwan, the KMT's internal factional disputes increased over time. Eventually, President Lee concluded that the KMT's continued survival required major reforms. Before reforms, the status quo-oriented bureaucracy served Lee well. But to implement reforms, Lee would need to change the bureaucracy to force it to make implement his reforms. Lee supported the APA in order to reduce the bureaucracy's ability to impede his reforms.

Though McNollGast have argued that APAs allow retiring (or soon-to-lose) politicians to "lock in" their preferences, Jee sees something else going on. A president wishing to push policy away from what the bureaucracy wants may have incentives to support an APA in order to change policy--not to "lock in" the status quo.

The specific reforms that Lee sought related to economic protection, safer public infrastructure, and reduced corruption. The party needed to attract younger voters by shedding its image of corruptly supporting the wealthy. Changing this image required Lee to force open the bureaucracy to public scrutiny so that bureaucrats would have difficulty remaining corrupt and favoring wealthy business interests. In Lee's view, providing bureaucratic openness was a necessary sacrifice to preserve KMT's electoral dominance.

Broader implications:

The adminstrative procedures that open up the bureaucracy to the public (APAs) can also serve politicians' goals of redirecting the bureaucracy.


Jee uses archival data, secondary sources, and interviews with presidential advisers, senior bureaucrats, and politicians to support her argument.

Research on similar subjects


Baum, Jeeyang (author)Comparative PoliticsBureaucracySingle Party Dominance

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