While Taipei’s militarization in the early postwar period was related to the arrival of the KMT military government from the Chinese mainland, by 1959 the capital was, indeed, a Cold War city. It remained so until the US established a formal diplomatic relationship with the People’s Republic of China on January 1, 1979.
During this period, the US had direct influence over almost every aspect of the city’s social and political development. Moreover, the legacy of the relationship dictated that Taipei would remain a strong champion of US grand strategy even after Taiwan was marginalized diplomatically.
The city is now fully integrated into the capitalist world economy.
Since the lifting of martial law in 1987, Taipei has transitioned to democracy, holding its first mayoral elections in thirty years in 1994.
The growth of social movements and civil society at the grassroots level ensures continuing and spirited competition between the demands of global and local forces.
In the context of globalization, the city is now striving for third-tier world city status and is conflicted about the military stereotype which continues to fashion its identity.
Problems with the communist Chinese on the mainland persist in provoking security concerns. Consequently, unlike most other cities, the terms communist and non-communist remain internally meaningful. The capital remains mired in ideological rhetoric–as well as pragmatic concerns–relating to the Cold War conception of reality.
At the local level, the public has become increasingly vocal about the lack of political will to regulate land use and engage in pollution abatement, issues related to the rapid economic growth advocated by US advisers. Consequently, according to Tu Weiming, post Cold War Taipei
…reflects a struggle between modern democratic tendencies and traditional authoritarian dispositions, between influences from abroad and nationalistic self-assertion, and between adaptation to international geopolitical forces and indigenous habits of the heart.
Photograph by Sherwin Photography.