Session 4: Civil Society and Activism Across Borders


Thursday, April 25, 3:10 p.m — 4:40 p.m.

Taiwan, the PRC, and Indonesia: How Sino-Indonesian Relations Affect State-Civil Society Relations in Indonesia

Suraya Afiff

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Universitas Indonesia, Indonesia

Indonesia implements a “One China” policy so it does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Taiwan has established its relationship with Indonesia through people-to-people interactions. These interactions span from industrial investment, trade, migrant workers, student scholarships, and others. Through official diplomatic relations, the PRC is responsible for the second-largest Foreign Direct Investment in Indonesia. Both Taiwan and the PRC seek close ties with Indonesia, but the policies of the two countries are very different in how they understand the role of civil society. In this presentation, I discuss how the policies of the two countries affect the relationship between the State and Civil Society in Indonesia. The Taiwanese government’s policy of recognizing and even providing legal status to the existence of Indonesian civil society organizations in Taiwan has produced a much better effect on strengthening democracy in Indonesia and Taiwan. For example, one of the largest Islamic organizations in Indonesia, Nahdatul Ulama (NU), is recognized and has obtained official legality as an international organization registered in Taiwan. On the other hand, the limited space for civil society in the PRC means that the significant increase of PRC economic investment in Indonesia has the potential to weaken the Indonesian government’s relationship with civil society. In this case, unlike Taiwan which supports the civil society sphere, the PRC is contributing to the problem of the declining or shrinking civic space in Indonesia.


The Sprint and the Marathon: The Philippine and Taiwanese Constitution-making Processes in Comparative Perspective

Francis Sollano

PhD Candidate, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

The starting moment of democratization in Taiwan and the Philippines was less than two years apart. Although constitutional change was deemed by both countries as instrumental to their transitions to democracy, their processes were significantly different in two ways. First, while the Philippines replaced its constitution almost immediately after the People Power Revolution, Taiwan had a protracted process of revising its constitution that started in 1991 until the present. Second, while the Philippine constitutional draft was written by a constitutional commission with a smaller and appointive membership, Taiwan’s revisions were drafted by larger constituent legislatures. Because these differences have influenced not only how constitutional scholars have evaluated their constitutional-making processes but also how constitutional change has been accomplished in the two countries, this paper compares their political effects using criteria that surround constitutional endurance, democratic consolidation, and the bolstering of state institutions. It argues that the constitution functions differently in the two countries. In the Philippines, the constitution is a tool for consolidating a government that supports democracy while the Taiwanese process presents more politically deliberated changes that ran parallel with its democratization. These different functions were directed by the way democratic break was— and continues to be—negotiated in the two countries, along with appurtenant issues such as national sovereignty and other political contingencies. The paper will also briefly provide examples from countries in the region with comparable democratizing struggles (Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand). Therefore, the paper argues that constitutional standards must be made flexible according to the countries’ historical and political contexts.