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Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse Hardcover – April 29, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1442204799 ISBN-10: 1442204796
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Editorial Reviews


Many books have recounted Taiwan's economic and political 'miracles,' and readers may wonder why they should be interested in another. Rigger gives two answers: Taiwan is inherently of interest because of its rapid economic growth and democratization, and its vibrant society and cultures; and Taiwan matters because of the island's high-tech global economic role and the strategic security niche it occupies in the western Pacific. Rigger's account is comprehensive and detailed for the last two decades in which she's done research there. She attempts balance, and that is never easy in an area that has been a global hotspot for 62 years. The portrayal is engaging, well written, and sympathetic to the Taiwanese without being cloying. Moreover, it is provocative. For example, Rigger argues that the increased economic interdependence of Taiwan and China 'exposes just how different the two sides have become over the past sixty years.' Both general readers and specialists will enjoy this volume. Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels. (CHOICE)

Shelley Rigger has written an excellent introduction to a place that not only is significant in its own right, but also illustrates how the rise of China and Asia’s democratization are now linked. (The Weekly Standard)

For anyone who wants to truly understand the origins of modern day Taiwan and its relationship with the world, Shelley Rigger’s new book is a must-read. Rigger crafts a concise and insightful volume that is accessible to scholars and non-academic readers alike. As well as addressing the crucial question of why Taiwan is important to the United States, she chronicles the island’s deep political split and helps the reader understand the complexities surrounding the different factions at work. Through Rigger’s insightful observations, it is easy to understand why the small island of Taiwan has survived and thrived. (Taiwan Insights.com 2011-07-19)

Shelley's newest volume, Why Taiwan Matters, offers a comprehensive and engaging introduction to a country that exercises a role in the world far greater than its tiny size would indicate. (Davidsonnews.Net)

Throughout Why Taiwan Matters, Rigger portrays Taiwan as a complex, rich and sophisticated country, so much so that the idea it could conceivably not matter becomes a ridiculous one. And the feeling of affront and incredulity that one gets while reading the final chapter is more than powerful enough to drive the point home. An excellent and well-researched cultural/political breakdown of Taiwanese society, this book is not only interesting but thoroughly enjoyable, and also manages to turn the reader into a fervent polemicist—a remarkable feat in just over 200 pages.
(The Wild East 2011-08-14)

Rigger’s well-written and engaging book highlights the strength and vitality of Taiwan’s economic and political miracle, but it also shows its inherent vulnerabilities and challenges on the world stage. Why should the U.S. care about Taiwan? The answers to this question are complex and provocative, and leave the reader with a sense of the challenge that diplomats and security analysts face in maintaining a stable U.S.-PRC-Taiwan relationship. For these reasons, Ms. Rigger’s book is highly recommended for those interested in current U.S. security affairs and East Asian geopolitics. (National Strategy Forum Review)

Why Taiwan Matters performs a useful service in outlining Taiwan's signal contributions to democratic development and its crucial role in the international economy. At a time when so much of the world's focus seems to be riveted on China, the book provides a case for why Taiwan also deserves attention. (Taiwan Business Topics)

Describing Taiwan as a ‘key global player’ despite its small size, Rigger looks at the country’s political and economic achievements, paying particular attention to the way it has managed its relations with China and the United States. (Survival)

Rigger delivers a very important and frequently overlooked argument, namely that there is growing consensus in Taiwan about the desire to conduct trade with mainland China, while staving off political negotiations with Beijing that could undermine Taiwan’s hard-won system of democratic government and political independence. (Taiwan Review)

Taiwan is the quiet success story that no one ever heard of, but there’s no one better than Shelley Rigger to reveal why it deserves to be noticed. She knows the society from the inside out and has a deep sympathy for its people. Her account is always balanced and keeps an eye on why Taiwan really is important for the United States. (Richard C. Bush, director, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, The Brookings Institution)

This lively look at Taiwan is a superb primer for those who should know more about the island’s successes and an entertaining review of political, economic, security, and societal developments for specialists. Bringing to bear a wealth of knowledge and experience, Rigger vividly evokes the forces that have allowed Taiwan to survive and thrive through difficult times. Her insight into the significance of Taiwan’s democracy, free market, cultural dynamics, generational change, cross-Strait ties, and participation in the international community are persuasive and valuable. (Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, Georgetown University)

What a delight! Rigger offers a masterfully crafted volume―part paean, part history, part ethnography, and part prescription―that brims with insight to an island and observations about a people she has come to know intimately but writes of with a critical perspective and affection. Vivid prose and Rigger’s faultless eye for the telling detail yields a splendid volume that is sure to appeal to the uninformed first-time visitor as well as the seasoned analyst seeking to fill gaps in understanding. (Alan M. Wachman, Tufts University)

About the Author

A leading authority on Taiwan, Shelley Rigger is Brown Professor of East Asian Politics at Davidson College in North Carolina. She earned a PhD in government from Harvard University and has been studying and visiting Taiwan for nearly three decades. She has been a visiting researcher at Chengchi University in Taipei and a visiting professor at Fudan University in Shanghai. She is the author of two books and numerous articles on Taiwan's politics and cross-Strait relations and consults for the U.S. government on East Asian national security issues.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (April 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442204796
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442204799
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.7 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #412,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Robyn Meadows on October 16, 2011
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The book is an excellent primer on Tawiwan - its history, economy and place in the world. It is short and easy to read, but thorough. The writing is frequently repetitive, which is its only negative attribute.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Epifania P. Malone on July 6, 2012
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The author of this book had an enormous task ahead of her, which is made clear by how she manages to weave an engaging narrative in such a concise introduction to the history of Taiwan. Although Miss Rigger's is a scholarly effort, even someone who could not place Taiwan on a map before reading the book would find herself turning the page with the ease of the most engaging novel, a quality of writing that reminds me of such history authors as David McCullough and Simon Winchester.

Relatedly, the organization of the book is well considered; e.g., one chapter focuses on Taiwan's shift from a primarily agricultural country to an industrial one and later post-industrial. This focus, however, is chronological. Along those lines, one reviewer mentioned that Miss Rigger can be repetitive, and I think this is because she keeps relating the historical development of Taiwan with the present; in other words, emphasizing the implications that these developments have not only on Taiwan but the world around it. For instance, going back to the chapter alluded to earlier ("From Farmers to Manufacturers"), the time she spends making clear the relationship between China and Taiwan, and America's great historical influence in Taiwan, pays off when she explains Taiwan's shift to a focus on science and technological innovation after China became a nuclear state and America chose to officially recognize mainland China diplomatically.

Finally, Miss Rigger does not overly praise any of the actors in the engaging story that is the history of the Taiwanese, but neither does she skimp on compassion for her subject, as evidenced when she says, "... [Taiwan's] people, like all people, are ends in themselves, not mere instruments of someone else's destiny."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 19, 2012
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As a person that lives and works in Taiwan I enjoyed this book. I now recommend it to anyone coming to Taiwan to work or study. It's a quick read that gives a solid foundation on Taiwan politics and history. Ms. Rigger is a well known scholar on Taiwan and she has written a very readable book. If you only buy one book on Taiwan, this is the one to buy.
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Reading Professor Shelley Rigger's book about Taiwan helped me better appreciate the subtle and obvious complexities of Taiwan and enhanced my understanding of People's Republic of China. While Professor Rigger distilled these complexities into a mere 197 pages of text, her book is an easy read for those who know next to nothing about Taiwan and the PRC's long running "unshakeable goal" of subsuming Taiwan into the PRC's social, economic and political orbits. Indeed, this book is a superb primer on these critical issues.

A study of the PRC would not be complete without understanding the issues masterfully presented and discussed (respectfully, realistically and lovingly) by Professor Rigger in her book entitled "Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse." Brevity is often seen as an enemy to scholarly writing (by their authors), but in this case, brevity is appreciated and is a tremendous testament to Professor Rigger's mastery of the complex issues discussed in her book and her masterful (i.e., succinct and thorough) presentation of thereto.

Taipei 101 is indeed a metaphorical and real symbol of the "lonesome" island that is Taiwan, which is a manufacturing and information technology global powerhouse. The resiliency, ingenuity and pragmatism of human beings are embodies by Taipei 101. It's fitting that Professor Rigger began her book by discussing Taipei 101: "the blue-glass tower . . . is everywhere in Taiwan."

Professor Rigger captured the added complexities which confront Taiwan and its people with this apt metaphor: "The relationship between Taiwan and China today is like a failing marriage: the couple is separated, but not divorced.
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