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Assistant Professor Benjamin R. Cole Joins Scholars In Taiwan

May 7, 2013

Assistant Professor Benjamin R. Cole is one of a small group of scholars picked to spend a week in Taiwan through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of the Republic of China.

As part of the 2013 Young Scholars and Experts Visiting Group to Taiwan, Cole will visit political, educational and diplomatic offices throughout Taipei.

"A big part of this for me is networking," Cole said. Previous Visiting Groups have visited the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of National Defense, the Central Election Commission, and the Office of the President, Republic of China (Taiwan).

Though Cole has not yet visited Taiwan, he has studied it as part of a six year study with his research partner, Monty G. Marshall. Their study produced detailed reports on 164 countries, looking back to 1946 for changes in government, particularly as it relates to factionalism and political instability.

Most countries have experienced an intense period of political polarization during the transition to democracy. This factionalism can lead to civil war and genocide.

Taiwan, however, was a "successful case study," Cole said. Taiwan transitioned from a fairly autocratic state to a factionalized one, and then to a democracy, peacefully.

Cole will further explore Taiwan and eight other case studies in a forthcoming book. Currently titled Governing on the Knife's Edge: Democratization and the Mischief of Faction, the book will study three success stories (including Taiwan), three failures to achieve a democracy, and three countries that exemplify a new trend of never leaving a polarized State.

Cole hopes to "[identify] ‘smart practices' for young democracies to avoid the serious dangers of factionalism."

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