This project examines the origin and development of key political cleavages in Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. Cleavages separate voters into advocates and adversaries on a certain issue or into voting for a certain party. The central puzzle stems from the unique contexts of East Asia, in which encompassing trade unions and left-wing parties have not been the primary political forces of the latest expansions in social welfare. Applying Lipset and Rokkan’s seminal work on cleavage and party politics (1967), our analysis suggests that major politicized cleavages in the three Asian countries have not revolved around social-distribution issues, but instead focus on nationalism, provincialism, or rural-urban divisions.
Specifically, we triangulate results from multiple datasets such as manifestos, elite surveys, voting patterns, public opinion surveys, roll call votes, bill sponsor/co-sponsorship, and newspaper articles. We examine the primary cleavages formed during each country’s democratic transition by looking at how basic legislative dimensions such as the numbers, proportion, success ratio, and duration of submitted bills have differed over time. Moreover, 15 English-language published papers on measuring political cleavages―either explicitly or implicitly―in Korea, Japan, and Taiwan are examined using quantitative datasets. Collectively, these sources include both mass and elite level data.