The cross-strait relationship presented three different trends before the 1980s, during the 1990s, and after the 2000 respectively. At the same time, the world also endured the impacts of cold-war confrontation, structural changes of former communist countries, and the huge tide of economic globalization. While most people celebrated the global prosperity, the performance of Kaohsiung Port, often seen as an important index of Taiwan’s economy, seemed to be experienced a “lost decade” in which its sluggish growth had led to a slide of global ranking. On the contrary, many Chinese coastal ports, headed by Shanghai, grew in a very high speed throughout history, bringing huge threatens to all other major ports in East Asia. Why this sharp contrast? What is behind the performance of Kaohsiung port and the cross-strait relationship?
With the examination of institutional changes of Taiwanese cross-strait policies, this study shed light on the economic performance of Kaohsiung Port in order to describe the interactions and effects between the changes in a macro-level and the performance in a micro-level.
The first intention of this study tries to provide a comprehensive theoretical framework for the research of cross-strait relationship through an integrated approach of new institutionalism. We interpret the evolutionary process of the cross-strait economic institutions by the theory of institutional change. The relations among structural embededness in environmental context, institutional changes in official policies, and strategic choices in port governance across the Strait are pointed out. This study further argues that the institutional changing path for Kaohsiung from a 3rd generation to a 4th generation port is not only a pure upgrade in technology, but an evolution that is inevitably determined by the game rules of cross-strait economic institutions and further embedded in the historical context of cross-strait relationship.