The Blue Sky Falls; the White Sun Sets

The Burn Your Draft podcast talks Taiwanese politics with Seamus Boyle ’22.

By Michelle O'Shea | February 8, 2023

How do you write a thesis on a subject so topical that it changes from day to day? This is what Seamus Boyle ’22, an international and comparative policy studies major, had to navigate while writing about Taiwanese politics.

He recently spoke to Amelie Andreas ’24, host of Burn Your Draft, a podcast produced by the Center for Life Beyond Reed to explore the year-long senior thesis experience at Reed College. Seamus's thesis, “The Blue Sky Falls, the White Sun Sets: a Study of the Decline of the Kuomintang,” focuses on the decline of Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT) party and the impact it had on his own family background.

The KMT once had absolute control of Taiwan, and the story of its decline is still a very present matter in its politics. Seamus had to navigate writing a thesis on an ever-changing topic: during the process of writing, four different referendum elections happened. He said, “Sometimes it felt like I was laying the tracks in front of the train.”

Seamus also has a personal connection to the thesis he wrote: his mother grew up in a KMT party family. His great-uncle was the chief of general staff of the Republic of China and was in charge of the nation for 46 days before passing away from mysterious circumstances.

To answer his research question, Seamus found five major theories of party decline and tested the history of Taiwanese politics against those five theories. “I found that the KMT decline is pretty much exactly in line with the existing literature,” he said. However, he found an unexpected link between the KMT party decline and the actions of the People’s Republic of China. In the 2020 elections, KMT was projected to win, but after China began cracking down on human rights in Hong Kong, Seamus found that “all of a sudden the KMT loses by 20 percent.” He explained that he sees the KMT as having “a bizarre attachment” to favoring relationships with the CCP over their own opposition party and their own country.

Since graduating, Seamus has considered making his thesis into a podcast, or a series of op-eds. “For now it’s my passion and I’m rolling with it,” he said. Maybe he’ll expand it, maybe he’ll deepen what he already has, or maybe, he’ll find something else that he’s interested in.

To hear more about Seamus’s thesis experience, listen to the series on Soundcloud or visit the Burn Your Draft website. Burn Your Draft is a podcast that conducts interviews with current seniors and recent graduates focusing on the Reed College senior thesis experience: what did they write about, why did it compel them, and what comes next. Burn your Draft is a joint production of Reed College students, alumni, and staff, produced by the Center for Life Beyond Reed.

Tags: Academics, International, Research, Students, Thesis