Through a case study of Taiwan, this paper seeks to address recent debates surrounding the transformation of developmental states in East Asia. Whilst a number of authors have cited the Taiwanese state as being both cautious and resilient in the midst of global restructuring, this paper seeks to critically engage with such arguments by highlighting the dynamic and mutually constitutive relations between the forms of social relations that underpin late development and the wider geopolitical system in which such development occurs. Specifically, Taiwanese industrialisation can be viewed as an outcome of the US intervention in the Chinese civil war and subsequent exclusion of China from the regional political economy in the period between the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The Kuomintang (KMT)'s retreat to Taiwan established the basis for the autonomous developmental state, and the US underpinned this state through military protection, aid and access to its own domestic market. However, the relative decline of US hegemony and the readmission of China into the international system have posed significant challenges to Taiwan's developmental state. The US sought to redress its trade imbalance with East Asia by placing pressure on Taiwan to liberalise its political economy. Furthermore, the very process of development itself served to undermine the autonomy of the state as it came under pressure from new social forces. Taiwan has more recently been faced with a dilemma of closer integration with the mainland or the maintenance of its de facto economic and political independence at the risk of becoming isolated from the global trading system.