Sat, May 07, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan must take charge of its fate

By Michelle Wang王美琇

In an interview with a Taiwanese radio station, a Chinese democracy activist recently lamented that "you [Taiwanese] live in paradise while we [Chinese] live in hell. There is freedom in Taiwan while there is not any in China."

In addition, a Hong Kong-based teacher also recently wrote in the opinion section of the Liberty Times, "don't forget you are blessed immensely, for the soil beneath your feet has a scent of freedom." Yes, there is no denying that we do possess a degree of freedom. However, I really doubt if we have have 100 percent freedom.

We do enjoy freedom of communication, speech, publication, traveling and relocation, but we do not have the freedom to choose what we really want. Although we can cast our ballots to pick our national leader, legislators, and councilors, we cannot choose to write a Constitution of our own, decide the future of the nation through referendums or change the national title.

Are we considered free if we are denied this freedom to choose? What is freedom? Are we considered free if we are only half or two-thirds free? If a nation is not entitled to write a new Constitution and decide its future through referendums, is it still considered a sovereign and independent nation? If a so-called free and democratic country such as Taiwan does not even have the right to choose what it wants, then we must wonder: What kind of freedom and democracy do we really have and what kind of country is this?

Why is our country only half free? Who made our country this way? Is it because of China's saber-rattling? It certainly is. Is it because of the intervention of the US? It sure is. Currently, it is the US and China that have seriously impacted Taiwan's future. Since the 1990s, China has not changed its overall strategic goal of establishing its hegemony over East Asia. Neither has it ever concealed its ambition to annex Taiwan.

Although the US champions the causes of democracy, freedom and human rights, Washington has never given up its desire to direct Taiwan's future. Their logic is that the fate of Taiwan must be decided by the US and that Taiwan has to follow Washington, DC. In other words, the extent of freedom that the Taiwanese people are allowed to enjoy must be dictated by the US.

Obviously, the wishes of these two powerhouses will have ramifications for the well-being and fate of our country. This is a predicament we are facing and, as some believe, a reality of our situation in the international community that we have no choice but to accept.

Nonetheless, there's a key question to raise: Is toeing the US political line a course that is without danger? How long will the protective umbrella provided by the US be sustained? If our national interests clash with those of the US, will we have to obey Washington? Is it true that a small country like Taiwan does not have any options? What are our advantages?

We are all aware that for Washington, its attempt to protect Taiwan is driven not by the country's achievements in democratization and freedom but by the strategic values that Taiwan represents in the Asia-Pacific, by the interests it enjoys and the leading role it plays in the region. The US also has to face up to China's rise and the fact that China is competing against it for the status of a regional leader in the Asia Pacific.

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