Warnings of eroding democracy since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office become harder to ignore when people like former political prisoner Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) add their voice to the chorus. Over the past year, the political system has been undermined by a government that meddles in the judiciary, sidelines the legislature and ignores objections to pro-China policies.
For Ma, dealing with China is like looking into Nietzsche’s abyss — except China’s abyss looked back at Ma long and hard from the very start. No country can engage China without its democracy being tarnished by the experience, particularly if that engagement is political in nature.
Ma, who will become Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman at the end of next month, is turning into a diluted version of his Chinese Communist Party counterparts — brooking little dissent while amassing executive and legislative power.
It’s one thing for democracy to lose its luster at home; it’s another when Taiwan rubs elbows with regional bullies and reinforces their regimes.
The effects of Beijing’s “no questions asked” trade policy on countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe, where trade is detached from human rights and environmental considerations, are well noted. Another country where Chinese economic activity has bolstered despots — if less theatrically — is Myanmar.
Taiwan is following suit with an announcement by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) that it signed a memorandum of understanding last week with the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry to forge closer economic ties.
In its annual report, Amnesty International wrote that the human rights situation in Myanmar continues to deteriorate, with thousands of prisoners of conscience in jail and more than 100 people killed in a crackdown last year. As a result of these abuses and many others, sanctions have been imposed on the military junta from around the civilized world.
The UN Security Council has attempted to issue resolutions criticizing Myanmar, but each has been vetoed by China, whose growing trade relationship with the generals has not only resulted in serious deforestation in the north, but also acts as a lifeline when the junta weathers international opprobrium.
Back in 2003, when the Democratic Progressive Party was in power, Taiwanese businesspeople operating in Myanmar complained that Taipei wasn’t doing enough to foster better relations. Taipei did support trade with Myanmar, as it happens, but its reluctance to develop closer relations with the regime was in part a result of its atrocious human rights record. The junta’s behavior since then has only deteriorated.
Ironically, in 2007 Myanmar’s foreign ministry expressed opposition to Taiwanese efforts to join the UN, saying that it saw Taiwan as an “integral part of China.” Apparently, neither oppression nor insults have deterred the Ma government in its mission to increase trade there, with TAITRA making no secret of the fact that it sees the country as “an ideal place to open labor-intensive production lines because workers are paid only US$30 to US$50 a month on average.”
In completely ignoring human rights, TAITRA has pulled off a convincing impersonation of a Chinese government agency: an opportunistic body that shows utter disregard for the cost of its actions on ordinary people in other lands.
The “Republic of China” government, it seems, is hell-bent on returning to the bad old days of exporting misery to the citizens of pariah states.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday last week, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) wrote: “The KMT must fall for Taiwan to improve.’ Allow me to ask the question again: Is this really true?” It matters not how many times Hsu asks the question, my answer will always be the same: “Yes, the KMT must be toppled for Taiwan to improve.” In the lengthy Facebook post, titled “What were those born in the 1980s guilty of?” Hsu harked back to the idealistic aspirations of the 2014 Sunflower movement before heaping opprobrium on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP)
The scuffle between Chinese embassy staffers in Fiji and a Taiwanese diplomat at a Republic of China (ROC) Double Ten National Day celebration has turned into a public relations opportunity for the government, Beijing and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Although the incident occurred on Oct. 8, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) downplayed it, only for the story to be picked up by the foreign media, forcing the ministry to respond. The public and opposition parties asked why the government had failed to remonstrate more strongly in the first instance. It is still unclear whether the ministry missed a trick
US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, former US vice president Joe Biden, are holding their final debate tonight. In their foreign policy debate, China is sure to be a major issue of contention for the two candidates. Here are several questions the moderator should pose to the candidates: For both: In the first televised US presidential debates in 1960, then-Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy and his Republican counterpart, Richard Nixon, were asked whether the US should intervene if communist China attacked Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu. Kennedy said no, unless the main island of Taiwan was also attacked.
For most of us, the colorful, otherworldly marinescapes of coral reefs are as remote as the alien landscapes of the moon. We rarely, if ever, experience these underwater wonderlands for ourselves — we are, after all, air-breathing, terrestrial creatures mostly cocooned in cities. It is easy not to notice the perilous state they are in: We have lost 50 percent of coral reefs in the past 20 years and more than 90 percent are expected to die by 2050, a presentation at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego, California, earlier this year showed. As the oceans heat further and