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.
“Testy,” “divisive,” “frigid,” “an exchange of insults” were some of the media descriptions of last month’s meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and their Chinese counterparts. Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass said that, rather than the “deft handling” needed in US-China relations, this encounter was “mishandled, a terrible start [with] way too much public signaling.” Yet, contrary to conventional wisdom, the acrimonious encounter with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) and Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) was a great success for US diplomacy
In studies of Taiwan’s demographic changes, the Institute of Sociology at Academia Sinica has found that a mere 36.5 percent of men and 19.6 percent of women think getting married is an important life event. The institute also found that the government spending money or amending laws and regulations in order to encourage families to have children is having no impact on the birthrate. Opinions differ on whether this kind of change is a matter of national security, as Japan faces a similar situation, without having a negative impact on its economic strength. Fewer women are willing to marry and the divorce
Early last month, China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), officially approved the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan. The strategy was supposed to demonstrate that China has a long-term economic vision that would enable it to thrive, despite its geopolitical contest with the US. However, before the ink on the NPC’s stamp could dry, China had already begun sabotaging the plan’s chances of success. The new plan’s centerpiece is the “dual-circulation” strategy, according to which China would aim to foster growth based on domestic demand and technological self-sufficiency. This would not only reduce China’s reliance on external demand; it would also
Interrupting the assimilation of Xinjiang’s Uighur population would result in an unmanageable national security threat to China. Numerous governments and civil society organizations around the world have accused China of massive human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and labeled Beijing’s inhumane and aggressive social re-engineering efforts in the region as “cultural genocide.” Extensive evidence shows that China’s forceful ethnic assimilation policies in Xinjiang are aimed at replacing Uighur ethnic and religious identity with a so-called scientific communist dogma and Han Chinese culture. The total assimilation of Uighurs into the larger “Chinese family” is also Beijing’s official, central purpose of its ethnic policies