In supporting his proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has often claimed that failure to liberalize cross-strait economic relations would result in Taiwan being marginalized like North Korea. Following suit, the Mainland Affairs Council has published half-page ads in local newspapers making the same point.
However, no matter how often it is repeated, this analogy is not only wrong, but it is also insulting to the 23 million Taiwanese — and their many supporters abroad — who fought to turn this nation from an authoritarian regime under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) into a democracy. It is also insulting to the 23 million North Koreans who are crushed under the heel of the Kim Jong-il apparatchik.
North Korea is isolated for many more reasons than its national policy of juche, or “self-reliance.” Far more importantly, its isolation is a direct result of its long list of Cold War-style policies, among them: Pyongyang’s starvation of its citizens, the thousands of ballistic missiles it aims at Seoul, belligerent behavior in the Korean Peninsula (including the seizure of the USS Pueblo in 1968), its kidnapping of Japanese nationals, its development of nuclear weapons and proliferation of internationally banned material.
Taiwan hasn’t been isolated by choice; rather, its isolation stems from Beijing’s efforts at undermining Taipei’s international space. Through education abroad and a vast global business network, Taiwanese have demonstrated without doubt that they do not seek a domestic version of North Korea’s failed juche policy.
Furthermore, it shed the characteristics of a “rogue state” alongside North Korea decades ago, when it abandoned its secret nuclear weapons program, stopped harassing Taiwanese dissidents in the US and ended the systematic terrorizing of its citizens — all activities that took place under the KMT.
No one in Taiwan wants the country to be compared to North Korea, not even those who oppose an ECFA.
Ironically, the very president who would prevent Taiwan from turning into another North Korea is heading an administration that is showing increasing signs of roguishness. Chief among them were the executions on Friday night, after a four-and-a-half year moratorium under “troublemaker” former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), of four inmates on death row. Granted, executions are matters of national policy and continue to have strong support among Taiwanese, but Friday night’s development went against international norms and brought the country back to the ranks of a shrinking list of countries that continue to use the death penalty — among them China, the US, Iran, Saudi Arabia and North Korea.
This is also an administration that has grown silent on human rights violations in China at a time when it is intensifying cross-strait exchanges and at all levels, from economic to cultural. Alleged Taiwanese spies are executed by China without so much as an official complaint from Taipei. Beijing cracks down on Tibetans and Uighurs in Xinjiang and again the Ma administration remains mum, ostensibly for the sake of better relations between the two countries. And for two consecutive years under Ma’s rule, press freedom in Taiwan has also declined, as shown in a recent report by Freedom House.
Deepening ties with an international pariah and choosing to remain silent, however self-servingly, when the economic giant crushes dissent and threatens ethnic minorities in its midst does not cast Taiwan in a good light. In fact, it gives the impression that the nation is siding with repression.
If only the Ma administration limited itself to false analogies, we wouldn’t have too much cause for concern. However, when this government’s actions threaten to turn Taiwan into a pariah state, then we should worry.
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)
Some people are saying the weather has been wonderful this year. That depends on how one defines wonderful weather. The Ministry of Economic Affairs last week announced that the alert level for Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli and Taichung areas are to be raised from green to yellow, and that water pressure is to be reduced at night. Few households with water tower storage facilities would have noticed any restrictions on their supply, but people concerned with the water situation have been aware for some time that the lack of typhoons this year, coupled with low rainfall, has meant that in the
Although China’s “reform and opening up” has become an empty slogan, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) still put on a show by touring southern China to mark the 40th anniversary of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone’s establishment. His motive was not to regain the international community’s trust, but to shore up his power in China. Externally, it was a response to diplomatic setbacks, and it even revealed his adventurist attitude of not being afraid to go to war. When former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) in 1992 conducted similar inspections, it was to suppress the “leftist wind” that was interfering with his
An increasing number of cafes and other businesses in Taiwan are keeping animals, which draw in people who are seeking the next perfect shot for their Instagram accounts. In the past these were mostly standard house pets, such as cats and dogs, which are accustomed to living indoors and being around people. However, raccoons have become popular, as well as alpacas and other “unusual” animals that require specialty care and specific environments to thrive. In late June, a customer recorded a video of the owner of a coffee shop in Taipei apparently unleashing a border collie on a raccoon, who was the star