Following weeks of demonstrations in Egypt that ultimately forced former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to step down on Friday, some commentators have suggested that events in North Africa could serve as a catalyst for discontent with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
There are, however, a number of reasons why this analogy is wrongheaded and Taiwanese not only cannot — but should not — go down that road.
For one, the situations in Egypt and Taiwan are very different. Taiwan does not have a radicalized and easily mobilized political opposition such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has a long tradition of opposing despotic rule.
The closest Taiwan ever came to having a “radical” underground was in the 1970s, and even then its tactics were largely pacifistic, unlike the violence used by extremist wings of the Brotherhood, one of whose most prominent former members is al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Even at its worst, the repression imposed on Taiwanese during the Martial Law era pales in comparison to that Egyptians have faced for decades. This is not to delve into moral relativism, but merely to shed light on different histories that, in one case, gave rise to radicalism, while in the other led to peaceful opposition. This is also why Taiwan today is a mostly successful democracy, while Egypt remains an unstable society.
Demographics also play a large role. Egypt, with a population of 80.4 million, has about 49.5 million people between the ages of 15 and 64, compared with 16.5 million in Taiwan. Furthermore, more than 10 percent of Taiwan’s population is above 65, while in Egypt it is slightly above 4 percent.
Footage from protests in the two countries highlights the contrasts. In Taiwan, participants are predominantly gray-haired, while in Egypt, they consist mostly of angry youth (unemployment in Taiwan is considered high at 5.2 percent; in Egypt, it is about 10 percent).
The broader geopolitical context is also markedly different. Egypt does not face the threat of military invasion by an external actor should the “wrong” kind of leadership take power. That is not to say Washington or other regional powers would sit back and allow an extreme faction of the Brotherhood to take control of policy in Cairo, but the likelihood of a missile barrage on Egypt or outright invasion by a more powerful state is highly unlikely. Egypt’s territorial integrity and identity are not in question and it does not face an irredentist threat.
There is no doubt, however, that Beijing would react should a similar uprising occur in Taiwan. Widespread instability and chaos so close to home would inevitably prompt a response, lest such developments serve as an inspiration to China’s angry millions. That Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory would also serve as justification for a decision to intervene and thereby ensure stability on its periphery.
Not only are most Taiwanese largely uninterested in the events that have transpired in North Africa, they do not see a connection between what happened there and their own lives.
As such, Taiwanese remain disinclined to seek the overthrow of the Ma administration. In fact, such an undemocratic course of action would bring nothing but ignominy for Taiwan and undermine what earlier generations sacrificed so much to build.
In many ways, the legitimacy of Taiwan as a de facto independent country is largely predicated on its democratic ideals. If those principles were to be abandoned, the global community would likely have little compunction in allowing China to intervene.
Democracy, warts and all, remains one of Taiwan’s strongest assets — one that must be protected at all costs.
Ideas matter. They especially matter in world affairs. And in communist countries, it is communist ideas, not supreme leaders’ personality traits, that matter most. That is the reality in the People’s Republic of China. All Chinese communist leaders — from Mao Zedong (毛澤東) through Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), from Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) through to Xi Jinping (習近平) — have always held two key ideas to be sacred and self-evident: first, that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is infallible, and second, that the Marxist-Leninist socialist system of governance is superior to every alternative. The ideological consistency by all CCP leaders,
The US on Friday hosted the second Global COVID-19 Summit, with at least 98 countries, including Taiwan, and regional alliances such as the G7, the G20, the African Union and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) attending. Washington is also leading a proposal to revise one of the most important documents in global health security — the International Health Regulations (IHR) — which are to be discussed during the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA) that starts on Sunday. These two actions highlight the US’ strategic move to dominate the global health agenda and return to the core of governance, with the WHA
Just as the cause of the Kursk submarine disaster remains shrouded in mystery — the nuclear-powered Russian submarine suffered an explosion during a naval exercise on Aug. 12, 2000, and sank, killing all 118 crew onboard — it is unlikely that we will ever get to the bottom of the sequence of events last month that led to the sinking of the Moskva guided missile cruiser, the flagship of the Russian navy’s Black Sea fleet. Ukraine claims it struck the vessel with two missiles, while Russia says ammunition onboard the ship exploded and the ship tipped over while being towed
The war in Ukraine continues, and lines are slowly being drawn in the sand. Nations have begun imposing sanctions; few can ignore the reality of Russia’s aggression and atrocities, especially as it edges to the possibility of making a full declaration of war. For Taiwan, this resurrects a different reality, the tangled web of its own complex past and how as a colony of Japan, it became involved with Russia, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Some role reversals are immediately evident. Taiwan is now an independent nation and the CCP rules China. The CCP indirectly