Despite the occasional suggestion by a handful of US academics that Washington should “abandon” Taiwan to its “inevitable” fate of unification with China, a good number of experts and officials maintain that the nation of 23 million cannot simply be willed out of existence and must therefore be dealt with.
Welcome though this defense of Taiwan may be, a surprisingly large number of such proponents, often in the same breath, add that democratic Taiwan is useful because it serves as an example for China, encouraging the incremental democratization and liberalization of the authoritarian giant next door.
Using terminology like “the first Chinese democracy,” such individuals fail to recognize that Taiwan is a distinct entity unto itself, or that the existence of its 23 million people is more than a means to an end.
Although qualitatively better than the argument that Taiwan should be forsaken by its allies and protectors for the sake of better relations with Beijing, the case that the nation is “useful” because it can foster change in China fails on moral grounds.
By not attesting to its intrinsic value, such proponents are committing the same mistake as those who would like to see the “Taiwan problem” disappear forever: It turns 23 million human beings into mere abstractions or pieces to be moved around on a chessboard toward some ultimate goal.
To a certain extent, it is undeniable that Taiwan serves as an example to China, and one can only hope that the millions of Chinese who now find it possible to make the journey across the Taiwan Strait take back home with them an inkling of how to improve their own lives.
However, the very same memes of justice, freedom and democracy are not unique to Taiwan, and Chinese have for decades traveled to countries where the same fundamental principles apply. Taiwan is special not because it has disproved the largely flawed theory that Confucianism is incompatible with democracy, but rather because it became one of the first small nations to democratize after decades of authoritarian rule.
Emerging as it did from under the heavy hand of authoritarianism about the same time as South Korea, why is it that only Taiwan is touted as an example for China, if not for the acknowledgement, inadvertently perhaps, that it is part of China? One would be hard pressed to tout Taiwan as some special model for China and yet maintain that one supports the view that Taiwan’s people have a right to choose their own destiny.
Those two contentions are incompatible and will remain so until it is recognized that Taiwan is not a means to an end, but an end in itself.
The world is rife with examples of liberal democracies for countries like China and North Korea to follow. There is nothing special about Taiwan, mis a part a shared language and culture, that would make China more willing to embrace and experiment with democracy. In fact, the assumption that Chinese will somehow be more amenable to democracy because it is found in Taiwan is downright insulting to the Chinese, as if they needed a shared language, or ethnicity, to understand it.
After decades of contact, albeit limited, with democracies the world over, the Chinese Communist Party remains a politically rigid, repressive entity. That interactions with Taiwan would unlock a box that has remained shut for so long where similar interactions have failed to do so is pure speculation, if not outright fantasy.
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