The recent dismissal of former Chongqing Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary Bo Xilai (薄熙來) has rocked the established order of the CCP.
Coming just before a scheduled political transition in the country’s leadership later this year, it inserts an element of uncertainty that few had foreseen.
When news of high-level misconduct and alleged involvement of Bo’s wife in the murder of a British citizen surfaced, the top leadership acted quickly, removing Bo from his posts and ordering the arrest of his wife, Gu Kailai (谷開來), on suspicion of complicity in murder.
There are those who might be tempted to think the Chinese authorities took the right steps and have the situation under control. However, to a more critical mind, and to many Chinese, this episode is yet another example of the high-level corruption that appears to be endemic in China.
As Joseph Fewsmith of Boston University said recently in an interview with the New York Times: “I think that this could have a deep and delegitimizing impact on China, not now, but in the long run.”
This problem also has an impact on cross-strait relations: The Taiwanese government is currently developing closer ties with a government that is increasingly losing credibility with its own people. In other words, there comes a time when such ties will eventually start to work to Taiwan’s detriment.
In its engagement with Beijing, the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) needs to establish much better firewalls and improved hedging, so the nation is less adversely affected when things go wrong in China. This is not easy, given the interwoven economies and the multi-layered interaction between the two countries.
However, there are a number of steps that can be taken to shield Taiwan from the negative effect of a downturn or political turmoil in China.
One measure would be to significantly diversify the nation’s economy away from China and establish closer connections with other economies, both in the region and globally. By putting its eggs in different baskets Taipei would thereby minimize exposure to any downturn in China.
A second measure would be to apply democratic principles and demonstrate transparency in legislative matters and judicial proceedings.
Too often over the past few years, judicial and legislative processes have been reminiscent of the authoritarian past. If the nation wants to distinguish itself as a vibrant democracy it needs to introduce reforms that would transform the legislature and judiciary into shining examples of democracy. The present system still leaves much to be desired.
A third measure would be to maintain high standards on human rights within the country and also to take a critical stance on human rights violations in China. For example, it would mean speaking out on the imprisonment of lawyer Ni Yulan (倪玉蘭), like US Ambassador to China Gary Locke did a few days ago.
It would also mean criticizing Chinese repression in Tibet and “East Turkestan.”
Only if Taiwan makes it clear where it stands on such issues will it gain the respect of Chinese and be considered an example for China.
The Bo case is yet another indicator that the present system of government in China is unsustainable over the long-term. Major changes are bound to happen sooner rather than later and those will be accompanied by instability.
Taiwan would do well to keep a healthy distance, so that its democratic achievements and the material well-being of Taiwanese are safeguarded.
Nat Bellocchi was chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan from 1990 to 1995.
For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China’s “century of humiliation” is the gift that keeps on giving. Beijing returns again and again to the theme of Western imperialism, oppression and exploitation to keep stoking the embers of grievance and resentment against the West, and especially the US. However, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that in 1949 announced it had “stood up” soon made clear what that would mean for Chinese and the world — and it was not an agenda that would engender pride among ordinary Chinese, or peace of mind in the international community. At home, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) launched
The restructuring of supply chains, particularly in the semiconductor industry, was an essential part of discussions last week between Taiwan and a US delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach. It took precedent over the highly anticipated subject of bilateral trade partnerships, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) founder Morris Chang’s (張忠謀) appearance on Friday at a dinner hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for Krach was a subtle indicator of this. Chang was in photographs posted by Tsai on Facebook after the dinner, but no details about their discussions were disclosed. With
To say that this year has been eventful for China and the rest of the world would be something of an understatement. First, the US-China trade dispute, already simmering for two years, reached a boiling point as Washington tightened the noose around China’s economy. Second, China unleashed the COVID-19 pandemic on the world, wreaking havoc on an unimaginable scale and turning the People’s Republic of China into a common target of international scorn. Faced with a mounting crisis at home, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) rashly decided to ratchet up military tensions with neighboring countries in a misguided attempt to divert the
Toward the end of former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) final term in office, there was much talk about his legacy. Ma himself would likely prefer history books to enshrine his achievements in reducing cross-strait tensions. He might see his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore in 2015 as the high point. However, given his statements in the past few months, he might be remembered more for contributing to the breakup of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). We are still talking about Ma and his legacy because it is inextricably tied to the so-called “1992 consensus” as the bedrock of his