Taiwan possesses one major asset and is challenged by one major threat.
Taiwan’s major asset is its democracy. In Asia, only four countries have stable, consolidated democracies. The democracies of India and Japan date back to just after World War II, while the democratizations of South Korea and Taiwan began in the late 1980s. No other Asian nation has consolidated its democracy, though such countries as Indonesia, Philippines and Mongolia have taken important first steps.
Taiwan’s democratization has given it important new support in the democratic world. During the authoritarian regimes of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), conservatives in places like the US supported Taiwan because it was anti-communist.
Now, because it is a democracy, support for Taiwan is much more widespread and encompasses several political parties in many nations. Thus, in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and various European nations, many parliamentarians on both sides of the political aisle support Taiwan as a democracy and, despite their official “one China” policies, the governments of these countries show considerable sympathy for Taiwan and its international difficulties.
Taiwan also faces one major threat: China, which claims Taiwan as its territory. This claim has no historical basis. No permanent Han Chinese communities existed in Taiwan until after the Dutch colonial regime imported Chinese laborers after 1624. In 1936, in his famous interview with Edgar Snow published in Red Star Over China (which was carefully vetted before publication by both the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] and the American Communist Party), former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) stated that Taiwan should be independent.
What is the nature of this force that endangers Taiwan’s security? If we look for contemporary and historical parallels to the current Chinese regime, the closest analogies are the German Nazi and Japanese Fascist regimes of the 1930s and 1940s, with which the current Chinese regime shares at least six characteristics:
First, all three regimes became intensely nationalistic. China’s leaders use nationalism because they believe it gives them domestic legitimacy.
Second, all three regimes were or are strong dictatorships. Even non-violent protest leads to imprisonment. The brave Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) is only one well-known case among many, many thousands of cases in China where people have been imprisoned for non-violent “political crimes.”
Third, racism is or was at the heart of all three regimes. China today makes frequent appeals to Taiwanese — and people of ethnic Chinese descent internationally — as having “the same flesh and blood,” and “shared blood vessels.” So-called “ethnic minorities” like Tibetans and Uighurs face constant and systemic political, economic and social discrimination in China.
Fourth, all three regimes established vast prison camps to house political prisoners and others who the state has deemed to be threatening. Some might argue that China does not have “death camps,” but the Nazis only created their death camps in 1942, quite late in their regime.
Fifth, like the Nazis and the Japanese militarist regimes, the Chinese today have become territorially expansionist and perceive “appeasement” as weakness on the part of their opponents. In response to appeasement, all three regimes push or pushed their claims with even more firmness and inflexibility.