Sun, Nov 30, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan must develop self-reliance

By Jerome Keating

In any youthful and developing democracy, elections — even local ones — raise the formative issues of identity and national direction.

Taiwan’s nine-in-one elections have certainly proved to be no exception. In these elections, one party in particular, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), has gone out of its way to resurrect questionable “race cards” and “loyalty cards,” as it tried to force its version of the nation’s history and identity on the public along with its candidates. Accusations such as “traitor” and “bastard” — as well as the implication that only KMT candidates would be able to work together on intercity issues — have brought these elections to an all-time low.

However, in this process, these same conflicts have served to resurrect a different, but related, issue of which Taiwanese must be aware: the importance and need of self-reliance for any developing nation. If a nation is going to grow, it must learn to foster its own healthy concept of self-reliance.

A writer who strongly promoted this quality of respect and care for oneself was US essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. In his well-known essay Self-Reliance, he repeatedly emphasized this need to be true to oneself with statements like: “I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you or you.”

Emerson spoke of course to the individual, but what he said for individuals can also be read as applicable to nations. In this regard, another quote, not in Self-Reliance, but often attributed to Emerson, expresses the challenge that Taiwan faces as a nation: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Taiwan must seek this greatness, for it certainly has no lack of those trying to make it something else.

First, Taiwanese must constantly remind themselves that theirs is not a small nation. It is a mid-sized nation and one well capable of being itself. Taiwan is larger in population than about 75 percent of the countries in the UN and more accomplished than 85 percent of those same nations. Therefore Taiwan should never shrink from the theme of self-reliance. Instead, what it needs to do is challenge those who are trying to make it something else.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the largest offender here. Operating from an autocratic control, Beijing is adamantly opposed to Taiwan’s self-reliance. Chinese government officials not only constantly repeat the tired cliche that Taiwan has always been a part of China, but they also use the threat of missiles to back up their coveting Taiwan.

They alternate that rhetoric with trade “carrots” and promises of a so-called “one country, two systems” policy that are all designed to make Taiwan something that it is not.

The US, one of Taiwan’s long-term allies, has ironically proved to be not much better in helping Taiwan to be itself and has added to the confusion. While supposedly promoting democracy, the US has not done much to strengthen Taiwan’s democracy, especially if Taiwan wishes to express itself in ways that do not serve US self-interests.

It is now almost 70 years since the end of World War II and the official US position on Taiwan remains “undetermined.” Seven decades. That makes up two to three generations of people in the US Department of State, and yet this ally cannot seem to make up its mind on Taiwan’s democracy.

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