Sat, Apr 15, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan can find strength in itself

By Jerome Keating

The supposed big meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has come and gone, and as far as Taiwan was concerned, it proved to be much ado about nothing.

To be sure, the leaders of both those nations had a chance to meet and form impressions of each other. Some groundwork may have been laid for future dealings — but given all the hoopla and verbiage that went beforehand, it was a bust.

In the weeks preceding the meeting, Taiwanese listened to a myriad of pundits trotting out a full range of theories, each shooting in the dark and hoping something might hit the mark.

On one side there were the boo-birds, worry warts and fearmongers; they repeatedly cried wolf about how an erratic Trump could easily sell Taiwan out or use it as a bargaining chip to “make a profitable deal for the US.”

They were correct in their analysis of how Trump often just “wings it” and is therefore dangerous, but they seemed to be almost wishing for something disastrous to prove their point.

On the other side there were the naive, rah-rah wishful thinkers, who blissfully hoped that the allegedly hard-dealing Trump would surely stick it to the Chinese. He would defend Taiwan, show Xi who was boss and make the world right and so on and so on.

At the end of the day, none of the above happened. The meeting proved to be low-key and the more rational, but less dramatic commentators were closer to the mark. They predicted it would be a simple, initial meeting where each side would start to feel the other out and not too much other than introductions could be expected.

However, on a different plane, while no tempest erupted, there were still lessons to be gleaned.

Once again, Taiwanese got schooling on the perspective that they should have kept from their past experience, namely: Do not look for salvation from the outside; find it in yourselves where it has always been.

Once again they were forced to go back and rediscover their inner confidence. In brief, the message was, whatever storms may threaten and whatever pundits predict, Taiwan’s destiny remains in its own hands.

Taiwan knows China’s threats, but as regards the unpredictable Trump administration, it is an unreliable mixed bag.

Understaffed, inexperienced and prone to opportunism, the Trump team continues to vacillate with little clear formulated policy. The best that can be hoped for is that things will not be messed up too badly.

However, what is more important for Taiwan is the realization that it has been through far tougher times. Its attitude needs to be: Learn what you can and cannot control and then let the devil take the hindmost.

Taiwan’s democracy and nationhood have never been a gift from others.

The 19th-century US transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way in his essay Self-Reliance: “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men — that is genius.”

The genius for Taiwanese has repeatedly been to have the courage and ability to frankly assess their situation and realize that salvation must always come from their inner commitment.

Let the pundits churn out their hopes and fears, Taiwanese have the knowledge of their strengths.

What are those strengths? Taiwan is a mid-sized nation with a good location and progressive history, and entrepreneurial people who can maintain a robust economy and a vibrant democracy.

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