Tue, Nov 21, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan as the Gibraltar of Asia

By Jerome Keating

By location and by strength of purpose, Taiwan fills a similar role for free trade in Asia. Taiwan sits at the crossroads of the East and South China seas. Not only is Taiwan the entry portal and gate of passage for all ships and trade passing between these two seas, but also to the Pacific Ocean.

Taiwan has its own vested interest here as well. It is a nation that depends on trade, and it controls the Pratas (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) and Spratly (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) islands in the South China Sea. Freedom of navigation is important to this nation, while at the same time it has no reason to impinge on the freedom of other nations.

It is no wonder that Taiwan is a coveted geography for any nation that has hegemonic goals in Asia. Nonetheless, protecting the interests of all nations as well as its own is a role Taiwan can fill.

Taiwan knows the dangers of a one-party state; its democracy has been hard-won for anyone who knows its half-century history since World War II and how Taiwan threw off the yoke of the one-party state of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

This democracy and self-rule is what the UN Charter is all about. This is also one of those unspoken secrets that other nations in the region need to face and admit; they have a stake in Taiwan’s democracy.

Instead of being a flash point, a free and democratic Taiwan should be seen as a stabilizing factor in the region. Other nations in the region need to see Taiwan as more than a resource for trade, but also a key player in maintaining balance and stability.

These are the things that should inspire Taiwan’s citizens: They can see their nation as a Switzerland; it has no hegemonic territorial wishes for the region; and more importantly, it plays a vital stabilizing role.

There is no doubt that the citizens of Taiwan can take pride in this newfound role and image. However, the time has come for other nations to step up and openly acknowledge that a free, democratic Taiwan is of long-term value to the region. It is their rock of security; it is their Gibraltar.

Jerome Keating is a writer based in Taipei.

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