Fri, Dec 07, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Beijing touts democracy in Taiwan

By Joseph Bosco

Professing its solicitude for the wishes of Taiwan’s voters, the Chinese Communist Party could hardly restrain its joy at the results of the Nov. 24 elections. Its nemesis, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) fared badly, casting a pall on their prospects for the 2020 election.

Two other outcomes give Beijing even more reason to celebrate. Each presents it with opportunities and, arguably, obligations going forward.

First was the failure of the referendum to change the name of Taiwan’s Olympic team from “Chinese Taipei” to “Taiwan.”

China strongly opposed the change and relishes the ongoing humiliation the current name imposes on Taiwan and its athletes by having them introduced not as a country, but as a mere subsidiary city of Greater China.

Several Chinese officials have ventured their expert electoral analysis on why the referendum lost and on the election results generally.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) put it in as understated a manner as he could: “We have noticed the results of the election.”

He went on to say that the referendum failed because its supporters “put the interests of Taiwan’s athletes at stake ... against the people’s will; the attempts at Taiwan independence are doomed to fail.”

While Chinese officials’ concern for the wishes of Taiwan’s voters is heartwarming, why stop there? Beijing has the opportunity — and, for the sake of fairness and logical consistency (two values Chinese communists cherish) the obligation — to drive the point home by wiping the offensive name “Taiwan” from its lexicon.

China should honor the voters’ choice by using the new name in all official communications as they expunge the offensive name of Taiwan. Ma could start with the title of his own organization, which should rightfully be called the Taipei City Affairs Office of the State Council.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) will want to show bold leadership by starting the transition right at the top and inaugurating the new Taipei City Office of the Central Committee of China. He will take every opportunity to remind the world that “the Taipei City question cannot be put off for another generation.”

The Shanghai Communique and all subsequent statements will surely emphasize that Beijing can never accept “two Chinas, or one China and one Taipei City,” nor will China tolerate international shipping using the Taipei City Strait without permission. All this should assure the Taipei City-ese that their votes are being honored by Beijing.

Speaking of respecting voters’ will, that brings us to the second, and even more important, development from the elections: China’s growing appreciation for the democratic process.

Taiwan policy experts are debating how much of a factor Beijing’s influence operations played. Some say the effect was marginal at best, while others argue it might have been pivotal in some areas, especially on the Olympic name change question.

However, even if China’s vigorous intervention or interference did not change a single vote, Beijing now seems all-in on democratic participation.

Considering that it only started dabbling in electoral politics over the past decade or so, it launched a relatively sophisticated information campaign to sway voters away from the referendum and DPP candidates.

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