Tue, Apr 02, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan a ‘city on a hill’ for Asia

By David Pendery 潘大為

I have written about Taiwan in opinion pieces in the Taipei Times, and usually enunciated political/social arguments about Taiwanese independence, the two main political parties, identity in Taiwan, threats to Taiwan from abroad, the nation in world affairs, Taiwan’s history, its military, etc. In this piece I would like to step back a bit and compose a more reflective piece (though politics in Taiwan is never far behind). In some senses, this is an “identity” piece, and also a work about Taiwan’s role, character and attributes in world affairs.

Here I am viewing Taiwan from a high level, and from this perspective I am bestowing on Taiwan what I think is a meaningful characterization, which authentically captures the nation’s essence. This is that I see this land, in John Winthrop’s words, as a “city on a hill” in Asia, a beacon of freedom and democracy that speaks to its neighbors and all other nations around the world that “we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.”

Here and below I will take from Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity” speech to the New England Puritan immigrants he traveled with across the Atlantic in 1630.

The word “city” originates from the Latin for “citizen,” and certainly such a designation is important in Taiwan, with its autonomous and sovereign citizens, ensconced in a free republic. In turn, the picture of the city being “on a hill” denotes a viewpoint and frame of reference (that of Taiwan’s citizens, their attitudes and opinions, their suffrage, their franchise), a prospect and panorama of the autonomous nation.

I warrant that Taiwan can now be viewed as this city on a hill in Asia, and indeed, “the eyes of all people are upon” Taiwan.

I should probably say here, the eyes are not least China’s, which sees Taiwan as this beacon, this light shining in a sometimes benighted part of the world, inspiring people and nations everywhere with its somewhat modest (democracy, plain and simple), but oh so multifaceted polity. Here, in a word, we find that “every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knit more nearly together.”

Taiwan has exhibited such binding and attachment to people and countries all over the world, most apparently and creditably in its aid, funding and cooperative work in areas of agriculture; medicine and public health; education; transportation, logistics and construction; “people to people” communications; women’s rights; environmental protection; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; and technical development. In some respects Taiwan has even treated China this way, such as with the aid to the victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which benefited many people. Additionally, the Taiwan Fellowship provides for research into this area of the world, connection with opinion leaders worldwide, academic relations and internationalization of education, and cultural and public diplomacy. All of these efforts in part focus on China, and its relationship with Taiwan.

In another important way, Taiwan’s multidimensionality is seen in the many people and cultures that live or are educated here. To be sure, foreigners from everywhere are choosing to make Taiwan their home (this writer is a prime example of this), and the multiculturalism that Taiwan evinces, the variety of languages and cultures that are enthusiastically advocated and embraced, are a joy to everyone who makes their domicile here.

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