In the bigger picture, Taiwan and China are moving in the right direction. The old enemies have been talking to each other for the past four years and are creating peace in Asia.
Journalists, academics and politicians around the world are recognizing this. For decades, they have been witness to tensions between the two sides and consider current policies to be the right remedy for peace.
Several groundbreaking trade agreements have been signed, Chinese tourists are visiting Taiwan and cross-strait flights are a great success. Some observers’ say the situation could not be better. These observers see a need to oppose any arguments that could shake their version of the reality of cross-strait relations. If they challenge this reality, they will find that Taiwan’s democracy is in reverse gear.
Taiwan has fallen in the international democracy rankings and seen a large number of legal cases brought against opposition figures and the press has suffered a defeat as pro-China businessmen attempt to monopolize it. The nation’s international status has also been undermined. Its observer status in the WHO is subject to annual Chinese approval, the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement has not been submitted to the WTO and Taiwan has not obtained an international arbitration pact.
Since, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and certain observers think the state of China-Taiwan ties could not be better, they tend to consider the oppositions’ policies with skepticism. They demand new and modern policies that will not undermine the China-friendly approach.
However, are the KMT’s policies new and modern? It is hardly innovative to damage the nation’s democracy and undermine its international status. The party’s policies are not only out of date; they also counter the wishes of Taiwanese who want democracy and a strong sovereign status. So who is setting new standards for politics in the nation and can lead it toward a new “normal?”
The short answer is the youth. The long answer includes opposition parties, which continues to formulate modern policies. Yet it is the youth that are particularly interesting. A youth-led anti-media monopoly movement has organized campaigns about freedom and democracy. The Youth Alliance Against Media Monster has organized protests together with other groups such as the Association of Taiwan Journalists to fight media monopolization.
The University of Tasmania’s Mark Harrison writes on thechinastory.org about how the demonstrations have combined peaceful protests with local and international social media campaigns.
The activists have tried to embrace all Taiwanese and thus attempted to avoid a political labeled. This strategy may have the potential to include other social topics without being accused of being either in the pan-blue or pan-green camp.
As I and many others have pointed out, Taiwan needs a new political environment with a culture of debate and compromise. The youth can lead the way to devising a new standard for political activism and this could lead the nation to a new “normal.” A normal in which protests and debates are carried out with a clear vision in mind and in which all Taiwanese can band together without being labeled. Such a new normal is strongly needed in because the current problems facing the nation run deep among pan-blue and pan-green voters. Ultimately, one still needs to take a political stand in order to effect true change.
Those who believe that the cross-strait situation could not be better must answer why Taiwan should be measured using a different scale than what is used in Europe or in the US. Why do only EU and US citizens have the right to protect their country and liberty?
Michael Danielsen is chairman of Taiwan Corner, a Denmark based organization.