During this year’s hot summer, a document was published that perhaps did not receive sufficient attention in Taiwan, where people were preoccupied with a number of domestic issues.
The publication of “Document No. 9” in Beijing was revealed in a New York Times article on Aug. 19 headlined “China takes aim at Western ideas,” by Chris Buckley.
Buckley describes how under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) Beijing is working hard to eradicate the “seven perils” that endanger the grip of the Chinese Communist Party on society. This campaign against “Western ideas” is actually an extension of Xi’s “Chinese dream.”
Glancing through the list of perils in the document, these perils seem to represent the core values of democracy, freedom and human rights as they are known in the US and Europe. They also represent the values that Taiwanese fought so hard to achieve in their transition to democracy in the 1980s and 1990s.
First on the list is “Western constitutional democracy.” Then follows the promotion of “universal values” of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civil society, pro-market “neo-
liberalism” and a few others.
So, it seems Xi’s government is determined to totally eradicate these values This runs contrary to the expectations of many that Xi would be a reformer: He seems to be moving China further away from democracy.
What does this mean for Taiwan and its cross-strait policies? What would this mean for Taiwan’s democracy, freedom and human rights if it moved closer to China? It is clear that closer relations with China means Taiwan will lose much of its freedom.
If Taiwan wants to preserve its “status quo” as a free, prosperous and democratic nation, it should keep a safe political, economic and social distance from this China. Yes, Taiwan can and should have contact, communication and consultations with Beijing, but this could be done from a position of strength.
In addition, these contacts should take place with a clear understanding of the direction in which China is heading. If the country is moving in the direction of a freer society, it would be good to stimulate cross-strait communication, but “Document No. 9” makes the ultimate goals of China’s rulers clear. Under these circumstances, Taiwan’s people and government should exercise caution in dealing with Beijing.
Against the backdrop of “Document No. 9,” should Taiwan move toward the service trade agreement with China? Would it be wise to make the Taiwanese economy more dependent on China’s? Should Taipei accept “favors” from Beijing in the international arena, such as its observer status at the WHO or “guest” status at the International Civil Aviation Organization? These favors only cement Taiwan’s token involvement in these organizations at the grace of Beijing under odd titles including “Taiwan, Province of China” or “Chinese Taipei.”
Taiwanese have worked hard for their freedom and democracy. To preserve these achievements, the nation needs to align itself more closely with the democratic neighbors who live by, and respect, the basic values which all free people cherish.
By the same token, if a neighbor does not respect those values, and instead continuously strives to undermine another nation’s sovereignty and dignity, then its people are well-advised to beware.
Nat Bellocchi is a former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan and a special adviser to the Liberty Times Group. The views expressed in this article are his own.