European Parliament Vice President Edward McMillan-Scott yesterday expressed the hope that the EU model could apply in the Chinese world.
“Because I have lived in peace and freedom since August 1949 and I hope the future will be as peaceful and as free in Europe and the rest of the world, and most particularly for the Chinese peoples,” he said.
Until that desirable situation arises, however, he said that he could see no reason at all for a democratic Taiwan to change its relations with a dictatorial China.
“China has a lot to learn from Taiwan,” he said.
McMillan-Scott made the remarks during an international forum held in Taipei yesterday afternoon. The event, titled “World Summit Forum for A Closer Look Into China,” was organized by the Chung Hua Institution for Economic Research and National Taiwan University’s College of Social Science.
McMillan-Scott, who first visited China in March 1996, said that nothing has changed there since then, in political or social terms.
“A very few people in China are now richer than they were 10 years ago, but most of them are members of the Chinese Communist Party,” he said. “The vast majority of the population still lives in abject conditions.”
The question today, he said, is how the West exerts its influence on China. McMillan-Scott cited the US Defense Department report published on Tuesday to illustrate that China’s military buildup has posed a significant threat to Taiwan.
“China has no real friends, and when I say China, I mean the regime,” he said. “I don’t want to be a friend of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP], but I do want to be a friend of the Chinese people.”
Describing China as “brutal, arbitrary and paranoid,” he said that there are three factors to play in the possibility of China’s reform.
First, he said, is the widespread recognition in China that the government is a corrupt, brutal and repressive force.
Second is the great penetration of the Internet and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the preparation China has to make for this event, he said.
Although the EU model sounds like a good idea, Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Chairman You Ying-lung said that there are basic principles that would need to be adhered to.
“It can only be a choice for the 23 million people of Taiwan if China is willing to democratize, recognize Taiwan as in independent, sovereign state and respect Taiwan in a peaceful manner,” he said.
As Taiwan is already a developed country, You said he was confident that time is on Taiwan’s side as long as it has patience and wisdom.
You said it was just a matter of time before China’s one-party authoritarian regime would collapse. However, he said, he did not expect the CCP to initiate democratic reform. Therefore, China’s social environment would have to be ripe enough to help push for such reform.
Daniel Chen, vice president of the Chung Hua Institution for Economic Research, argued that China’s economic development is bound to usher in a political transformation.
“It took the UK about 100 years, Taiwan 50 years and it may take China 25,” he said.
Chen said the government might not be able to prevent Taiwanese businesses from investing in China, but it must not lose control of any opportunity that is favorable to the nation.
Ming Chu-cheng, a political science professor at the National Taiwan University, said that China’s economic boom would not necessarily guarantee a prosperous future because there are non-economic factors involved, including social unrest, the growing gap between rich and poor, official corruption and environmental pollution.