Sat, Apr 14, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Experts present research on East Asian democracy

CONFAB Great interest from the international community led to a forum on the region's economic and democratic progress held in Taipei yesterday

STAFF WRITER

Academics and experts in East Asian studies and cross-strait affairs yesterday presented research results findings at an international academic symposium in Taipei.

The symposium, which was hosted by National Chengchi University's College of Social Sciences, focused on the theme of Taiwan and East Asian countries' economic development and democratic transformation.

College dean Kao Yuang-kuang (高永光) told the forum that the issues of economic and democratic development in East Asia have drawn much attention from the international community, which was why the college organized the symposium.

Motoshige Itoh, a professor at the Graduate School of Economics at the University of Tokyo, said that political factors often obstructed regional economic cooperation.

"One of these blocking factors is obviously the chilly political relations between Japan and [South] Korea as well as China caused by visits to the Yasukuni shrine," he said. "The lack of summit meetings among the three countries has made it difficult to initiate serious talks that would facilitate any kind of economic cooperation in this region."

Itoh said that the situation had improved since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power, as he has adopted a different approach in dealing with tensions in the region.

Abe's Cabinet has launched special task forces aimed at further integrating Japan with neighboring countries, Itoh said, making free trade agreements more likely.

But Itoh also said that Japan did not necessarily look at free trade pacts as the most appropriate approach to regional integration.

"The appropriate approach to trade and investment liberalization is the point," Itoh said.

French researcher on cross-strait relations Francoise Mengin said that whether Taiwan has achieved de facto independence was a common dispute among not only politicians, but also academics.

Mengin proposed that solving the problem of "non-recognized borders between Taiwan and China" could be a new avenue to help settle the dispute.

Mengin also said that she noticed that no political debate in Taiwan is free from the debate over the nation's identity and its future with China.

"It leads to an examination of the relationship between Taiwan and China in terms of a hegemonic relationship," Mengin said.

A paper published by Hsu Zu-chien (徐斯儉), an assistant research fellow at the Institute of Political Science at Academia Sinica, said that although he found that Chinese in general desire more democracy, the urgency and momentum for further democratic reform is relatively weak.

Hsu said that it might be because Chinese have an interpretation of democracy that is quite different from that found in Western democratic systems.

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