The nation’s successful experience in economic and democratic development could be borrowed by the US to bolster its rebuilding efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, a US expert in East Asian affairs suggested recently.
Taiwan should be held up as a model of successful and equitable economic development and peaceful democratization, said Shelley Rigger, a professor of East Asian politics at Davidson College in North Carolina, during a talk on Tuesday on the Forum with Michael Krasny on KQED, a US public radio channel.
During the interview, Rigger talked about her new book, Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse, which aims to give people a better understanding of Taiwan’s importance.
Taiwan’s representative office in San Francisco, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO), helped arrange the interview.
The Forum, an hour-long talk show, is the most popular program broadcast by KQED and it is one of the most influential programs on public radio in the US, according to the San Francisco TECO.
Rigger said the US, currently helping Iraq and Afghanistan rebuild their war-ravaged countries, should take its cue from “Taiwan’s success in achieving democratization without bloodshed,” efforts that Rigger described as being in line with US values.
She said Taiwanese companies have been key players in China’s economic rise over recent decades. Made-in-China products have dominated global markets, but most of the high value-added goods exported from China are developed, designed and assembled by firms invested in by Taiwanese, Rigger said.
Although it is a small island nation, Taiwan is also an important trade partner for the US, she said. She urged the US to continue supporting Taiwan in its efforts to resist unification on China’s terms.
On the cross-Taiwan Strait issue, she said that despite a common language and culture, Taiwanese and Chinese people have very different ideas of nationalism and identity as a result of their long separation.
Since it would be hard for China to force unification on Taiwan, Beijing has made greater efforts to deter Taiwanese independence than to push for unification, she said.
According to the TECO, a person from China called the forum while it was on air and condemned Rigger for calling Taiwan a country.
Rigger rebutted the comment, saying that Taiwan is a unique case in the international community. She pointed out that Taiwan has its own customs and immigration system, which any foreigner wishing to enter the country must satisfy.
In her book, Rigger also explains how Taiwan — despite its small size — has become a key global player, highlighting economic and political breakthroughs so impressive they have been called “miracles.”
She links these accomplishments to Taiwan’s vibrant culture and unique history. Drawing on the arts, economics, politics and international relations, Rigger explores the importance of Taiwan to China, the US and the rest of the world. She also examines how the focus of the nation’s domestic politics has shifted to a Taiwan-centered strategy.