In its long battle for international recognition, Taiwan has no greater asset than its hard-won democracy. More than anything, its democratic achievement is what distinguishes it from the authoritarian system in China. It is therefore crucial that this democracy be seen by the international community to be a functioning one worth protecting.
With crackdowns on human-rights advocates, curtailed freedom of the press and threats of illegal use of force against another nation, Beijing continues to provide ample contrasts with Taiwan, and those differences are part of the means by which the latter can express its identity.
But the determination of one's identity through differentiation can only accomplish so much. A nation cannot define who and what it is solely by focusing on what it is not. In fact, to find its true self, it must also make a statement about what it is.
And what it is is much more than what differentiates it from China -- a democratic system versus an authoritarian regime -- and comes instead from how it has developed the gift of democracy.
As such, next year's elections must be about more than the fact that elections can be held in the first place. Beyond process alone, it is the substance and quality of the elections that constitute the true health check of the nation and that provide it with the opportunity to underscore its value to the world.
Hence the need for voters next year to be offered choices among contending politicians who have been cleared, through impartial investigations, of wrongdoing or corruption. Nothing could be more harmful to Taiwan's survival and ambitions for sovereignty than for the world to see that its people value their democracy so lightly as to bring a crook to power. Should the world come to the conclusion that Taiwanese opted to elect an individual who has openly lied about his powers while in office, it will no longer feel the obligation to protect that society from anti-democratic encroachment.
After all, we cannot expect the rest of the world to care about Taiwan's democracy if its very people are incapable of seeing to it that it remains healthy and truly representative.
Just as Taiwan's military allies need to see that it is willing to do what it must and acquire what it needs to defend its territory from military aggression, its diplomatic allies -- and in fact even those who side with Beijing -- need to see that Taiwanese are ready to do what they must to protect their precious democracy. Commitment to that principle -- the process itself as well as the quality of the choices given a people -- is just as important as commitment to national defense.
Canada recently showed what it means to protect the quality of a democratic system by pushing for the investigation of high-level government corruption. The process ultimately led to the demise of prime minister Paul Martin's Liberal government. Regardless of whether the new Conservative government was the best thing for Canada, the country was mature enough to rid itself of elements whose presence was harmful to its democracy.
Taiwan should follow that example and ensure that allegations of corruption involving the upper echelons of government are fully explored. The prosecutors' decision to appeal the ruling on former Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou (
As long as doubts continue to linger about a candidate, no self-respecting democracy would allow that person to run for office. A democracy can only be functional when the choices given voters are individuals who are held accountable and who are flushed out if they are not worthy of our confidence.
If Taiwan wants to lose its luster and moral authority in the eyes of the world, it could do no worse than to bring a crook to power.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has over the past few months continued to escalate its hegemonic rhetoric and increase its incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. The US, in turn, has finally realized how its “strategic ambiguity” is increasingly wearing thin. Similarly, any hopes the US had that the PRC would be a responsible stakeholder and economic player have diminished, if not been abandoned. Taiwan, of course, remains as the same de facto independent, democratic nation that the PRC covets. As a result, the US needs to reconsider not only the amount, but also the type of arms
Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
There is no ambiguity when it comes to war. Ambiguity begs for certainty and a lack thereof has historically led to war. History is full of examples: Europe’s and the US’ ambiguity as to how they would respond to Hitler’s growing territorial expansion in Europe was certainly a contributing factor to World War II. In the same vein, US ambiguity toward Japan’s expansionist militarism in the 1930s clearly led to the Pearl Harbor attacks that started the war in Asia in 1941. Ambiguity in a world with leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) will inevitably