The administration of President Chen Shui-bian (
What is truly deplorable is that the US -- Taiwan's supposed ally and a country that, in his new book The Assault on Reason, former US vice president Al Gore pompously says brought the gift of democracy to the world -- would turn to humiliating practices to force Taiwanese officials into a direction that is not in the best interest of the people they were elected to represent. Or -- as seems to be brewing on the horizon -- for it to pressure other countries into blocking Taiwan from seeking UN membership.
It is no small irony that this proponent of democracy abroad has seen its democratic institutions at home become so corrupted as to threaten its very system. As Gore, a victim of undemocratic practices himself, shows in his book, officials at all levels have reached unprecedented levels of unaccountability, deceiving the public on -- to name a few prominent cases -- elections, energy, the environment, security and launching a devastating war based on nothing better than a cornucopia of lies.
The end result of the White House's unaccountable practices in the past seven years, in fact, is orders of magnitude worse than anything Chen could ever do.
And yet, on every occasion the White House has worked against Taiwanese bids to join international institutions, US officials -- including former US secretary of state Colin Powell -- will paternalistically, if not condescendingly, argue that Taiwan should instead work on "strengthening" or "consolidating" its democracy, as if speaking to a small child that is unable to walk on its own.
The thing is, in this less-than-ideal relationship, the parent is basically telling the child that it should not attempt to walk. When it obstinately continues to strive for freedom, to walk and fall on its own, the parent figure berates it and calls it "immature."
Oddly enough, we never hear US officials call on China to "strengthen" or "further" its democracy. Perhaps it is because Beijing chose to walk down a different path, one in which the rights and freedoms of the people the Chinese government supposedly represents can be trampled without consequences. It would seem, therefore, that when a country has to deal with the US, being a democracy is in fact a handicap.
If the State Department and the White House want to dictate Taiwan's choices, they should at least have the decency to refrain from couching all of their self-serving policies in democratic terms that can only make a travesty of this gift to humanity. Taiwan's democracy, though imperfect like that of all its brethren, is doing well enough. After all, Cuban President Fidel Castro never offered to send monitors to oversee elections in Taiwan. The US can't say as much, ironically.
Chen's wildest blunders, about-faces and broken promises -- all made in the context of the quest for the recognition of Taiwan -- have not endangered lives or made a joke of democratic principles. Unlike Washington's own mistakes, his have not resulted in countless deaths, a gargantuan national debt and a step backward in what indeed used to be a democratic system that deserved to be the envy of the world.
Which begs the question: Who should be advising whom on the need to further one's democracy?
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
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As the US’ mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign continues at a record pace, one question under debate is what the administration of US President Joe Biden should do with its extra doses — and especially where to send them. One country that should be at the top of a donation list is Taiwan, in recognition of the help that it provided to the US at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. After weeks of pressure, the Biden administration announced that it is now “looking at options to share American-made AstraZeneca vaccine doses.” By summer, it is clear that anyone in the