North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who for more than 17 years led an autocratic economic system that could only be described as the very antithesis of capitalism, would have taken delight at the irony that stock markets across Asia dropped following the announcement of his death.
Equally ironic, albeit for different reasons, is that his death occurred within 24 hours of that of another man at the other end of the political spectrum, former Czech president Vaclav Havel, and within 48 hours of that of a staunch opponent of totalitarianism, Christopher Hitchens.
More than the era in which they lived unites the trio, as each played a role in defining our times, and each was an actor on the stage where totalitarianism collided with liberty.
Beyond the legacy of their deeds lies the world’s reaction to their passing, which offers us a glimpse of where we stand morally.
Chinese state media took note of Havel’s death, but kept details to a minimum, reporting only that he had died in his sleep at the age of 75 because of prolonged illness, that he became the last president of Czechoslovakia in December 1989 and that he was the first president of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003. No mention was made of his role as a political dissident and prisoner of conscience combating Soviet totalitarianism, or of his Charter 77 movement. (Interestingly, Hitchens was arrested in Prague in 1988 for attending one of Charter 77’s committee meetings.)
Chinese media made no mention, either, of the fact that Havel urged Chinese authorities to release jailed human rights activist Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), whose Charter 08 movement calling for greater political freedom in China was inspired by Havel’s Charter 77, or that he contributed a foreword to a new volume of Liu’s writings.
Meanwhile, much of the rest of the world, minus a few authoritarian leftovers, celebrates Havel not because he became president — he did so reluctantly — but because of his determination to fight for justice against the odds and for continuing to do so after his country finally cast off its burdensome mantle of communism with the Velvet Revolution.
Chinese media eulogies for Kim, who died on Saturday, have yet to materialize, but we can imagine that they will be less economical in their musings on the man’s life and more hyperbolic in their enumeration of his accomplishments. While Hitchens, whose nearly four-decade career as a writer spared none who sided with tyranny, whatever its form, wrote of “Kim Jong-il and his fellow slave masters” and “the Kim Jong-il system as a phenomenon of the very extreme and pathological right,” we can well expect closed political systems like China’s to be more generous. After all, the Chinese Communist Party was Pyongyang’s one and only true diplomatic ally.
In the end, people are judged by what they leave behind and whether what remains in their wake is better for their having lived. Havel leaves a legacy of hope and will serve as an inspiration to the downtrodden for generations to come. His failings as a president notwithstanding, he bequeathed a country that is indisputably better than it was when the playwright found himself locked up in a damp communist cell, confinement that would have a lasting effect on his health. Hitchens, had he survived him, would have found the right words to measure the man.
Kim leaves behind a destitute people whose country has become the laughing stock of the international community. True, he was the successor to a man, his father, whose shortcomings were as towering as his megalomania. However, Kim had a choice; he could have made his country a better place. He didn’t. He goes down in infamy, a despot of such magnitude that his demise has prompted a neighboring country to declare a state of emergency.
Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Forward Forum in Taipei, former Singaporean minister for foreign affairs George Yeo (楊榮文) proposed a “Chinese commonwealth” as a potential framework for political integration between Taiwan and China. Yeo said the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait is unsustainable and that Taiwan should not be “a piece on the chessboard” in a geopolitical game between China and the US. Yeo’s remark is nothing but an ill-intentioned political maneuver that is made by all pro-China politicians in Singapore. Since when does a Southeast Asian nation have the right to stick its nose in where it is not wanted
As China’s economy was meant to drive global economic growth this year, its dramatic slowdown is sounding alarm bells across the world, with economists and experts criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) for his unwillingness or inability to respond to the nation’s myriad mounting crises. The Wall Street Journal reported that investors have been calling on Beijing to take bolder steps to boost output — especially by promoting consumer spending — but Xi has deep-rooted philosophical objections to Western-style consumption-driven growth, seeing it as wasteful and at odds with his goal of making China a world-leading industrial and technological powerhouse, and
More Taiwanese semiconductor companies, from chip designers to suppliers of equipment and raw materials, are feeling the pinch due to increasing competition from their Chinese peers, who are betting all their resources on developing mature chipmaking technologies in a push for self-sufficiency, as their access to advanced nodes has been affected by US tech curbs. A lack of chip manufacturing technology such as extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) would ensure that Chinese companies — Huawei Technology Co in particular — lag behind Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co by five to six years, some analysts have said.
For Xi Jinping (習近平) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the military conquest of Taiwan is an absolute requirement for the CCP’s much more fantastic ambition: control over our solar system. Controlling Taiwan will allow the CCP to dominate the First Island Chain and to better neutralize the Philippines, decreasing the threat to the most important People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Strategic Support Force (SSF) space base, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. Satellite and manned space launches from the Jiuquan and Xichang Satellite Launch Centers regularly pass close to Taiwan, which is also a very serious threat to the PLA,