The incoming Democratic Progressive Party government will hopefully establish better connections with civil society in Europe. Civil society in Europe can be a vehicle for breaking barriers and rigid forms of cooperation between Taiwanese and European politicians, diplomacy and institutions. Taiwan’s future is likely to depend, among many other factors, on how well it connects with European citizens and other societies around the world. It is here that civil society, broadly speaking, can play an important role.
Direct conversations between civil society, academics and politicians can be facilitated by civil society in Europe. One example is the roundtable discussion at the European Parliament on March 15 about Taiwan’s democracy, which included all main political parties and civil society in Taiwan, academics and members of the European Parliament.
The event was organized by the European Parliament’s Taiwan Friendship Group and Taiwan Corner. Taiwan Corner used its network across political parties and academics in Taiwan and Europe, while the Taiwan Friendship Group ensured the interest of politicians.
Such successful events organized independently will hopefully be encouraged in the future. Openness would allow various channels in civil society to come forward with alternative, and perhaps better, ideas.
Political parties and European institutions need such ideas to move forward in new directions to benefit Taiwan’s future.
This new direction is not embraced by the current Taipei Representative Office in Brussels. It seems to have misunderstood the importance of civil society. After the office was invited to the roundtable discussion, it tried to remove a speaker addressing social movements, alter the title of the event and invite its own speaker. Even after the successful event, the office continued its negative campaign. Obviously, a new direction would require a new mindset among Taiwan’s representatives.
Moreover, a new direction would require the politicizing of European society about Taiwan’s political situation.
The reason is that alliances need to be created between politicians and European citizens that can add new dimensions on how to work for Taiwan’s future. People cannot expect that from the established political system. Politicizing means engagement in meaningful and open debate directly with European citizens about Taiwan’s place in the world and political situation.
This would perhaps only consist of small steps, but it would be steps in the right direction. This approach can be a new and exciting challenge for Taiwanese groups that tend to be Taiwan-centric, because the groups act as important social networks rather than as political activists connected directly to European politicians and citizens.
One way forward for civil society is to use Europe’s media landscape. Trustworthy and available knowledge is becoming increasingly important to journalists and politicians in Europe, because resources are scarce.
Taiwan is not well-covered by international media. One example is the Sunflower movement in 2014, which was not mentioned much in international media. This was in stark contrast with the coverage of Hong Kong’s Umbrella movement. However, in Denmark, the events were covered and debated when Taiwanese civil society in Denmark contacted journalists.
Taiwan shows its presence on many levels, including theater, music, movies, participation in various organizations, and exchanges between universities and high schools. A focus on politicization is not to exclude these vital initiatives, but to send a friendly reminder that politics changes life and it can change Taiwan’s future.
Michael Danielsen is chairman of Taiwan Corner, an independent member-based association.
On Sept. 27, 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (East Timor) joined the UN to become its 191st member. Since then, two other nations have joined, Montenegro on June 28, 2006, and South Sudan on July 14, 2011. The combined total of the populations of these three nations is just more than half that of Taiwan’s 23.7 million people. East Timor has 1.3 million, Montenegro has slightly more than half a million and South Sudan has 10.9 million. They all are members of the UN, yet much more populous Taiwan is denied membership. Of the three, East Timor, as a Southeast Asian
Taiwan has for decades singlehandedly borne the brunt of a revanchist, ultra-nationalist China — until now. Ever since Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had the temerity to call for a transparent, international investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing has been turning the screws on Canberra. This has included unleashing aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomats to intimidate Australian policymakers, enacting punitive tariffs on its exports, and threatening an embargo on Chinese tourists and students to the nation. A tense situation became more serious on June 19 after Morrison revealed that a “sophisticated state-based actor” — read: China — had launched a
There have been media reports that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) plans to hold military exercises in August to simulate seizing the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) in the South China Sea. In the past, only Coast Guard Administration (CGA) personnel have been stationed there, but the Ministry of National Defense has dispatched the Republic of China Marine Corps to the islands, nominally for “ex-situ training,” to prevent a Chinese attack under the guise of military drills. The move is only a temporary measure and not sufficiently proactive. Instead, the government should officially declare sovereignty over the islands and station troops
Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) is to be Taiwan’s next representative to the US. Hsiao is well versed in international affairs and Taiwan-US relations. In her days as a student in the US, she was a member of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) and served as chief executive of the Democratic Progressive Party’s US mission. She is familiar with a broad spectrum of Taiwanese affairs in the US. FAPA hopes that Hsiao, after taking up her new post, would continue to deepen and normalize relations between Taiwan and the US, and that she would try to get a free-trade agreement