Japanese Representative to Taiwan Hiroyasu Izumi on Friday last week posted a New Year’s message to Taiwan on Facebook, writing that in his first year in office, he has witnessed Taiwan’s democracy in action and expressing his gratitude to Taiwan for its adept handling of the COVID-19 pandemic within its borders.
The whole world will forever associate last year with Taiwan, he added.
Izumi’s heartfelt message is a far cry from the empty platitudes and formulaic language of diplomatese.
The Japanese are a notoriously fastidious people; such high praise from a nation of perfectionists is proof that President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration’s shepherding of the nation through the tempestuous pandemic has been second to none, including Japan.
On the back of her government’s success, Tsai has raised her profile as one of the world’s most capable leaders and earned acclaim at home for boosting Taiwan’s image on the world stage.
In stark contrast to the warm praise that international media has heaped upon Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party administration, Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), has heaped opprobrium on it.
Working jointly with the Hong Kong-based, pro-Beijing weekly Yazhou Zhoukan, Taiwan’s pro-China media organizations have slung mud from the sidelines, even going so far as to label Tsai as an autocratic despot.
With the government’s performance receiving praise abroad but criticism at home, it is time for the public to reflect and understand that Taiwan must avoid being trapped in the same kind of “court plots” and infighting that is going on in China.
They must also recognize that the nation’s democracy is under threat and more fragile than they might imagine.
This is a two-pronged crisis consisting of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) looking for groups within Taiwan that it can cooperate with to further its nefarious goals, and of the backlash from Taiwanese conservatives who are either skeptical of democracy, or outright hostile to it.
The KMT is a Chinese political party, forced upon Taiwan. It is steeped in conservative ideology and wishes to restore the old order.
The party inherited the harmful vestiges of Chinese imperialism — while ostensibly a party playing within the rules of Taiwan’s democratic system, in reality it wants an authoritarian state.
While the reign of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son and successor Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) is over, their autocratic style, tone and culture still cast a long shadow over the KMT and deeply influences its current crop of leaders.
While embracing democracy has allowed the nation to grow and prosper, Taiwan is still lumbered with an antediluvian authoritarian clique masquerading as a democratic political party.
The task facing Taiwanese, if they truly want their nation to succeed, is to clean up the Augean stables and establish a loyal opposition party that is devoted to democracy, Taiwan and its people.
If the KMT is allowed to continue to fester, badmouthing Taiwan and criticizing everything that happens, the nation’s democracy will not only be inhibited from advancing to the next level, it will be pulled into Beijing’s orbit and its wealth and prosperity will disappear as it becomes part of the Chinese empire.
We cannot allow Taiwan’s bright future to be snuffed out by the dark forces of authoritarianism. This year must be the year that the Taiwanese public awake from their slumber.
Chen Chi-nung is a former principal of Nantou County’s Shuili Junior High School.
Translated by Edward Jones
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