In the run-up to last month’s presidential and legislative elections, the old Peter Paul and Mary folksong from the 1960s kept ringing in my ears: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
Of course, as this is related to Taiwan, I was thinking of the Sunflowers, the generation of young people led by student leaders Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) who brought about a major change in Taiwan’s political system when they organized the peaceful occupation of the Legislative Yuan in 2014, which helped clear the path for President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) momentous victory in 2016.
The Sunflowers displayed a clear vision for what they wanted Taiwan’s democracy to be, and took action to help bring that about. In a sense, they were true descendants of the earlier Wild Strawberry movement of 2008 and the Wild Mountain Lily movement of 1990-1991, which each in their own way were decisive influences at particular points along Taiwan’s road to democracy.
In contrast to that history of young people playing a role in Taiwan’s democracy, the younger generation in last month’s elections appeared to be very self-centered, caring more about their own well-being than about the overall direction of the country.
It was reported that many young people these days take Taiwan’s freedom and democracy for granted, and in the campaign, were primarily focused on issues directly affecting their livelihoods, such as affordable housing and entry-level wages.
Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) played on these sentiments cunningly, and while he lost the presidential race, his party won eight seats in the Legislative Yuan and is now playing a “kingmaker” role.
The question is whether Ko will play his role wisely and constructively. The first indications are not very positive. In the elections for legislative speaker on Thursday last week, the TPP withheld its support for the previous speaker, You Si-kun (游錫?), and thus gave the speakership to the KMT’s erratic Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), who is expected to follow a very obstructive and confrontational line in the legislature.
HAN KUO-YU FACTOR
Under these circumstances, very little attention is expected to be paid to the issues that young people care about, such as affordable housing, entry-level wages or clean government.
Instead, Han is likely to wage a protracted battle for power and influence that will set back Taiwan’s democracy, damage its image in the free and democratic world, and provide openings to the Chinese Communist regime in Beijing to further divide Taiwanese society.
The new generation of young people in Taiwan must realize that one cannot take the country’s freedoms and democracy for granted. The older generation in Taiwan fought hard to attain the vibrant democracy that Taiwanese enjoy today.
It is up to this generation of young people to work hard to preserve, cherish and defend democracy against those forces — from within Taiwan and outside it — determined to undermine and ultimately eradicate it.
Hong Kong and Xinjiang are good examples of places where freedom-loving people lost their freedoms pretty quickly.
Let us not let that happen to Taiwan.
Gerrit van der Wees is a former Dutch diplomat who teaches Taiwan history and US relations with East Asia at George Mason University, and previously taught at the George Washington University Elliott School for International Affairs in Washington.
Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr in a letter to an unnamed US senator on Feb. 9 said that China has offered to “fill every hotel room,” in Palau, “and more if more are built” if the small island nation were to break ties with Taiwan. The letter further claims that China offered US$20 million per year for the creation of a “call center” in Palau, a nation whose economy relies heavily on tourism. It is more evidence that for China, tourism is an economic tool for its political gain. Cleo Paskal, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, posted
When Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) in 2022 unveiled plans to begin building a new chip fabrication facility in Japan and start production this year, it looked like an implausibly aggressive schedule. Chip plants often take three years to complete, and, although the firm had moved faster on its own turf, this would be its first such attempt in Japan — where it would have to navigate foreign bureaucracies and regulations. However, on Saturday, TSMC officially opened its Kumamoto fab, putting it on track to begin mass production later this year. The ribbon cutting marks an early victory for Japan as
When Beijing says “Taiwan has always been an inalienable part of China” and calls this “an indisputable legal and historical fact,” it promotes a claim that has absolutely no basis in international law or history. But by aggressively stating that claim time and again over the years, it has made many in the world believe that fiction, especially when the dominant Western media outlets are reluctant to challenge the Chinese narrative. Indeed, some international publications now use the phrase “reunify” without quotation marks while referring to Beijing’s Taiwan goal. The truth is that Taiwan, for most of its history, had no relationship
At a gathering held by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese State Council during this year’s Spring Festival, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) reviewed the achievements of the past year. “Good scenery on this side only” (風景這邊獨好), he said about the global situation. The phrase comes from late Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) poem Qing Ping Le (清平樂), written when he lost power in 1934. It was full of the “Ah-Q” (阿Ｑ) spirit of self-deception. Did Xi not know about this history, or was it a trap laid by his aides? Originally, the Third Plenary Session of the 20th Central