TAIWAN: Brief Jottings on an Exemplary and Thriving Democracy

The President of Taiwan, Dr. Tsai Ing-wen

Note: Taiwanese, Japanese and Chinese names are rendered with family name first followed by given name.

Taiwan is a mountainous, highly developed island-nation in the western Pacific, with an area of about 36000 square kilometers, and a population of almost 24 million. It borders China, Japan and the Philippines.

Historically, today’s superb democracy of the Republic of [China on] Taiwan emerged after a long and arduous struggle. From 1945 – when fifty years of Japanese imperial rule ended – until July 1987, Taiwan was under strict martial law, originally imposed by the then Nanjing-based ruling Nationalist Party [Kuomintang or KMT],following the 2/28 [February 28, 1947] incident – the massacre by the Chinese  military of thousands  of  Taiwanese opposed to Mainland Chinese rule. Martial law – officially known as the “Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of National Mobilisation for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion” was made permanent in 1954. Among other hard measures, the authorities militarized education, stamped out free speech and conducted widespread political surveillance. The entire era of 1947-1987 is known as the “White Terror.” When generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek [Jiang Jie-shi] – the ruler of Taiwan- died in 1975, martial law continued under his son Chiang Ching-kuo, who, however, ended it on July 16, 1987.The highly educated and hardworking people and successful government development policies, resulted in Taiwan’s “miraculous” emergence as a most advanced and diversified capitalist economy. This achievement was also facilitated by the close multilateral relationship with the United States – the island-nation’s de-facto political and military guarantor and ally even after America signed on to the “One China” policy in 1978 – a move most detrimental to Taiwan’s international position- which could have been avoided.

Almost forty years of totalitarianism could not stamp out pro-democracy political activism despite the dire consequences awaiting those who were seen as endangering the regime. Today’s governing Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] of President Tsai Ing-wen was founded in 1986, thus officially deemed illegal at the time.

Taiwanese director Hou Xiao-xien’s haunting A City of Sadness – produced in 1989,was the first film to focus on the 2/28 tragedy and is considered a central element in the national process of open discourse on the  harsh past- a reality unthinkable to this day in Mainland China, whose inhumane communist policies since 1949 have cost tens of millions of  Chinese lives.

In 1995, Lee Teng-hui – the first Taiwan-born leader of the KMT and president (who had been arrested and interrogated in 1969 for political sedition) apologized to the Nation for severe past policies of the State. In 1997, popularly- elected President Lee decreed 2/28 an official national day of commemoration not only of the incident itself but of the entire period of martial law to be formally known as Peace Memorial Day. In 2008, then President Ma Ying-jeou issued his own apology to the people of Taiwan. The Tsai Ing-wen administration – in power since 2016- formed Truth and Reconciliation Committees tasked with creating a national historical consensus based on the full accounting of the past. Story Taiwan the democratic State-sponsored political memory project is part of this effort.

Taiwan evolved into a vibrant multi-party democracy, a free and highly educated society, a prosperous nation and a prominent economic, technological, trade and cultural entity – a global role-model.

A recipient of American aid until the early 1960’s, subsequently Taiwan became a net ODA [Official Development Assistance] donor and a provider of technical expertise in all fields- from agriculture to manufacturing and education. Today, the 17th richest nation globally, Taiwan has a cutting-edge industrial manufacturing and technological base. Hon Hai Precision (aka as Foxconn), TSC [Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing], Pegatron are but the cream of the crop in electronics, computer hardware and peripherals as well as highly sophisticated computer chips in which Taiwan is a world leader.

Taiwan’s multilateral achievements are most impressive when considering its limited formal international position, the legacy of the misguided foreign policy of the J.E.Carter administration in the United States, mainly its appeasing and accommodating approach that underpinned the US-Mainland China normalization agreement of 1979. The same year, Carter/Brzezinsky betrayed the pro-Western Iranian monarchy, in favour of the Jihadi regime of Rukhollah Khumayni, a close Beijing ally. This, despite China’s harsh colonialist Sinification policy of the Uyghurs – the native Muslim population of Xinjiang (East Turkestan) in Central Asia.

In 2021, imperialist Beijing’s relentlessly aggressive political, economic, military and even health-care related pressure aims to turn democratic, thriving, fully self-ruling Taiwan into a Beijing satrapy, like Hong Kong, under the “One Country, Two Systems” scam.

Taiwan is the most convincing example of the full compatibility among democracy, capitalism, and Chinese culture. Taiwan’s grotesque antithesis is China (picture below)- the violently anti-democratic regime and its oxymoronic CCP [Chinese Communist Party]- dominated “socialist market economy.”

The totalitarian  Beijing Regime is the ultimate police state, totally dependent for its basic survival on an enormous security apparatus, lorded over by Xi Jinping`s CCP through two security ministries, millions of police and the most invasive surveillance technology and concentration, re-education (thus brainwashing) as well as Sinification camp system-all in order to prevent the natural socio-political evolution of capitalism (State- capitalism in China`s case) into direct popular participation in national politics – thus democracy. This is China’s sordid political reality today.

The Beijing Regime which has never ruled Taiwan (historically occupied by the Portuguese- who named it Ilha Formosa [Beautiful Island] -Spanish, Dutch, Chinese and Japanese) but which it nonetheless aggressively considers a “renegade province”- and today’s (for all intents and purposes, the Democratic Republic of) Taiwan are completely incompatible in political, social and even cultural terms. The chasm is strongly illustrated in the historical paths the two entities have treaded in the last three decades. In China, mentioning the CCP’s genocidal crimes against its people is a harshly punishable taboo imposed by its never-elected Strongmen. The picture of Mao Zedong – the murderous founder of the communist version of the totalitarian system- dominates Beijing’s enormous Tiananmen Square and appears on banknotes. Deng Xiaoping, who in 1980 liquidated the Democracy Wall was behind the bloody ending of the June 1989 Tiananmen Square student democracy movement. (left picture below.)

In monumental contrast, in Taipei, less than one year later, the March 1990 White Lilly student movement (right picture above) negotiated with President Lee Teng-hui the systematic democratization of the political system. Three decades later, the island-nation is a vibrant semi- presidential democracy where in January 2020, the people re-elected the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP]’s leader and first female President Dr. Tsai Ing-wen. Unlike the KMT, the main opposition group, President Tsai refuses to subscribe to the so-called “1992 Consensus” which includes the One China concept- which is incompatible with the Taiwanese identity of the majority of  the population who were born in Taiwan. As well, the Consensus subscribes to the territorial expansionism of China.

The 2014 Sunflower movement of students and civil society groups who took over the Legislative and Executive Yuan (branches of government) prevented the signing of an expanded trade pact with Beijing. The Sunflower movement should be seen as philosophically linked to its White Lilly predecessor and as the facilitator of the DPP electoral victory in 2016. In June 2020, in a highly consequential display of genuine democracy at work, the people of Kaohsiung – Taiwan’s second largest city- (under the impact of Xi Jinping’s liquidation of Hong Kong’s autonomous and democratic status within China, in blunt contravention to the One-Country Two Systems arrangement which was to have lasted until 2047) recalled Mayor Han Kuo-yu – a Beijing-inclined politician and the 2020 KMT presidential candidate.

On the other side of the Taiwan Strait, the Beijing Regime, in a process launched by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 and completed in 2018, became a full-fledged Neo- Fascist system ruled singlehandedly by Never-Elected-Strongman Xi Jinping. The ideological identity between Benito Mussolini – “All within the [One Party] State, Nothing outside the [One Party] State, Nothing against the [One Party] State” and Xi Jinping – “The Country, the Military, Society, Schools, North, South, East and West, all Belong to the [One] Party [State]” is complete. Furthermore, Beijing’s Heshin Ri’i (Critical Areas) foreign policy is identical to Germany’s imperialist Lebensraum (Living Space) of eight decades ago.

The Neo-Fascist designation for today’s Xi Jinping-centred system is purely descriptive. As the table below indicates, domestically, the only fundamental difference between Communism and Fascism is that the latter allows private/business property to exist, which, however, like everything else in the Regime and as in Germany and Italy of eighty years ago, is under the thumb of the One-Party State and its Never-Elected-Rulerin China’s case, Xi Jinping.

Xi Jinping’s aggressive military, economic and political pressure aimed at turning Taiwan into a province of his empire is strongly reminiscent of Germany’s Anschluss campaign of 83 years ago. When the imperialist forays in the East China Sea -against Japan- and in the South China Sea-against the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia,- as well as high in the Himalayas – against India- are added, China’s 21st century Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere comes into full ghastly view.

Taiwan possesses all the socio-political and cultural institutions of democracy. These include full recognition of and support for Aboriginal traditions, languages and inherent rights. Furthermore, as shown above and worthy of particular attention are Taiwan’s policies of national recognition, apology and reconciliation regarding past ofState against the People – an approach diametrically opposed to that of the Beijing Regime. Commemorative sites have been built (left picture below) and every year, the national leaders (President Tsai Ing-wen and former President Ma Ying-jeou, apologize, and together with the people, commemorate 2/28. (pictures below).

The Trump administration in the US led the international community in significantly expanding relations with Taiwan. The new trend began with the American leader accepting a congratulatory phone call from President Tsai after his election in November 2016. On April 3, 2020, with rare full by-partisan support ,the US Congress approved the Taiwan Ally International Protection Enhancement Initiative  [TAIPEI] a strong reinforcement of  the TRA [Taiwan Relations Act] of 1979 . TAIPEI tasks the State Department with strengthening Taiwan’s defense capabilities in the South China Sea as well as taking steps against nations which deliberately contribute – under Beijing’s pressure- to the limitation of Taiwan’s international space. In 2020, then American Health Secretary Alex Azar undertook an official visit to Taiwan and together with Kevin Krutch – then Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Cooperation – represented   the US at the funeral of former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui.

IN 2021, patrols by US, Japanese, Australian Indian, Canadian and EU warships have expanded with the dual goal of enhancing Taiwan’s security as well as the freedom of international shipping in the island’s vicinity and throughout the sprawling South China Sea and beyond. These moves stem from the FOIP [Free and Open Indo-Pacific] concept devised by former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō by now the joint platform of all democracies and other nations in their efforts to contain China’s expansionism in and militarization of the South China Sea, 92% of which (map) it claims through the Nine-Dash or Cow Tongue scam (using fraudulent history as tool).

Xi Jinping’s decision in early November 2020 authorizing his Coast Guard to use weapons against foreign ships not heeding Beijing’s illegal rules in its claimed territorial waters in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea has the potential to further exacerbate the already tense security situation in both theatres to the point of explosion. Indeed, 2021 has seen a dramatic increase in the number and variety of Beijing violations of Taiwan’s air and maritime space. Xi Jinping’s numerous bellicose statements threatening to conquer Taiwan, culminated in a violent speech at the CCP”s centennial bash on July 1st. In direct reaction to the Chinese dictator’s frequent threats the US, Japan, India and Australia (the Quad of democracies) in April issued an unprecedented document, which -for the first time since 1979 criticized aggressive Chinese hegemonism while expressing multilateral support (short of outright independence) for Taiwan.

The LDP [Liberal Democratic Party]- Japan’s highly successful ruling party has always supported Taiwan. Former prime minister Abe Shinzō met with Dr. Tsai Ing-wen ( left picture below) and other leading Taiwanese personalities. The Suga administration continues the policy of assistance to and cooperation with ,Taiwan. On the Taiwanese side, the leading promoter of close Taiwan-Japan friendship was late President Lee Teng-hui ( right picture below) the architect of Taiwanese democracy and identity as well as the originator of the idea of Taiwan and China as two neighbouring but separate states. Former prime minister, Mori Yoshirō and then parliamentarian (now Defense Minister) Kishi Nobuo, represented Japan at the funeral of the late national Taiwanese political icon in August 2020.

Dr. Tsai Ing-wen and Prime Minister Abe Shinzō, 2015   Lee Teng-hui , first elected President of Taiwan

Japan, even after normalizing relations with Beijing in 1979 (the agreement including an anti-Soviet hegemony clause at the insistence of hegemonic Beijing…) has balanced its formal recognition of the “One China” scheme, with consistent multilateral relations with Taiwan. The decision of the Abe administration in 2019 to allow the use of the designation Taiwan (replacing Taipei) in the name of the island nation’s representative office in Tokyo carries both symbolic and political relevance. When Taiwan decided to vaccinate its population against the New Corona virus in 2021, Japan (in addition to the United States and Czechia) supplied 3 million dozes to the island. In the words of Nakayama Yasuhide , the Deputy Defense Minister of Japan in late June 2021: Japan and Taiwan are really close…We are  brothers.”  Indeed, Japan’s reactions to Xi Jinping’s relentless and multilateral pressures on Taiwan have not been late in coming. Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide – echoing powerful statements and policies of the United States- has frequently expressed his commitment to enhanced relations across the board, with Taiwan. Tokyo’s 2021  Defense White Paper mentions the vital importance of Taiwan’s security to Japan’s. In July 2021, Asō Tarō – Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister- stated that any [Chinese] attack on Taiwan would be seen as a direct threat at Japan’s own vital security interests, a position reiterated by Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo.

The overall friendly and constructive Tokyo-Taipei relations stand in stark contrast to the frequent tensions marring Japan’s ties with the ROK [Republic of Korea] particularly during Leftist South Korean administrations and stemming from the colonial era and the Pacific War. This despite of the fact that Taiwan – like the Korean peninsula- was a colony of Japan for 50 years until 1945. Hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese (and Koreans) served in the Japanese military and more than a few died for Japan. The leading element accounting for this history-related discrepancy is Taiwan’s more balanced approach to the colonial period; that includes recognizing certain beneficial administrative, educational and technological reforms implemented by Japan.

Canada, which recognized Maoist China earlier than most other democracies, but sensibly only “registered” (not accepted) expansionist Beijing’s position on Taiwan, in 2021 is in a position to facilitate much enhanced interaction with Taiwan –which the island-nation needs and amply deserves.

Taiwan, daily threatened militarily by imperialist Beijing, is forced to invest heavily in its defence: from sophisticated US-made warplanes to domestically- manufactured tanks, submarines and various advanced weapon systems. President Tsai Ing-wen – the second national leader representing the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] came to power in 2016. Her creative and ambitious New Southbound policy aims at reducing the nation’s material dependence on Beijing by expanding economic relations with 18 Indo-Pacific states, from India and Bangladesh to Australia and New Zealand. This is not an easy task considering China’s regional and global trade, economic and political leverage, the geographic, linguistic and cultural closeness between Taiwan and China and the fact that over one million Taiwanese live and work on the continent. As well, Beijing’s clever tactic of giving Taiwanese access to the Chinese job market, constitutes a potent economic and political challenge to Taiwan. Under these circumstances, it is mutually beneficial for all democracies to enhance their existing bilateral economic, trade, political and strategic  relations with Taiwan as well as inviting the island-nation to join the 11-nation strong CPTPP (in which Japan and Canada are the largest economies).

Taiwan implemented swift and highly successful measures against the New Coronavirus  pandemic under the coordination of  Chou Jih-haw, director-general of Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control. The steps included ramping up border screenings, then banning altogether flights from Wuhan – the epicentre of the plague- enhanced onboard inspections and intensive public promotion of health awareness; concentration of distribution of basic medical supplies (masks, PPEs) and the imposition of a two- week quarantine regime on persons arriving from China. As a result, Taiwan not only evaded the scourge, but was even able to assist other nations in their struggle against the pandemic.

Taiwan alerted the Beijing-dominated WHO as early as December 31st, 2019 to the nature and magnitude of the impending catastrophe. However, WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Dr. Bruce Aylward, his Canadian subaltern, both Beijing supporters rudely ignored Taiwan’s vital contribution– a professionally irresponsible move that cost countless lives throughout the world.

The urgent need for a coordinated global effort to deal with the New Coronavirus pandemic  on one hand, and Taiwan’s exemplary performance in the crisis, on the other hand, must lead Canada, Japan and other democracies to jointly  bring about Taiwan’s full affiliation with the WHO, and other UN  professional – thus formally non-political- global agencies such as the Montreal-based ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization]. Democracy and human rights which Bullying Beijing’s policies threaten,  and the memory of  Dr. Li Wenliang- the heroic whistleblower from Wuhan who , on his deathbed criticized Beijing’s inhumane politicization of the pandemic -must underpin this worthy endeavour. After all, the “innovative” Beijing Strongman while scapegoating his pandemic on the US and the West (Italy and Spain) recently proposed another expansionist, imperialist (Beijing) Trojan Horse scam, called the Health Silk Road!

On June 4, 2020 (the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre) legislators from 18 democracies launched the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China [IPAC] whose mandate is “to promote a coordinated response among democratic states to challenges posed by the present conduct and future ambitions of the PRC.” IPAC called on WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to invite Taiwan to the November meeting of the WHA [World Health Assembly] the WHO’s supervisory body. Xi Jinping, through “his” man Tedros blocked the initiative. This failure must bring about stronger support for Taiwan.

Taiwan’s political future, like its immediate democratic past depends on the Taiwanese people. In a book titled Prisoner of the State (below) which he wrote on banana peels and smuggled out of his house-arrest location, Zhao Ziyang (prime minister of the Beijing Regime at the time of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre after which he was removed from office for refusing to crush the democracy movement) wrote that Taiwan should be China’s model for eventual democratization.

Beijing’s path since then has been diametrically opposed to Zhao’s hope. After coming to power in 2012, Xi Jinping purged the CCP hierarchy of hundreds of thousands [!!!] of real and perceived political opponents under the pretense of fighting corruption. A second wave of “anti-corruption” purges was launched in 2020. However, indicative of the completely corrupt nature of his regime is that Xi Jinping himself is suspected of having syphoned off billions of dollars for his family and relatives- a “bagatelle” in a system where the CCP 400 (Confucian-style) families dominating the system are said to have smuggled out of the country, at least US$ one Trillion dollars. At this point, the Neo-Fascist Xi regime appears outwardly stable. However, for how long– especially when considering the New Coronavirus pandemic’s Regime-undermining potential, reinforced by Xi’s concomitant aggressive foreign adventures (against the US, Canada, Japan, India, Australia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, the EU )- is a  question only the future will answer.