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Taiwanese Fly Declines Chinese Spider’s Invitation

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By Don Feder – BarbWire guest contributor

Since Beijing stopped rattling its saber more than a decade ago, most Americans have forgotten about Taiwan. That’s unfortunate, because the drama now unfolding in Hong Kong shows the importance of Taiwan as a model for Chinese democracy.

Hong Kong’s student protestors want what the Taiwanese have had for almost 20 years — popular sovereignty. Taiwan proves that democracy isn’t alien to the Chinese character and a state can develop economically and politically at the same time.

Hong Kong’s demonstrators are demanding the resignation of its chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, and direct election of his successor. Leung says he’ll stay until his term ends in 2017. His successor will be elected, but only from a list of candidates approved by Beijing — democracy, communist-style.

Commentary on the website of China’s People’s Daily charges the protests were instigated by “anti-Chinese forces in the West,” and protestors are “a gang of people whose hearts belong to colonial rule and who are besotted with Western democracy” — an obsession which will lead to “chaos,” if allowed to continue.

If so, citizens of the Republic of China on Taiwan have been happily intoxicated for close to two decades. Taiwan had its first direct election for president in 1996.

Though the presidency has changed hands three times, between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and President Ma Ying-jeou’s Nationalists (KMT), Taiwan has not descended into chaos, but has become even more prosperous, innovative and contented, despite the ROC’s often-raucous politics.

In 2012, Taiwan’s GDP of USD 475 billion was the 27th largest in the world — not bad for a nation of only 23 million (roughly three times the population of Hong Kong) with little arable land and few natural resources. It’s also the United States’ 12th major trading partner. Life expectancy (79.5 years) and per capita GDP of  $20,936 (in 2013 according to the IMF), puts it just below Greece but ahead of Portugal and all of Eastern Europe.

The ROC has a thriving international trade and is a high-tech leader — 89% of notebooks, 70% of tablets and 84% of all motherboards are manufactured on Taiwan.  And it managed to accomplish all of this without tanks firing on unarmed protestors in the streets of its capital.

With the backdrop of Hong Kong’s turmoil, in a September 28th  interview, President Ma rejected the Mainland’s latest call for “reunification” — under the “One Country, Two Systems” model, an offer Taiwan has been rejecting since the early 1980s.

What the People’s Republic means by this formula is: “Surrender to our tender embrace now, and you can keep certain elements of your little democracy for as long as it suits us.”

And that won’t be for long.

The response to Hong Kong’s demands shows the PRC’s abject fear of democracy anywhere in its vast territory. If residents of Hong Kong can choose their leaders, why not the Shanghainese or Beijingers? Such an example is intolerable for the Chinese Communist Party, whose rule is maintained by putting riot police or troops in the streets at the first signs of discontent — backed by censorship and gulags.

That would eventually be the reality of political life in Taiwan if it accepted the One Country, Two Systems trap, which is why President Ma, who has expressed sympathy for Hong Kong’s protestors, nevertheless insists: “The ROC is very different from Hong Kong in that we are a sovereign country.” Despite Beijing’s calls for “reunification,” Taiwan has never been part of the People’s Republic of China, and has been ruled from the Mainland for only four of the last 100 years.

Since the KMT returned to power in 2008, Taiwan has done its best to ease tensions with its gargantuan neighbor. It no longer seeks membership in international bodies like the United Nations (once one of its major foreign-policy initiatives). Trade and investment between the two Chinas has blossomed. Each week, there are 828 flights between Taiwan and the Mainland and over two million tourists from the PRC have visited Taiwan.

Still, to let Taiwan know that it’s keeping all of its options open, Beijing periodically asserts that it won’t allow the “renegade” province to go its own way indefinitely, even if the ROC never formally declares its independence.

The easing of tensions between the two Chinas has had a downside. In the 1990s, when Taiwan traveled the road to democracy at a brisk pace, the PRC placed hundreds of missiles just across the Taiwan Strait and the American public actually followed developments there and sympathized with plucky, little Taiwan. Some even said its conquest would be as fateful as the fall of Czechoslovakia in the 1930s.

Today, the only democracy in 5,000 years of Chinese history has fallen off our radar screen. Perhaps the radioactive spider in Beijing is counting on that as it continues to invite Taiwan into its parlor, while Hong Kong struggles to extricate itself from its web.

Since Beijing stopped rattling its saber more than a decade ago, most Americans have forgotten about Taiwan. That’s unfortunate, because the drama now unfolding in Hong Kong shows the importance of Taiwan as a model for Chinese democracy.

Hong Kong’s student protestors want what the Taiwanese have had for almost 20 years — popular sovereignty. Taiwan proves that democracy isn’t alien to the Chinese character and a state can develop economically and politically at the same time.

Hong Kong’s demonstrators are demanding the resignation of its chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, and direct election of his successor. Leung says he’ll stay until his term ends in 2017. His successor will be elected, but only from a list of candidates approved by Beijing — democracy, communist-style.

Commentary on the website of China’s People’s Daily charges the protests were instigated by “anti-Chinese forces in the West,” and protestors are “a gang of people whose hearts belong to colonial rule and who are besotted with Western democracy” — an obsession which will lead to “chaos,” if allowed to continue.

If so, citizens of the Republic of China on Taiwan have been happily intoxicated for close to two decades. Taiwan had its first direct election for president in 1996.

Though the presidency has changed hands three times, between the Democrathic Progressive Party (DPP) and President Ma Ying-jeou’s Nationalists (KMT), Taiwan has not descended into chaos, but has become even more prosperous, innovative and contented, despite the ROC’s often-raucous politics.

In 2012, Taiwan’s GDP of USD 475 billion was the 27th largest in the world — not bad for a nation of only 23 million (roughly three times the population of Hong Kong) with little arable land and few natural resources. It’s also the United States’ 12th major trading partner. Life expectancy (79.5 years) and per capita GDP of  $20,936 (in 2013 according to the IMF), puts it just below Greece but ahead of Portugal and all of Eastern Europe.

The ROC has a thriving international trade and is a high-tech leader — 89% of notebooks, 70% of tablets and 84% of all motherboards are manufactured on Taiwan.  And it managed to accomplish all of this without tanks firing on unarmed protestors in the streets of its capital.

With the backdrop of Hong Kong’s turmoil, in a September 28th  interview, President Ma rejected the Mainland’s latest call for “reunification” — under the “One Country, Two Systems” model, an offer Taiwan has been rejecting since the early 1980s.

What the People’s Republic means by this formula is: “Surrender to our tender embrace now, and you can keep certain elements of your little democracy for as long as it suits us.”

And that won’t be for long.

The response to Hong Kong’s demands shows the PRC’s abject fear of democracy anywhere in its vast territory. If residents of Hong Kong can choose their leaders, why not the Shanghainese or Beijingers? Such an example is intolerable for the Chinese Communist Party, whose rule is maintained by putting riot police or troops in the streets at the first signs of discontent — backed by censorship and gulags.

That would eventually be the reality of political life in Taiwan if it accepted the One Country, Two Systems trap, which is why President Ma, who has expressed sympathy for Hong Kong’s protestors, nevertheless insists: “The ROC is very different from Hong Kong in that we are a sovereign country.” Despite Beijing’s calls for “reunification,” Taiwan has never been part of the People’s Republic of China, and has been ruled from the Mainland for only four of the last 100 years.

Since the KMT returned to power in 2008, Taiwan has done its best to ease tensions with its gargantuan neighbor. It no longer seeks membership in international bodies like the United Nations (once one of its major foreign-policy initiatives). Trade and investment between the two Chinas has blossomed. Each week, there are 828 flights between Taiwan and the Mainland and over two million tourists from the PRC have visited Taiwan.

Still, to let Taiwan know that it’s keeping all of its options open, Beijing periodically asserts that it won’t allow the “renegade” province to go its own way indefinitely, even if the ROC never formally declares its independence.

The easing of tensions between the two Chinas has had a downside. In the 1990s, when Taiwan traveled the road to democracy at a brisk pace, the PRC placed hundreds of missiles just across the Taiwan Strait and the American public actually followed developments there and sympathized with plucky, little Taiwan. Some even said its conquest would be as fateful as the fall of Czechoslovakia in the 1930s.

Today, the only democracy in 5,000 years of Chinese history has fallen off our radar screen. Perhaps the radioactive spider in Beijing is counting on that as it continues to invite Taiwan into its parlor, while Hong Kong struggles to extricate itself from its web.

Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains his own website, DonFeder.com.

First published at American Thinker

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