Friday, November 9, 2007

Democracy matters?

In the early 21st century, China shows great economy blooming, which amazes the world. At the same time, Taiwan’s democractic development also wins a burst of applause from developed country. Nevertheless, although China’s economic growth has caught Western countries’ great attentions, most of the people in China have not yet seen any light at the end of the dark tunnel in its long march to democracy.

In 2005, the “Anti-Secession Law” was passed by the National People’s Congress of China; the law clearly addresses that once Taiwan crosses the de jure independence red line, China will launch a military action to “unify” Taiwan. In Taiwan however, the DPP government and Taiwanese people rejected this kind of claim made by Beijing authority, on the grounds that Taiwan has become a totally free and democratic country that is not a part of China, even though its former government came from China in 1949.

Does democracy matter in international politics and international relations? Being a universal value, is democracy a vital trigger for Taiwan to survive in international political games? Scholars of international relations may argue that there is a close link between democracy and security. In their view, democracy and free market economic interdependence are closely related and have shared commercial interests. In addition, democracies do not wage war against each other according to the Kantian theory—in the study of the Third Wave democratization, Samuel Huntington also emphasizes this point of view.

Thus, we need to ask whether democracy can keep Taiwan from China’s threat and force China to move toward democracy. The U.S. always promotes the value of democracy and emphasizes that democracy is a great achievement of Taiwan and that is what makes Taiwan different from China. However, the U.S. also “acknowledges” Taiwan to be a part of China, yet it hopes that the crisis of cross-strait could be resolved by using peaceful means. Countries including Japan and Australia follow this viewpoint as well. For the U.S., if authoritarian China initiates military attacks to threat the security of democratic Taiwan, the U.S. will need to help Taiwan based upon not only the Taiwan Relations Act but also the universal value “democracy.”

This year, the U.S. encounters a dilemma over the issue of the “UN for Taiwan” referendum plan. Although this referendum echoes the value of democracy, Taiwan’s will to declare independence is still in odds with the U.S. interests as well as its strategy of the regional security. However, if the U.S. truly believes that democracy is a universal value, it should not view the referendum plan as a threat to the regional security or use the so-called “One China policy” as a legal constraint. Moreover, the Western world should consider democratic Taiwan to be a precious case in the history of democratic development as well.

Taiwan is usually seen as a major security problem in the region of East Asia. Tensions between Taiwan and China reveal not only the conflict between democracy and autocracy, but also the struggle between the world’s peace and the interests of the Western countries. However, if we recall the words by former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, he once claimed that the U.S.-British response to the 911 attacks has proved to be more momentous. He said, “We could have chosen security as the battleground, but we did not. We chose values. We said that we did not want another Taliban or a different Saddam Hussein. We knew that you cannot defeat a fanatical ideology just by imprisoning or killing its legacy; you have to defeat its ideas.” In other words, nothing but win this war for global value is to show that our values of democracy are stronger, more correct and valuable than alternative choices.

Therefore, we believe that Taiwan is worthy for democratic countries to fight for, not only due to its important geopolitical location but also because of its democratic achievements.

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