Excellent piece by Elizabeth C. Economy in a Jan. 25 Asia Unbound (Council on Foreign Relations) blog – China, Hong Kong and Taiwan: Running Dogs, Democracy, and More
Much of it is on Beijing professor Kong Qingdong who has gone off the deep end by repeating outdated Mao lines, denouncing rule of law as something only trash and dogs need and complaining about Hong Kongers. (This blog site has already looked at Kong’s statements here and here.)
What recommends Ms. Economy’s piece is her last paragraph. It discusses the danger Taiwan presents to China. In a word that danger is “democracy.”
The Chinese government always pointing out China’s 5,000 years of civilization. In that time China gave the world paper, gunpowder and pasta. (They also gave us mindless and autocratic bureaucracy, but that is hardly something to celebrate.)
Yet, in all that time, there was never self-rule. Government was always by some form of dictatorship from emperors to war lords to the Communist Party.
When the Nationalists fled China in 1949 and settled in Taiwan they were no better. Democratic stirrings did not seriously start taking hold until the early 1990s. It fully blossomed in 2000 when power was transferred from one political party to another by way of a popular election. That was the first time in 5,000 years of civilization that the people of a Chinese-speaking land actually had a say in their government.
Since then there have been many more elections on the local and national level. The most recent presidential election took place earlier this month.
And it was something the people of mainland China have noticed. Millions of netizens in China followed the election and marveled at how society remained stable even as competing political philosophies battled for the leadership of the island state.
(You have to remember that Beijing says China cannot have political reforms — to match the economic reforms — because any change or challenge to the system will bring immediate chaos and instability to society.)
Even the official media in China had to admit the idea of democracy — especially as practiced in Taiwan — struck a chord in China. (But the paper Global Times was also quick to point out that democracy in China ain’t gonna happen.)
On the mainland, similar questions concerning democracy, equality and interests are countless and all sound reasonable. But the systems designed for modern countries are not exactly suitable for gigantic countries like China.
China is too big in both size and population. Its diversified behavior and mentalities are weakening its current national cohesion.
Now add Hong Kong to the mix, with its free media and rights of assembly, rule of law and limited democracy and one can understand why Beijing hardliners — like Prof. Kong — and the party leadership are nervous.
For them, there are just too many Chinese-speaking places that have too many rights and freedoms.
Oh and maybe it is time the US media started paying attention to the situation in Taiwan. And not just the Taiwan-China disputes but the day-to-day political and economic events in Taiwan. This is a strong economy with a stable democratic government. It is worth keeping an eye on.