Tuesday 10 June 2014

Taiwan's advantages are not imaginary.

Via MKL's facebook feed I read this piece on Tsai Yingwen's return to the top of the DPP, a shining example of Want China Times's commitment to talking down Taiwan's achievements over the past two decades:
Tsai doesn't have the firm will, determination and capability to address the sense of "Taiwanese superiority" felt by many in the pro-independence camp — a social psychological barrier that is hindering the DPP's transformation.

The sense of Taiwanese superiority refers to the belief that Taiwan's economic development, democratic politics and way of life are superior to that in mainland China.
 That Taiwan's economic development, way of life, and democratic politics are superior to those of mainland China is not merely a "belief". It is a clear, demonstrable fact, even judging by the most basic metrics.

According to the IMF Taiwan's per-capita income in 2013 was, in nominal terms, more than three times larger than that of mainland China (20,930 USD in Taiwan versus 6,747 USD in China). Clearly, Taiwan's economic development is superior.

According to the WHO in 2013 Taiwanese people had an overall life-expectancy more than six year longer than that of people across the straits in mainland China (80.3 in Taiwan versus 74.2 in China). Again, Taiwanese people appear to live lives that are at the very least much longer than those of mainland Chinese, reflecting a healthier and better-looked-after way of life.

Taiwan has experienced precisely zero deaths due to political disturbances and terrorism in the past year, yet the same can hardly be said of mainland China which has suffered repeated terrorist attacks, and had citizens killed in foreign rioting. In the past six years mainland China has suffered two large-scale uprisings (Tibet in 2008 and Xinjiang in 2009) and has engaged in repeated crackdowns against dissidents, sentencing people like Liu Xiaobo to jail merely for speaking their mind. No amount of bloviating about the occupation of government buildings by students during the Sunflower movement can hide the fact that Taiwan's democratic system is undoubtedly superior to mainland China's authoritarian "Market-Leninist" system.

The piece's main premise - that Taiwan succeeded only because of the US and now needs to "learn from" mainland China - founders on the rock that Taiwan has little to learn from the mainland except "how not to do it". As both Ma Yingjiu's KMT and Tsai Yingwen's DPP have at various time acknowledged, mainland China has much to learn from Taiwan, but the same is not true in the other direction. Indeed, the article does not identify anything concrete that Taiwanese people can learn from the mainland, instead talking only of Taiwan's "failure to see from an international perspective" - a "failure" that has far more to do with China blocking Taiwan's international relations at every turn.

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