Monday, January 14, 2019

Taiwan Should Become the Capital of Democracy Promotion

China made a new year's threat to Taiwan's de facto independence, which has enabled Taiwanese democracy and freedom. Taiwan should take action to mobilize democratic entities to defend Taiwan's democracy.

China is clear that Taiwan must bend to its will:

[China's ruler Xi Jinping] said the armed forces needed to be able to respond quickly to emergencies, needed to upgrade their joint operations capabilities and nurture new types of combat forces.

Xi's comments followed his remarks on Wednesday that China still reserved the right to use force to achieve "reunification" with Taiwan and prevent the island's independence.

I don't blame Taiwan for being worried:

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen called on Saturday for international support to defend the self-ruled island's democracy and way of life in the face of renewed threats from China.

Tsai's comments came days after Chinese President Xi Jinping said nobody could change the fact that Taiwan was part of China, and that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should seek "reunification".

"We hope that the international community takes it seriously and can voice support and help us," Tsai told reporters in Taipei, referring to threats by China to use force to bring Taiwan under its control.

One, Taiwan needs to spend a lot more to defend what is precious to them. Even if Taiwan can never spend enough to defeat China, Taiwan can increase the cost of invading. And on a practical level, America and Japan can wonder why they should intervene to help Taiwan if Taiwan isn't willing to carry a burden to defend their independence and democracy.

Two, Taiwan needs to respond to China's aggressive talk to fix the imbalance in trade during China's "charm offensive" phase that encouraged Taiwan to do business in China. Taiwan needs to shift trade away from China to India and other states that don't want to crush Taiwan's freedom and liberty.

But soft power is needed, too. Long ago I concluded that a League of Democracies as an alternative to the autocrat-ridden United Nations is not the solution to our problems in that body.

But why couldn't Taiwan host a League of Democracies on Taiwan to discuss the mechanics of democracy promotion and democracy practice?

It could be composed of nations, provinces/states, and cities that want to discuss these issues.

As a body discussing the concept of democracy in both state and sub-state actors, it would not run afoul of Chinese red lines about independence. China has offered one state with two systems to Hong Kong--although it really doesn't--and to Taiwan to ease resistance to Peking absorbing Taiwan. How could China oppose democracy as a concept apart from independence when it formally agrees?

Yet it would be a powerful symbol of resistance to Chinese efforts to deny Taiwan democracy.

Taiwan would invite specific qualifying countries, states or provinces, and cities--including Hong Kong--to join the body. Taiwan could invite non-governmental bodies that address democracy and rule of law, including the Carter Center. Perhaps those NGOs could help define a rule of law democracy for membership qualification. Neither China, Iran, nor Chicago, for example, would qualify if the definitions are real.

How would the Chinese people react over time to such a body in their backyard discussing how to create and improve democracy--something China does not have and which Xi Jinping will never grant the people voluntarily?