My interest of late has been the question of whether rapprochement between Taiwan and China would result in an erosion of freedoms in Taiwan — in other words, whether “peace” would come at the price of that for which Taiwanese spilled blood and time to accomplish after 40 years of authoritarian rule. Recent experiences with Taiwanese movies partly produced with Chinese money, or the disregard that the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration has shown for different opinions regarding ties with China or the signing of an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China are indications that closer relations will come at a price, which democracy heavyweight Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) highlighted in a recent article. Increased Chinese investment in Taiwanese companies and further involvement in the cultural sector can only exacerbate this development.
It is therefore important that people in Taiwan and supporters of Taiwan as a free, democratic society fully comprehend the extent of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) control over information and its unflinching repression of any view that does not dovetail with its vision. As I have written before, China has little compunction in imposing its views, even in other countries, as we witnessed in Melbourne earlier this year. Still, borders serve to mitigate its actions and it will not go all out to repress opinions in countries like Australia, the US or Canada. That it sees Taiwan as part of China, however, means that this buffer of sovereignty does not exist and that it will not hesitate to exert in Taiwan the pressures it has so successfully implemented at home to control its citizens.
The China: Resilient, Sophisticated Authoritarianism report, written by Joshua Kurlantzick and Perry Link for the Undermining Democracy: 21st Century Authoritarians project by Freedom House, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia, provides a good start in understanding the extent of the CCP’s control measures.