Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Taiwan shakes hands with the devil

Whatever approach is taken, helping democratize China cannot be accomplished by ignoring the transgressions of the Chinese Communist Party

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has often said that rapprochement with Beijing would, over time, have a salutary effect on the political situation in China, a theory predicated on the assumption that democracy can be transferred by osmosis.

Although this strategy is worth considering, it also imposes responsibilities on the actor seeking to change the other party. Among them is the need to use carrots and sticks in equal measure.

It is one thing for countries to look the other way when all they seek are lucrative deals with China. Reprehensible as this may be, a narrow, self--interest-first approach to China dovetails perfectly with Beijing’s loathing for foreign meddling in its domestic affairs. In most cases, both parties are perfectly happy to operate under this arrangement.

For some years now, academics and government officials have claimed that market capitalism would force China to democratize, even if this only occurred over time.

However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Chinese Communist Party has managed to embrace capitalism while keeping its hand firmly on the levers of power. What this means, therefore, is that democratizing requires a more sustained and multifaceted approach.

The Ma administration’s strategy could be just that, as it presumes to be in a position to “improve” China. In other words, while other governments can easily separate business from politics, Ma’s strategy of engagement calls, in theory, for a more refined approach.

However, Taipei has so far failed to comment on Beijing’s poor human rights record, with engagement continuing apace even when China broke the tacit rules that underpin Ma’s strategy.

My editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

No comments: