Democracy should be about the art of the possible, a quest for the best possible outcome, and not solely a mechanism by which to choose the least bad option
One should always be wary of specialists who, from the cushioned comfort of their distant armchairs, make grand telescopic pronouncements about what it is that other countries “want.” Sadly for Taiwan, there is no shortage of such individuals who pretend to know what Taiwanese want.
Without the benefit of being in situ and really getting to know Taiwanese, their dreams, fears and all, it is easy for foreign analysts to personalize policy and to substitute public will for government rhetoric, especially under an administration in Taipei that has left little room for dissenting opinion.
Never — at least not since Taiwan was a nominal democracy — has the falseness of the assumption that a government speaks for its people been so markedly obvious than since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) came into office in May 2008. And yet, commenting recently on signs that Taiwan and China were moving toward some type of convergence, esteemed academics, people like Robert Sutter of George Washington University, will confidently tell others that “If Taiwan says ‘This is what we want,’” then the US had no right to object.
What is sorely missing from such facile observations is a refinement of what is meant by “Taiwan” and whether the individuals who purport to speak in its name truly reflect public will.
My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.