China has had plenty of opportunities to learn from democracies in the past decades, and yet remains authoritarian. The idea that contact with Taiwan will yield different results is a mistaken one
Despite the occasional suggestion by a handful of US academics that Washington should “abandon” Taiwan to its “inevitable” fate of unification with China, a good number of experts and officials maintain that the nation of 23 million cannot simply be willed out of existence and must therefore be dealt with.
Welcome though this defense of Taiwan may be, a surprisingly large number of such proponents, often in the same breath, add that democratic Taiwan is useful because it serves as an example for China, encouraging the incremental democratization and liberalization of the authoritarian giant next door.
Using terminology like “the first Chinese democracy,” such individuals fail to recognize that Taiwan is a distinct entity unto itself, or that the existence of its 23 million people is more than a means to an end.
Although qualitatively better than the argument that Taiwan should be forsaken by its allies and protectors for the sake of better relations with Beijing, the case that the nation is “useful” because it can foster change in China fails on moral grounds.
My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.