The Economist recently released its Democracy Index for 2021. The index looked at 165 countries and 2 regions (Palestine and Hong Kong). Taiwan preformed quite well on the list, topping many other countries.

Taiwan scored a total of 8.99 out of 10 on the index. It also was listed as a ‘full democracy’, along with other countries in the region such as South Korea and Japan. Out of the 165 countries and regions surveyed, Taiwan ranked 8th overall. It was by far the highest in East Asia and the second highest in the Eastern Hemisphere, only behind New Zealand, which took the second spot in the list with a score of 9.37.

The index is based on 5 categories: ‘electoral process and pluralism’, ‘functioning of government’, ‘political participation’, ‘political culture’, and ‘civil liberties’. Taiwan scored quite high in all scores, even attaining a perfect 10 out of 10 in the ‘electoral process and pluralism’ field.

Taiwan’s worst score was for ‘political participation’, where it only garnered 7.78 points. Second lowest was ‘political culture’ with 8.13. ‘Civil liberties’ and ‘functioning of government’ were next with 9.41 and 9.64 respectively.

While these numbers are good to see, Taiwan does still have a way to go in certain aspects. It still deals with human rights issues, sometimes very poorly. This is especially obvious with immigration issues, especially in regards to migrant workers and asylum seekers. Taiwan is also still dealing with political corruption and allegations of vote buying. Though hopefully through public scrutiny and accountability these issues will be resolved.

The subtitle of this year’s index is “The China challenge” highlighting the fact that China is putting forth a competing model of economic, political, and social control that could replace liberal democratic systems seen in places like Taiwan if it is allowed to. Unsurprisingly, China did not receive high marks.

China came in 148th place overall. They nation only received a score of 2.71. China actually scored a 0 on the ‘electoral process and pluralism’ category, literally the polar opposite of Taiwan, though this is unsurprising for a single-party state without universal suffrage. China’s highest marks were for ‘functioning of government’, though even in this metric the nation failed to get above 50 percent, scoring only 4.29. This was followed by ‘political culture at 3.13, ‘political participation’ with 2.78, and ‘civil liberties’ at 0.88.

As China’s global influence continues to grow, the world will have to ask itself whether this is the direction they wish to proceed in. The Economist believes that China will become the world’s largest economy by the year 2050. This is hard to say as many things could drastically change in the next 30 years, Chinese GDP number have often been questioned regarding their veracity.

Regardless, the world will certainly have to decide what to do with China. will it hold it accountable for its undemocratic government and flagrant human rights abuses, attempting to push them down the path of freedom and integration into the global order? Or will the world ignore these issues and bend to China to keep the cash machine and cheap plastic goods flowing?