Writing in National Interest Kent Wang has made an extraordinarily weak and confusing case, that “Taiwan Must Not Give Tsai Ing-wen Four More Years”
In the classical Marxist style of operating in paradoxes, he has turned the DPP’s argument that the KMT is moving Taiwan towards one country two systems authoritarianism on its head, by allaying a new fear, that instead, Tsai is the threat to democracy, and is moving towards some kind of authoritarianism. His evidence seems to be lacking at best.
What he doesn’t articulate is an alternative future. He also refrains from mentioning the potential outcomes if her opponents, Han Guo-yu (韓國瑜) or James Soong (宋楚瑜), are elected. In fact he only references Han (the candidate for the KMT), the only candidate that appears to have even a long shot against Tsai, once in the beginning of his article simply as her opponent.
Wang asserts that the Tsai administration is “forcefully playing the anti-China card,” as if addressing the concerns of the population in a country which is under the crosshairs of thousands of armed Chinese long range missiles aimed by an enemy with which no peace treaty was ever signed, that the fear is somehow excessive. This also seems to be a fundamental misreading of the situation. In fact, as he later mentions the government has not cut off relations with the nation with which it is still, de facto, in a state of active war. The CCP government consistently reiterates that it has the right and will to use military force to bring Taiwan under its control should they ever move towards simply claiming that they are outside of Chinese sovereignty. It seems that arguing one should be wary of, and perhaps even begin decoupling from, a nation that constantly threatens to invade your free and sovereign country, and does all in its power to erase your existence from international bodies and strip you of your allies, that this is not a radical idea.
Wang’s argument seems to be that Tsai is planning to completely destroy Taiwanese democracy by tricking Taiwan’s people with “attractive policies,” that is, social programs, then becoming an all powerful dictator in control of the “four powers of democracy.” When he later goes on to describe the Taiwanese economy as weak, he misses the point that creeping economic generational inequality in Taiwan is the main culprit keeping Taiwan’s economy in the “doldrums.” If Taiwan wants real growth, it should firstly get serious about tackling the looming demographic collapse and provide generous maternity leave, daycare, large minimum wage increases outpacing inflation, and taxes on vacant homes. Such measures would help Taiwan with both its dismally low birthrate, which will mean the island will be essentially depopulated within a few generations, and the economic dismay felt by much of the Taiwanese youth.
Wang also seems unable to grasp the basic differences between communism and Chinese authoritarian state-capitalism. He shockingly appears to believe that social spending will lead to the people of Taiwan becoming “subjects of existing Communist states, regretting in the end, but too late,” suggesting that economic egalitarianism is the precursor to communism. If this is the case, someone ought to let China, the world’s premier “communist” country with one of the most grossly unequal, and fiercely state-capitalist societies on the face of the earth, know about this. So it seems that Taiwan should be afraid of the CCP because they will, as Wang points out, rule the nation. Fear not however, Wang has a plan.
Wang posits that if Taiwan wants to avoid this fate they must instead grow closer to China, a bit paradoxical and frighteningly dangerous, since China is actively trying to annex Taiwan. Actually, Taiwan’s economy has been growing quite steadily under the Tsai administration, if unequally, and it has even seen a drop in exports to China, something I’d imagine that Mr. Wang would say is a disastrous development. However, Taiwan has also increased its exports to America nearly triple the number it dropped from China in 2019. Taiwan also has a trade surplus with the US.
This all flies in the face of what Wang is arguing. It is likely that Taiwan would have an unbelievably hard time dropping all trade with China overnight. It should be mentioned that China is the largest trading partner of Taiwan. This article is not saying there should be a complete shutdown of economic cooperation between the two nations, nether is Tsai for that matter. However, if Wang truly believes both that China is a communist state, and that communism is a pernicious system that ought to be fought, then why should Taiwan continue to transfer intellectual property, send human capital, and trade with a scourge on human society?
By Wang’s own logic, the reasonable thing to do would be for Taiwan to decouple with the PRC until they embrace democracy, or at least stop putting minority populations in concentration camps and relying on prisoners for slave labor provided to state owned factories. If “communism” is truly the evil that Wang claims, and by this, it is not clear whether he is referring to Marxist communism or Chinese style authoritarian state-capitalism, that if democracy is the highest value of Taiwan, then Taiwan should also be willing to sacrifice a few cheaply made Huawei spyphones in exchange for a better world and a more liberty.
Yes, it is possible, though not optimal, that Taiwan can continue to trade with China, and suffer few if any blows to their free and democratic form of government because of it. They’ve been doing it for a while and though Wang is complaining that Tsai is destroying Taiwanese democracy, he fails to give any evidence. However, I will give our readers a few examples highlighting why Taiwan is one of, if not the most, free and democratic states in all of Asia.
Taiwan has the freest press in Asia, ranked 42 in the world, put that next to China at 177 out of 180 according to the 2019 World Press Freedom Index. Taiwan has universal suffrage, while China has an oligarchy and that’s putting it kindly. In terms of egalitarianism, Taiwan is the first and only country in Asia to legalize same sex marriage. If the reader or Mr. Wang need more evidence of the continued prosperity of democracy in freedom in Taiwan you can check out Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2019, where Taiwan gets an overall score of 93/100. China scored an impressively low 11.
The most egregious offence that Wang commits in the article is one of omission, he refuses to discuss how Han Guo-yu, Tsai’s opponent in the 2020 presidential race, would handle the issue of China.
Han has rallied his loyal group of fans (韓粉) since he ran for mayor of Kaohsiung on a grab bag of empty promises. These range from seemingly small ones like reducing the pollution, to enormous ones like bringing Disneyland to the city. He has fulfilled none of them, and has instead spent most of his time outside of Kaohsiung, on vacation and then campaigning for president, not even one full year after his inauguration. He has done such a poor job in fact that there is a huge movement to recall him as mayor garnering over 300,000 signatures in a city with a population of just over 2 million.
Wang also failed to mention that the KMT’s, Han’s party, list of non-district representative, or party list, is filled with what could only be described as traitors to Taiwan. One example of this is Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷) who traveled to China in 2016 to attend a speech by Xi Jin-ping. This is of course not the only, or even the most offensive case. Though it is emblematic of the wanton disrespect many KMT politicians have for democracy and the deference they show for dictatorial strongmen who wish to invade their country by force.
Wang conveniently left all of this out. He didn’t even make the slightest effort to deal with the dangers of electing not only a buffoon, but a cadre of, at best opportunists, and at worst, a den of back-stabbing traitors with him. He penned a piece, devoid of both evidence and simple logic, to tear down Tsai, who is a symbol for many, both on Taiwan’s various islands and in places like Hong Kong, as a symbol of hope for a democratic future.
None of this is to say that Taiwan, or the DPP, are free of their own issues. There are many issues in Taiwan that any party has yet to fully deal with. These include the rights of migrant workers, low wages, and even the fundamental issue of solidifying Taiwan’s right to an identity as a distinct state because of their political differences, instead of relying on history and race.
However, none of these issues are likely to be dealt with better by the KMT. Han has yet to put forth almost any policies, instead he simply promises that we will all 發大財 (get rich). However, with no plan to do so, the past of a conman, and the desire to forge ever deeper connections with the brutal dictatorship that is the Chinese Communist Party, it seems that Wang has gotten it completely backwards. Taiwan must give Tsai Ing-wen four more years, at least until there are more choices from some of Taiwan’s vibrant third party choices that perhaps can deal with the issues better to Wang’s satisfaction.
Staff Writers: Ari B and Jordan F