I have to get something off my chest and onto yours. I am not a diplomat, but I love to read about certain countries because of their interesting history. I say this because I am not currently in a position to be a diplomat, but I write as if I could explain foreign affairs better than a career envoy. This post will be about Taiwan, a country I have read about for more than 5 years. Taiwan is not universally recognized as an independent country. It has a robust trade and defense alliance with two large and powerful countries, China and the United States. However, these two countries have largely opposite views on the status of Taiwan. Fortunately, positive economic development for decades has led to a tolerance a preference towards continuing the status quo, both de jure and de facto, although an encroachment of parlance has transpired in recent months.
Taiwan has been described as a geopolitical “stump” to China’s projection of power in the East Sea. It has also been described as the “cork” to China’s bottle. I feel an alternative analogy is due, and in much more intimate terms. Taiwan is simply, the younger, more privileged sister of China. It is wilder, and less tame because of its historical status as a Portuguese colony, a Japanese colony, and a Chinese colony. It has been called too large too ignore its fertile land, but too small [for all of China?] China is much like a paternal father, and the United States a well-to-do bachelor, interested in Taiwan’s hand in marriage. The problem, is of course, that China does not approve of this intimate marriage. It probably would benefit the United States in this foreign affair to wed Taiwan in more ways than one, but this inevitably cannot occur without some form of inclusion of China into the marriage, like all marriages do. Much like a holiday gathering, China is the father and mother that a young newlywed couple would invite to their home for a family meal. Furthermore, parents are major part of a family and would be expected to be involved in many aspects of one’s adult life. China, a nearly developed country, is not young in its modern power, but it must adapt to the changes in its provincial childrens’ progress to adulthood.
Taiwan’s autonomy has never been congruent with the China’s nationalistic governance, however, because many dispute the status of the island as a province in the first place, Taiwan remains largely a de facto autonomous government. While it is not right for an outsider to impose much opinion on this matter, it is a topic that deserves greater care and attention, no matter how dispossessed one is from the issue. The concept of two countries, one ethically related, the other, ideologically related, forming a lifelong alliance with Taiwan, can be compared in no better way than how a disapproving, paternalistic father tolerates or accepts the marriage of his daughter to a rebellious fiance. America hasn’t shaken off its rebellious spirit, but in some ways it does need to reform its dangerous tendencies. On the other hand, China’s perception in the West as a stodgy patriarch is also somewhat dated, and also needs its own reforms. It is my wish that this foreign affair ends happily ever after, because the alternative is like an unmarried spinster. If Taiwan is happy that way, or feels it is the only sane option, then it will take that path if it must. However, I feel that where thoughtful introspection is due, that those who value a free country should find in Taiwan a country deserving of its attention, one that need not transition to one of less freedom, and less autonomy. Only poor economic development or military action would lead to the loss of sovereignty in Taiwan, let alone the scant official international recognition that it has.
If foreign affairs were viewed literally, then it’s not hard to see why a love of ideology or money is the driving force for closer bilateral relations. I feel there should be more soul-searching, and perhaps some wealthy countries in Europe could afford to view Taiwan in a more like-minded way, but perhaps went broke and were given a deal they couldn’t refuse. Whatever the reason, it’s best to understand the decisions we make before we make them. The United States and China may understand the importance of Taiwan more than many other countries, with the exception of Japan, yet if more countries could learn from the insights of Taiwan, then perhaps there would be better decision making in other countries. Democracy is not a new export, it was not the only thing I was referring to. I am referring more to the political lessons than a country has learned over a century than the ideas that have been imported but failed to gain any traction, as in countries where democracy was imported but prevented from having any strong central role.
Taiwan has demonstrated a transition from a dictatorship to free elections- few countries have had success stories as good as this. It seems to beg the question- is it anything in the culture of a country to adapt responsibly that grants them a status of maturity, cooperation, and organization? Is Taiwan the result of a planned economy? If an economy was planned, then in some ways, it arose out of authoritarianism. However, it appears there is a pragmatism when allowing flexibility within a largely planned approach. Allowing for a broad array of flexibility in the workforce and educational policy allows for more experimental development to flourish its most promising programs while allowing unsuccessful pilot development projects to be discontinued (e.g. China’s Great Leap Forward). What should change, however, is, the inability to reconsider failed experiments in new contexts. Initial conditions unfavorable to one scientific result are not necessarily identical conditions to a newer scenario with more favorable conditions. This is not to say, for example, that another Great Leap Forward would be more successful, but it is to say that ideas that were tested in the past with poor planning could succeed in the future with a better level of measurement throughout the entire subjects of an experiment.
Democracy will always remain a vibrant type of experiment. To compare it to the Midas Touch would ironically imperil its potential, however there is a gold lining in all of this. Democracy allows the maximum number of heads to manage a local issue, where many times a local issue needs to be managed only by a local set of heads. The alternative, is a federalism of micromanagement. While the United States has a strong federal government, its deference to states regarding many local issues is a practical and positive system. It is, however realistic to assume that other countries cannot anytime soon tolerate this form of government. While I can imagine a country where all major societal decisions are made from a central capital, ideologically it is at odds with the trust that humans place in self-determination. However, certain functions of government can benefit provinces more efficiently through a vantage of centralization, whereas decentralization could also serve an form of analytical governance- that is- governing and decision-making through research of disparate constituents rather than centralized governance based heavily on ideology, and low on statistic-based decision making.
Self-forming governance- in other words, anarchy, represents the highest form of eusociality available to human societies. In appearance, anarchy is chaotic. In reality, anarchy represents the maximum amount of flexibility to absorb rapid changes in losses or increases in an entity’s fortunes. Thus the ideology serves as a tool for societies in need of positive reform. Anarchy itself is also potentially just a meta-state. It may exist within a larger state, or it may exist on the fringes of a core system, both mutually and parasitically. The emphasis is on intent, rather than ideology itself, which is also a metaphysical application in some scenarios. Therefore, the true spectrum of political status in a country like Taiwan is not authoritarianism, democracy, or anarchy, but a combination of all three, much like a sister is a daughter and a mother in different and simultaneous contexts. It is both an opportunity and the eye of the beholder that defines reality. Therefore it is up to everyone to view things positively where it is due.