Jul 25, 2007

Representative Wu Speaks on the Challenges to Taiwanese Democracy

On July 9, 2007, the Asia America Initiative was invited to attend a discussion about building democracy in developing countries. The event, entitled "Divisive Politics and National Unity: Challenges of Democracy," was hosted by the Association on Third World Affairs.

One of the keynote speakers was Representative Joseph Wu of the Republic of China (Taiwan). As the head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington, D.C., he also serves an ambassadorial function for U.S.-Taiwan relations. The focus of Representative Wu's talk was the historical, present, and future problems and prospects facing Taiwan's democratic development.

Martial law was lifted only in 1987, and the first peaceful transfer of power between political parties did not happen until 2000. As a relatively young democracy, Taiwan continues to have some remnants of its authoritarian past. Symbols such as the national anthem are vestiges of the old Kuomintang (KMT) dictatorship. Public allegiance to a "one China" policy is also split along historical lines. Indigenous Taiwanese in the south and in the provinces tend support independence, while more recent mainland emigres continue to support the concept of a unified China.

These historical influences combine with fierce domestic divisions to apply pressure on democracy in Taiwan. The pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) narrowly beat out the pro-unity KMT in the most recent, and highly controversial presidential election. With another presidential election cycle approaching this spring, politics continue to be deeply divisive.

Looming over and throughout the Taiwanese politics is the spectre of China. Representative Wu stressed that the China issue simply cannot be resolved with such domestic division. While there are minorities that push strongly for independence or unification, the vast majority of Taiwanese simply want to continue the status quo. The spring 2008 elections will thus have very significant implications for the future of China-Taiwan relations.

China, for its own part, has gone to great lengths to change the status quo. By throwing around its international clout, China has pushed for a sort of de jure unification. It has been successful in barring Taiwan from membership in key international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization. It has also used foreign aid and economic power to pressure states into switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

Representative Wu closed by reaffirming the resilience of Taiwanese democracy. Its foundations are built on the rule of law, respect for human rights, and due process. Despite many challenges, both internal and international, Taiwan has continued to move forward in the process of democratization.

Jul 5, 2007

Interesting Videos

Check out the "Sexy Beijing" video series to the right for an interesting and entertaining account of life and culture in China's capital.

For more information, check out this article:

China Censored Pollution Report, says Financial Times

The Financial Times reported On July 3rd that Beijing removed “nearly a third of a World Bank report on pollution in China because of concerns that its findings on premature deaths could provoke ‘social unrest’.”

According to the article, the original report prepared in cooperation with Chinese authorities contained the following conclusions:

- High air pollution levels in Chinese cities are leading to the premature deaths of 350,000-400,000 people each year

- An additional 300,000 people die prematurely each year from exposure to poor air indoors

- Approximately 60,000 premature deaths were attributable to poor-quality water, largely in the countryside, resulting in severe diarrhoea and stomach, liver and bladder cancers.

All of which was cut from the report.

Financial Times Article:

Preliminary Version of the World Bank Report “The Cost of Pollution In China”:

As China prepares for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, air pollution has become a major concern.

The Australian Broadcasting Service (among other sources) has reported that the International Olympic Committee is concerned about pollution aversely affecting athletes and Beijing has experimented with the temporary measures including a plan to remove one million cars fro Beijing’s congested roadways.

ABC News Article:

As China attempts to polish its image for the showcase of the Beijing Olympic Games it has to contend with many issues it would perhaps rather ignore or obfuscate. Pollution is one of them.