Taipei is the venue of the latest global democracy forum – but so-called Taiwanese democracy is a farce
The 11th Global Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy kicked off this week, slated for October 24-27, in Taipei. The meeting, sponsored by the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), will see some 300 delegates from 70 countries participate in discussing challenges by authoritarian actors and efforts to strengthen democracy around the world.
This year’s theme is “Claiming the Democratic Future: Unifying Voices for a New Frontier” and will feature discussions on ways to combat disinformation, the mobilization of democracy efforts, and how to boost solidarity among democratic alliances.
NED President Damon Wilson said in March, when announcing Taipei as the locale for the latest edition of this forum, that “Taiwan be at the center of a global agenda for freedom, as part of integrating Taiwanese perspective into the world, ensuring that Taiwan is a hub for democrats.”
NED, funded primarily from the US budget, is known to ‘promote democracy’ selectively by furthering various anti-government efforts in countries seen as ‘adversarial’ by Washington, in regions all across the world, including Latin America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia.
But NED’s modus operandi aside, the choice of Taipei as the center of this debate draws serious questions given the region’s democratic shortcomings. For one, the constitutional basis of the so-called Taiwanese democracy is shaky. As academic Chien-Chih Lin described in a 2018 blog post for the International Association of Constitutional Law, “The Constitution of the Republic of China (ROC Constitution) contains and entrenches several undemocratic elements that prolong the ideology and hegemony of the self-deceiving one-China policy.”
Even though Taiwan as a self-governing entity was officially democratized in 1987 following a decades-long period of martial law that followed the Kuomintang’s (KMT) defeat during the Chinese Civil War, the constitutional changes that happened to facilitate this were questionable. As the scholar writes, the initial representatives of the National Assembly, who were tasked with amending the ROC’s constitution, were elected in mainland China in 1948 and served until 1991 – which raises questions about these changes in the context of political realities and necessities in Taiwan as an independent political unit.
“Even after 1991 when the representatives were elected solely by Taiwanese people, electoral malpractice, such as vote-buying and cheating, was rampant, partly because Taiwan was at the early stage of political transition and democracy was far from mature at that time,” he continues, noting “since the National Assembly monopolized the power to amend the Constitution, “constitutional rent-seeking” was prevalent: The representatives would not amend the constitution unless they received something in exchange.”
Since the ROC’s constitution still maintains that it is the sole, legitimate government of the entirety of China – that is, Taiwan is not separate from China but rather an inalienable part of it – this means that any “indigenization” of the constitution to fit Taiwan could only be interpreted as Taiwanese independence. This could draw immediate military intervention from the mainland, which became more salient after Beijing’s 2005 Anti-Secession Law, which legalizes the use of force against any attempt to legally separate Taiwan from the mainland.
This is why successive constitutional amendments have been in the context of the eventual reunification of China, which fundamentally undermines the concept of an independent Taiwanese democracy. It indicates, at the very least, that Taiwan’s democracy is immature – but mostly a farce in its constitutional basis.
The farcical nature of the island’s ‘vibrant’ democracy becomes more clear when current events precipitated by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are examined. For example, the DPP rubber-stamped the importation of pork containing ractopamine – a substance banned in China and the European Union – from the United States without consulting the Legislative Yuan. Taiwan’s Chung Tien Television (CTiTV) station, which was opposed to the DPP, lost its broadcasting license under sketchy circumstances.
Passing policies against public health interests without proper legislative consultation and banning opposition media are surely actions contrary to a healthy, functional democracy in the 21st century. This is also true when the DPP claims to have a strong commitment to ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ while, for example, keeping Chinese-developed Covid-19 vaccines out of the hands of its residents at the same time that it’s guzzling US-manufactured weapons like an insatiable hog.
To put it simply, Taiwanese officials are derailing democracy; they are not facilitating it. Taipei is certainly not a hub of democracy. As US officials described to the New York Times earlier this month, Taiwan is merely becoming a “giant weapons depot” meant to drag mainland China into a proxy war, thus weakening Beijing’s favorable geopolitical position relative to Washington and sowing immeasurable destruction. This latest NED forum in Taipei is meant to facilitate this goal by bifurcating the world into ‘authoritarian’ and ‘democratic’ camps that mean little else besides a state’s fealty to the Yankee overlords.
Such exchanges with Taipei are meant to legitimize Taiwan’s position as a ‘democracy,’ e.g., as a political entity that falls in line with Washington’s foreign policy agenda.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.