Saturday, March 22, 2008

Taiwan - China's Other Problem

"We are also determined to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

Whilst the media has been focused on the ongoing situation in Tibet and its struggle for freedom, the situation in Taiwan has been generally overlooked, and yet it exposes the double standard at the heart of US/UK foreign policy.

Taiwan first applied for UN membership in July of last year
. The Chinese government, however, saw this as a threat to the unity of China and gave very clear warnings to Taiwan should they continue to proceed along these lines, threatening to use force if it continues to pursue a course of independence. Despite these continued threats, the Taiwanese government decided to press forward with a referendum on UN membership which was scheduled to take place today. What is particularly interesting about this fight for freedom and democracy, is the stance taken by the United States and the United Kingdom.

In the light of the Bush administration's 'commitment to democracy' (as opposed for their lust to control the earth's resources), one would expect there to be noises of encouragement emanating from the White House - no such luck. Instead, the United States government has been echoing similar sentiments to that of the Chinese government - this is not a welcome development. When discussing the proposed Taiwanese referendum towards the end of last year, Condoleeza Rice said the following:

"We think that Taiwan's referendum to apply to the United Nations under the name 'Taiwan' is a provocative policy.

"It unnecessarily raises tensions in the Taiwan Strait, and it promises no real benefits for the people of Taiwan on the international stage."
'? 'No real benefit?'. Unusual terms to describe the desire of the Taiwanese people to be free, an ideal that the Bush administration apparently believed in. How quickly these high ideals are abandoned when faced with a more serious foe than the pathetic offering of the Iraqi army. Could it be that the US only supports democracy when it knows it can defeat the enemies of this high ideal? When it could lead to a conflict they would likely lose, suddenly democracy doesn't seem that important anymore. And yet, Bush claims to 'support the growth of democratic movements' across the world.

It now appears that the movement towards independence has been nothing more than a blip in the recent history of Taiwan. Reports suggest that Ma Ying-jeou, of the Kuomintang party, has won the election by 17%. Ma has committed himself to even stronger ties with China and has proposed a formal peace treaty with Beijing. Although it is difficult to say how much impact the reaction to the referendum from Beijing and Washington has had on the poll (the referendum did not garner enough votes to be valid), the threat of military invasion from China would have done much to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the Taiwanese. Furthermore, Ma has been particularly clever in his campaigning. Understanding that there was growing concern regarding the situation in Tibet, Ma criticised the authorities in Beijing to ease fears at home whilst also claiming he would not push the issue with China (thus preserving the facade of independence and pleasing both his masters in Beijing and Taiwan).

The real winners in this election has been the capitalists, who have been pushing for closer ties with China for some time. China has been a major source of business for Taiwanese capitalists in recent years, as one Taiwanese resident pointed out:

"Nowadays Taiwanese capitalists hire at least ten million workers in China and almost all Taiwan’s top 50 manufacturing companies have subsidiaries there. The mainland’s abundant cheap labour, cheap land, tax-breaks and subsidies for foreign companies, mean that China has actually become the main source of profit for Taiwanese capitalism".

Even in communist China's sphere of influence capitalism rules, no wonder the US was keen to turn a blind eye to the calls for democracy in Taiwan. As a result of which, it appears that the flame of democracy has been extinguished in Taiwan, and both China and the US have conspired to snuff it out.