Great Progress in Taiwan's Democracy
By Jin Zhong
Ma Ying-jeou has been in place as Taiwan’s new president for a month now, and the Kuomintang’s dream of regaining its political power has been fulfilled. Although only one month has passed, we can still review some gains and losses for the new government and some special phenomena that have become apparent in this open and democratic society.
The first phenomenon is that there will be no revolutionary changes in Taiwan. No existing systems have been demolished, and Ma has been cautiously striking a balance on personnel and administrative matters, following most of the systems established by Chen Shui-bian. The appointment of former independence activists as high officials, such as Lai Hsing-yuan to head the Mainland Affairs Council, is an obviously example. It has aroused controversy, but the stability of the new government has not been affected.
In fact, Ma is now promoting harmony across the strait and great progress has been made. Wu Poh-hsiung and Chiang Pin-kung’s trip to the Mainland consolidated the preliminary agreement on cross-strait weekend flights and open access for mainland tourists. The DPP had previously promoted these projects, even though little progress had been made, so they had already been accepted by the majority of Taiwan’s people, as long as Taiwan’s sovereignty and dignity are maintained in cross-strait negotiations.
The Democratic Progressive Party now holds only a minority in Parliament and the media, but it is not defeated. The Party has not abandoned its dream and still can voice its opinion for a balance of power. After all, the opposition party represents the will and rights of 40 percent of Taiwan’s voters, so the KMT cannot afford to ignore them. Disputes arising since President Ma’s inauguration have sparked criticism not only from the green camp, but also from the blue camp, and questions have been raised regarding the capabilities of the Ma government. After several forced apologies, Ma’s popularity has fallen with the stock market.
The DPP launched reforms following its election loss, the most notable being the election of Ms Tsai Ing-wen as party leader. Her academic and professional image and her strong political skills are a breath of fresh air for Taiwan. Her election also reflects cohesion and the prospect of a rising new generation in the opposition party, a trend that few had predicted. Once the DPP’s reform are completed, the wisdom and power of Tsai and other new talents should bring the party into shape for competition with the KMT, and raise Taiwan’s democracy to a higher and more mature level.
The pro-democracy fighters represented by DPP lawyers for generations, including the “Four Heavenly Kings,” will fade into obscurity. Although Chen Shui-bian is still young, belonging to the same generation as Ma Ying-jeou, it is natural for a young political party like the DPP to undergo such change. After leaving office, Chen has turned a new page in his life by becoming a “lifelong volunteer.” The blue camp’s accusation that Chen would be unwilling to hand over his power after stepping down proved untrue.
As we can see, this second change of ruling parties in Taiwan has been accomplished peacefully yet impressively. Taiwan’s people took two decades to demonstrate that democracy is possible in a Chinese society, an achievement much greater than the Olympic Games, and with a value much higher than China’s US$1.7 trillion foreign exchange reserves. Chinese people do not need to go to Harvard or Oxford to study democracy, since Taiwan serves as a living textbook of Chinese democratic politics. As exchange and communication across the strait increases, observation and comparison will lead intelligent mainlanders to draw their own conclusions. There is real hope that no cross-strait war will occur, and that harmonious relations across the strait will promote social development and prosperity on both sides.
(Translated by Isabella Lam)