Has Taiwan Learned Anything from the Crisis in Ukraine?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 16, 2014
Summary: Although they are different in size, Taiwan and Ukraine have undergone similar experiences. Populist politics, national identity, social divisions, and power struggles have led to lost economic development. Confronted with the Ukraine crisis, we need to engage in self-examination. We need to think about how to forsake populist politics, how to establish a consensus on economic development, and how to revitalize the Republic of China politically, economically, and socially. We need to think about how to make it an attractive, dynamic, and constructive force for cross-Strait peaceful development. This will do more than benefit Taiwan. It will benefit our entire nation.
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On the 11th of this month, two states in eastern Ukraine held referenda on independence. Polling stations were few. Donetsk City voters were forced to wait in long lines. The US and the EU denounced the referenda as illegal. ( AFP )
Two states in eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Lugansk, held referenda on May 11. They decided whether to create a autonomous Donetsk/Luhansk People's Republic. or self-styled People's Republic of Donetsk. Election Commission officials said that 89.07% of the voters supported the establishment of autonomous state, while 10.19% were opposed. Luhansk Oblast separatist forces said 96% of the voters support autonomy.
The goals of the referenda were somewhat vague. What exactly constitutes "autonomy?" Is it a declaration of independence from Ukraine and the establishment of an independent nation? Is it a declaration of autonomy within Ukraine, moving Ukraine toward some sort of federalism? The separatist forces who organized the referendum failed to make any of this clear. On the 12th of this month, right on the heels of the referenda, pro-independence forces in two states in Houdon cited the results of these referenda and proclaimed their independence from Ukraine. They refused to participate in the Ukrainian presidential elections scheduled for May 25, and asked the Russian government to allow them to join the Russian Federation. Ukrainian independence has morphed into Russian reunification.
For many the referenda were farces. There was no voter registration, no verification of identities, no ballot security measures, no impartial, neutral vote counting system. There were not even enough votes for a quorum, Naturally Europe and the US refused to recognize the referenda. Even Russian authorities are maintaining a cautious attitude concerning the referenda and their outcomes
If Houdon's referendum was a farce, then isn't the entire Ukrainian crisis merely a larger-scale, more serious farce?
In 1991, Ukraine won independence from the Soviet Union. This was one of the results of the grand strategy of the United States and other Western countries to bring down the Soviet Union. Since then, the Western countries have fought to split Ukraine off from Russia and make it part of Europe. This fight has never ended. If anything, it has become more flagrant. In May 2004, the three Baltic states, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and other former communist countries joined the European Union. The borders of "Political Europe" now reached Ukraine. By the end of the year, the Orange Revolution had erupted in Ukraine. Western pressure, support, and subtle influence made Ukraine's orange revolution the most powerful of all the color revolution opposition groups. Its most significant impact on the world was the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovich, the pro-Russian Prime Minister of Ukraine.
But the orange revolution did not bring Ukraine hope. Inflation worsened and people's living standards fell. In 2010, Yanukovych was democratically elected President of Ukraine. After some waffling, Yanukovych terminated the long negotiated agreement with the EU. He canceled plans to join the EU free trade zone. He strengthened economic and trade relations with Russia. Yanukovych's actions triggered demonstrations by pro-EU forces. The so-called "revolution in Ukraine" eventually led to his downfall, and brought Ukraine even more turmoil and division.
It is fair to say that years of economic stagnation and poverty, coupled with corruption, tyranny, and oligarchic control, led to profound discontent with the Yanukovych regime. The movement initially focused on matters of the people's livelihood and democracy. Unfortunately Ukraine was in the grip of extreme right ultranationalists. These populists hated ethnic Russians and Russia.
Ukraine was once the richest republic in the Soviet Union. It was known as the Breadbasket of Europe. Among the Soviet republics, it had the highest proportion of engineers, the most technologically advanced manufacturing and engineering, and world-class welding technology. Its industrial and agricultural output accounted for one fifth of the Soviet Union's wealth. It was the base for the Soviet Union's military industry. Ukraine is located between the EU and Russia. Its geopolitical situation is complex and sensitive. All parties have intervened aggressively. Ukraine could have used this as leverage. With its unique combination of rich resources, of scientific, technical, and geopolitical advantages, it could have become self-reliant. Alas, these opportunies were repeatedly lost.
Today's Ukraine economy ranks at the bottom of the former Soviet states. After 20 years of independence, economic development has yet to be restored to the level it was in 1990. Real GDP in 2012 was 69.5% of what it was in 1990. Real GDP per capita was 81.1% of what it was in 1990. The nation is in chaos. People are suffering. Some scholars have identified the key. "Ukraine faces domestic problems. Twenty years of independence have not provided answers to problems such as economic development." Its ruling cliques however, have recast domestic issues as national identity issues. They want Russia to follow Europe. The result is that the nation has been divided and the people are suffering.
Houdon's future is in question. The major powers continue their struggle, fully exposing the hypocrisy of the West, Kosovo is permitted to hold a referendum. But Crimea and eastern Ukraine are not. In the past the major powers emphasized human rights over sovereignty. Now they insist the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine is indivisible. What constitutes true happiness and dignity for the Ukrainian people? The major powers have no answers and do not care.
Although they are different in size, Taiwan and Ukraine have undergone similar experiences. Populist politics, national identity, social divisions, and power struggles have led to lost economic development. Confronted with the Ukraine crisis, we need to engage in self-examination. We need to think about how to forsake populist politics, how to establish a consensus on economic development, and how to revitalize the Republic of China politically, economically, and socially. We need to think about how to make it an attractive, dynamic, and constructive force for cross-Strait peaceful development. This will do more than benefit Taiwan. It will benefit our entire nation.
2014年05月16日 04:10 中國時報 編輯部
烏克蘭東部兩州頓涅茨克（Donetsk）與盧甘斯克（Luhansk）在5月11日舉行了「公民投票」，決定是否要建立「自治」的「頓涅茨克／盧甘斯克人民共和國」。自封的「頓涅茨克人民共和國（Donetsk People’s Republic）」選舉委員會官員表示，89.07%選票支持建立自治國家，10.19%反對。盧甘斯克州分離主義勢力則宣稱有96%選民支持「自治」。