Cross-Strait Political Systems Can Merge
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 17, 2014
Executive Summary: Political systems are dynamic. They are constantly in development.
Neither Taiwan style democracy nor Mainland style democracy are all good
or all bad. What is needed is communication between the two sides. They
can fill each others' gaps. They must tolerate each other, and learn
from each other, while moving forward, toward eventual reintegration.
Full Text Below:
The Mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Fan Liqing has commented once again on President Ma Ying-jeou's Double Ten speech. Fan Liqing told reporters that the Mainland authorities resolutely oppose his comments about the Mainland's political system and Hong Kong's political reform. Fan Liqing stressed that "The two sides of the Strait have chosen different paths for their political development. We respect our Taiwan compatriots' social system and lifestyle choices." Fan Liqing said: "As for Taiwan's political path and social and political stability, and its impact on economic development, we have no comment. But we hope that the Taiwan side respects the choices and goals of the Mainland's 1.3 billion people."
Fan Liqing was quite blunt. In particular, her "no comment" response regarding the influence of Taiwan's political development, was obviously no affirmation. She implied that it was "not appreciated." Apparently Ma's evaluation of the value of Hong Kong's political reform, the Occupy Central movement, and the political differences between the Mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, has morphed into criticism of Taiwan style democracy.
Democracy means rule by the people. This contrasts with handing power over to a single individual. Democracy means handing the power to rule over to a majority of the people. Ancient Chinese tribal communities often featured collective decision-making. They had ancient city-state political participation by citizens in addition to traditional aristocratic republics. During the Sui and Tang Dynasties, during the Middle Ages, and even during the Qing dynasty, the nobility governed collectively. Limits on absolute monarchy were an important part of the Chinese political system. All these were forms of democracy or seeds of democracy.
The KMT era Nationalist Government and the revolutionary era, founding era, or ruling era Communist Party, are all believers in, and practioners of, democracy. They merely had their own interpretation of what democracy meant. They may not be the same as Western liberal democracy. In fact, many Western champions of liberal democracy agree that "Democracy is not perfect, but it is the best of all known systems. "
The success or failure of Western liberal democracy was a major point of debate, especially during the Cold War. It was one of the core issues of East-West ideological confrontation. Following the implosion of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact in 1989, renowned Western scholar Frances Fukuyama advanced his "End of History" thesis. He declared that the birth of liberal democracy marked the end of history. There would never be any better solution than democracy.
But the failure of traditional Soviet totalitarian socialism in Eastern Europe does no imply the success of Western liberal democracy. From 1989 to the present, the United States and Great Britain have waged numerous wars. The impact of the financial crisis, the increasing wealth disparity, the untoward influence and relentless expansion of multinational corporations and financial conglomerates, along with political unrest in many countries, have made more and more people question the superiority of Western liberal democracy.
Fukuyama himself has apparently modified his position. Three years ago he published a book entitled "Political Order and Political Decline: From the Industrial Revolution to Democratic Globalization." He stressed that democracy is only one part of political stability. If one errs, democracy can also be a factor leading to instability. His core argument was that a sound social order requires three conditions: Strong government, the Rule of Law, and democratic accountability. Fukuyama stressed that all three are indispensable.
Fukuyama offered a standard by which to evaluate political system success or failure. He pointed out that colonial rule in India had the rule of law and democratic accountability. Of course, the rule of law in India was often rendered ineffective by the shortcomings of bureaucracy. Democracy, meanwhile, is often confusing and tedious. On the other hand, India's central government is relatively weak. Fukuyama believes that India meets two of his three conditions. He thinks it is not that bad, but also not quite a success.
Let us evaluate Taiwan using Fukuyama's three conditions. Taiwan boasts the rule of law and democratic accountability. But it has much room for improvement. On the other hand, we lack a strong government. This has seriously undermined political and social stability and economic development. This is the biggest problem with Taiwan style democracy. Meanwhile, as Fukuyama points out, the Mainland has a strong central government -- a legacy of its imperial history. But it definitely needs to improve its rule of law and democratic accountability.
Comparing the two sides of the Strait provides us with food for thought regarding out political direction. One. We have often said that the economic division between the two sides is complementary and mutually beneficial. According to Fukuyama's three conditions, the two sides' political systems and political modernization complement each other. They facilitate learning from each other. Two. Many people ignore the role of strong government as a positive factor in Taiwan's economic development. Many hold different views on the matter. Taiwan's successful economic development was not the result of neoliberal economics' free economy and private property. Rather, it was the result of economic planning, state-owned enterprises, foreign exchange controls, and other policies. Three. The Mainland has a strong government. The Mainland is actually promoting democratic accountability and the rule of law from a relatively solid foundation, enabling it to remain stable while gradually moving forward.
Political systems are dynamic. They are constantly in development. Neither Taiwan style democracy nor Mainland style democracy are all good or all bad. What is needed is communication between the two sides. They can fill each others' gaps. They must tolerate each other, and learn from each other, while moving forward, toward eventual reintegration.