Taiwan’s first female president, and its most defiantly democratic, faces increased pressure from Beijing over the island’s national identity. Canada’s “quietude” amidst the ongoing squeeze has been noted.
The Democratic Progressive Party swept aside Taiwan’s Kuomintang government earlier this year, casting a landslide vote in favour of standing firm against China’s increased efforts to dominate the country – a delicate task for Taiwan’s most defiantly democratic and first female president, Tsai Ing-wen.
Terry Glavin for the National Post writes President Tsai’s refusal to capitulate to previous understandings of the status quo between her country and Beijing has prompted China to suspend official channels of communication with the island, isolate it from the international community and chill tourist flow between the mainland and the island. [See: U.N. agency snubs Taiwan, recognizing Beijing’s ‘one China’]
After a civil war, China and Taiwan – officially the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China – separated in 1949 but Taiwan is still claimed by China as part of its territory.
Glavin notes that Canada’s “quietude” amidst the ongoing squeeze is significant given that “the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s avowedly feminist, socially progressive and emphatically democratic ideals” align with Tsai’s DPP government, “which is the Taiwanese affiliate of Trudeau’s party through Liberal International.”
What to make of it? Could it have something to do with trade?
Ottawa and Beijing have lately agreed to begin discussions on a free trade agreement, an extradition treaty and the resumption of Chinese state-owned enterprises buying up Canadian energy companies. Trudeau has been lavishly flattered in an official visit to China and he has returned the favour in Canada to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Although barely a year in government, Trudeau’s Liberals have struck 29 agreements with China and have set out to double bilateral trade over the next 10 years.
Szu-chien Hsu, president of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, an institute that operates at arms-length from Taiwan’s government, warns that Canada’s “single-minded devotion to business deals” with China “will exact a price to be paid in democratic values.” Hsu told Glavin, Chinese President Xi Jinping is no friend of democracy and has no regard for “universal values” in pursuit of his country’s national interests – an anti-democratic reach that is spreading quickly. “I think we have to be very alarmed about that,” he said.
“The relationship between prosperity and democracy — we would like to see a positive relationship between these two paths. If we don’t have a healthy path, one will destroy the other. This is very, very dangerous. It is self-destruction. It is the destruction of civilization. We are not opposing China. We have to defend democracy. It’s civilization for human beings. It’s even for China’s sake.”