TAIWAN: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Fostering democracies on the Pacific Rim
, September 10, 2005
Taiwan has helped form the Democratic Pacific Union (DPU) to foster the deepening of democracy, primarily among Pacific Rim nations, reports Pat Byrne.On the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific, Taiwan hosted representatives of 26 countries to form the Democratic Pacific Union (DPU).
The DPU concept was largely the work of Taiwan's vice-president, Lu Hsiu-lien, with strong backing of some Asian and Latin American states.
Attending were representatives from Japan, the Russian Federation, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor, Canada, the USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, Chile, Marshall Islands, Palau, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Australia and New Zealand.
The aim of the DPU is to work at a number of levels to foster the deepening of democracy, primarily among Pacific Rim nations.
Over the past two decades, a spate of countries in Asia and Latin America have become fledgling democracies, including Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia.Democratic failure
However, as Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian told the opening ceremony, of Asia's 39 countries, 15 fail to meet the criteria of a deepening democracy. "In these countries, people do not choose their leaders through popular elections, and the armed forces exist to serve certain political parties or individuals rather than the nation and people.
"Moreover, human rights records in these countries still remain poor and there is also a lack of sound rule of law and party politics. Even more alarming, four out of five existing communist states in the world are in Asia."
The DPU aims to foster among newer democracies stronger commitments to human rights, a free press and an independent judiciary.
Among many member states, there is a need to deepen the institutions that make democracies work, including overcoming poverty though sustainable development.
The DPU also aims to promote peaceful resolutions of regional disputes, and greater cooperation in areas of trade, technology and cultural exchange. It also has a maritime focus, aiming to promote sustainable use of the Pacific Ocean's resources, over which there is much competition between states in the region.
To these ends, the DPU intends to establish a number of co-operation and development departments. It also aims to have a strong education focus with a university and a range of exchange study programs.
The issue of China still being a communist country, with a rapidly developing economy and fast expanding defence force, is confronting many Pacific states. China's economic, trade and strategic directions are already having a major impact on world affairs.
In particular, Taiwan's separate existence is a challenge to China, and a thorn in its side. Taiwan is much more economically developed than China, and its emergence as a democracy - with different aspirations from earlier intentions of unification with a democratic China - is considered an affront by the Chinese Communist Party.
Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian defined part of the DPU's role in terms of unified action to help with the peaceful evolution of China into a democracy, and so maintain peace in the region.
He said at the inauguration ceremony, "the so-called 'rise of China' is based on many complex factors, such as China's huge market and economic appeal, its expanding military capabilities, the potential for socio-economic turmoil, the political centre's control capability, and the issue of whether political democratisation can be liberalised steadily.
"No one wishes to see the collapse of China, because the international community cannot bear the brunt of the impact should China collapse. Hence, to transform the developing China into a positive force in the 'Pacific community of democracies', the rise of China must be accompanied by 'peaceful awakening' and 'the beginning of democracy', the attainment of which constitutes a mission that members of the DPU must all readily shoulder together."
The need to "change China" was underscored by Taiwan's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Tan Sun Chen. He said in a press conference that "over the past decade, despite the lack of any foreign threat, China's national defence budget has registered double-digit growth each year, making China's defence budget the third largest in the world and the largest in Asia. In recent years, China has deployed more than 700 missiles ... targeted at Taiwan."Trade routes
The West has good reason to back a strong Taiwan, while engaging China to develop its economy, democratically evolve and keep peace in the Taiwan Straits. This maritime region is on one of the busiest trade routes in the world, for Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan.
Further, Taiwan is a high-tech powerhouse on which much of the world's computer industry depends. It provides 70 per cent of the world's chip foundry services, 72 per cent of the world's PC notebooks, 68 per cent of the world's LCD monitors, 66 per cent of cable modems and 79 per cent of PDAs. It is also the world's first or second largest supplier of other electronic devices like servers and digital cameras.
If the DPU can help in the peaceful transformation of China into a stable democracy, it will be playing a worthwhile role in world affairs.
- Pat Byrne was hosted at the DPU inauguration by the Taiwan Government.