TAIWAN: Free At Last?

It seems that Taiwan’s journalists are not in agreement about how “free” their island democracy really is.In fact, there is a trend surfacing in Taiwanese newspapers with many articles implicitly asking the same question of its readership: Are we a democracy? Certain journalists argue that Taiwan is far too influenced by outside factors – some bigger than others.  China, obviously, has proven an overwhelming influence on Taiwan’s political and economic strategies.

On the other end of the spectrum, other journalists side with the recent Freedom House report that pegged Taiwan among the top “free” nations. According to the Taipei Times – one of the nation’s leading English-language newspapers – “the Washington-based group ranks political rights and civil liberties on a scale of 1 (most free) to 7 (least free) largely by reference to the values of the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights.” Some of the qualities taken into the rating formula are free elections, multiparty democracy, rule of law and equality of opportunity.

These values, however, show just how subjective the word “freedom” can be, as they are framed in terms of an inherently democratic (and indeed Western) process. And despite Taiwan’s steady incline up this road to democracy, opponents of Freedom House’s results argue outside factors have too much bearing on the lives of Taiwanese. Perhaps, they suggest. Taiwan needs more “freedom” from external pressures in order to truly find its democratic identity.

The debate is likely to continue for some time to come.

Tags: Taiwan, Taipei Times, Freedom House, Democracy, China, United States

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