Which country does Taiwan claim as a province?
Elections in Taiwan, like those taking place this Saturday, could tell the story of a country that, despite all odds, has peacefully democratized itself. You could tell the story of a society that, a few years after the end of the military dictatorship, shaped one of the most progressive states in Asia and one of the most modern democracies in the world.
But when Taiwan is an issue, China is always first. The regime in Beijing makes claims on the liberal island state, which never belonged to the People's Republic. Despite the absurdity of the unification demand, which the majority of Taiwan's people oppose, Beijing is forcing other countries to cut diplomatic ties with Taipei, restrict the freedom of movement of Taiwanese people and treat the sovereign state like a Chinese province. As everywhere where there is money to be made, German industry is also participating. Whoever flies to Taipei with Lufthansa is said to be booking a trip to the People's Republic. Taiwan has its currency, legal system and national territory. It is de facto an independent state that has nothing to do with China today.
Beijing's tirades are sometimes only about the Republic's participation in an international conference, and then again the regime threatens to conquer the island. This is mostly just a saber rattle. Beijing is unlikely to risk a war with the US, which guarantees Taiwan's security. But there is no need for an open military dispute. Beijing is doing everything possible to weaken Taiwan politically and economically and to poison its society. One example is the widespread disinformation campaign that China is using to disrupt the elections this year. Under pressure from Beijing, Germany has no official relations with Taiwan either. There has not been a German minister in the model democracy since the 1990s.
Taipei's successful democracy is threatened by Beijing - and Berlin too is cowardly looking the other way
In the dispute over the island, Beijing is not even about the small patch of earth. In reality, the regime claims the authority to interpret what is Chinese. The CP claims that democracy is a Western concept that does not apply to the Chinese culture. Taiwan's diverse civil society refutes this with an ease that makes Beijing mad. Taiwan, Hong Kong, which is striving for freedom and democracy, and all those who oppose the Communist Party’s claim to sole representation, are therefore enemies of the regime.
Beijing's aggression too often distracts from the fact that Taiwan is more than just a victim of the CP. Its development is a model for states in transition. And Taipei is driving digitization forward like hardly any other country. Taiwan was the first Asian state to legalize same-sex marriage. Instead of being lulled by Beijing's talk that China offers an alternative model worth mentioning, the west should pay a lot of attention to Taiwan's progressive course. This also applies to the question of how to deal with China's leadership, which is increasingly behaving as if Germany was just a renegade province. Taiwan's will not to give up an inch of freedom in exchange for short-term gains - something can be learned from this.
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