Article and Illustration by Mark Perrault
March 17th, 2008.
Jonathan Manthorpe is correct to identify linkages between the current unrest in Tibet and the presidential elections in Taiwan and his critically-informed and sustained interest in the Taiwan situation offers one of very few perspectives on that part of the world to be
found in any major English-language media.
Admittedly, this is a far away issue that doesn’t concern us. Yet,
if we as Canadians, consider the sheer volume of our own investment
and trade with China, then we cannot afford to ignore the implications
of China’s brutish and threatening behaviour towards smaller and
weaker regional occupants.
Mr. Manthorpe observes a growing momentum among the Taiwanese
towards a quasi-independent consciousness held in balance by a
realistic desire to maintain peaceful relations with the behemoth
facing them down across the strait. This too, was an atmosphere I felt
while I was living there.
While the world looks on at the tragic situation unfolding in Tibet
and offers up it’s usual hollow condemnations of China, these events
illustrate an important point, and that is that although Tibet and
Taiwan’s struggles might be different in scope, they are in essence
rooted in the same historical ambitions of subjugated peoples the
world over – that of the right to self-determination.
Taiwan is poised to elect a president who is looked upon more
favourably by Beijing, but Ma Ying Jeou is well-advised to be mindful
of the winds of change at home. Beijing’s behind-the-scenes
interference in Taiwan’s internal affairs aided by the flight of
investors to the Mainland have shelved Taiwan’s dream of de facto
independence, but it would be erroneous to read into it that the
Taiwanese have a collective yearning to politically merge with China.
The military suppression of the Tibetan uprising is poignant
evidence once again that China willfully asserts its might with
impunity. These events ought to expose to the hypocrisy of western
nations in their refusal to meaningfully denounce China’s aggression
in Tibet and it’s undermining of Taiwan. However, perhaps that is too
much to ask considering that most western governments are intent on
facilitating unimpeded access to China’s growing markets and cheap
production costs, which unfortunately, trump the more inconvenient
questions of a nation’s right to self-determine.