Congratulations to Taiwan, and to Democracy
Taiwan's general election is finished, and all is settled. The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) candidate Ma Ying-jeou has been elected President. Taiwan successfully completed its fourth presidential election since its transition to a democratic system, and at the same time has implemented its second change of ruling party. Taiwan's multi-party politics is now fully formed. This election was carried out in way that was peaceful and rational beyond expectations, and has earned Taiwan's people the respect and congratulations of the world.
From a macroscopic historical perspective, this election in Taiwan impressively demonstrates the typical process in the emergence of a sustainable and stable democratic system:
In the first genuine election (1996) the authoritarian ruling party remained strong and influential, and as a result was able to win the general election. Since the ruling party did not immediately fall from power, Taiwanese society avoided a sudden shock, and was given the time and space for a gradual transformation.
In the second stage (2000, 2004), after political parties and news media had been released from previous restrictions for an adequate amount of time, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rapidly gained strength, and the historical wrongdoings of the ruling party were exposed to the stark light of day. The old authoritarian ruling party's reputation plunged, and it was ultimately replaced, paying the price of its autocratic past.
In the third stage (2008), the former opposition DPP, now in power, found that its strengths in street politics and campaigning strategies were inadequate to its new role of ruling party, and it was unable to make a successful transformation from "opposition" to "construction." The party was inadequate to the task of rule in terms of its political preparation, management experience and the qualifications of its personnel. With the rise to power, corruption and arrogance exposed the human failings of the new leadership, disappointing public expectations and leading to the return to power of the former ruling party.
There is an old saying that three is the magic number, and Taiwan's democratic path has passed through three stages in reaching maturity. The story of Taiwan's democratic transformation is a classic example that deserves to be recorded in the annals of world history.
The recently concluded general election leaves two particularly deep impressions:
The ethnic division between mainland immigrants and indigenous Taiwanese and the rancor of the Green-Blue party divide have weakened considerably in the course of the last 20 years. The sides have drawn gradually closer to a common national identity. The basic rights and welfare of the Taiwanese people have become a priority in the intense competition between the two sides.
The mutual ad hominem attacks leveled by opponents during election campaigns, the mudslinging tactics and even court cases launched at sensitive times, have become counterproductive. The Taiwanese electorate has grown immune to the dramatic shock tactics of electoral campaigns, and has taken an increasingly mature attitude toward them.
Although many flaws remain in the system, in the context of Chinese societies worldwide in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, it is beyond question that Taiwan vastly leads the field in terms of its democratic development.
In serving as a model of democratic experiment among Chinese societies, Taiwan long ago surpassed its island boundaries, with the impact of its lively system chiefly aimed at the vast continent across the Strait.
If anyone attempts to say once more that the national conditions and culture of the Chinese people cannot sustain democracy, they must look at Taiwan. If anyone tries again to claim that a Leninist party cannot transform itself into a modern political party, they should look again at Taiwan.
The KMT originally attempted political training of the people, expecting after the "training" to move on to constitutional government. Yet the result of "training" the people led to the party itself becoming more authoritarian, and the people becoming more populist. Later, when the KMT came under attack from within and without, and had no alternative but to set off on the road to constitutional government, the result, against all expectation, was that the entire society began its own political training, and the ruling and opposition parties began training each other. In the course of implementing constitutionalism , this training produced in turn democracy, rule of law, freedom, human rights and a civilized society.