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What Taiwan could learn from the crisis in Ukraine

Publication Date : 12-03-2014


The turmoil in Ukraine and the Russian military's occupation of Crimea has grabbed the attention of the international community. The crisis that occurred in faraway East Europe presents a lesson to all nations, one that even Taiwan can learn from.

The parliament of Crimea decided recently that the peninsula would hold a referendum later this month so that residents can decide whether to break away and join Russia or to stay with Ukraine.

Parliament's decision, along with Russian president Vladimir Putin's announcement that Russia would provide US$1.1 billion should Crimea decide to join Russia, has drawn sharp rebuke from the international community. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany and most nations would not recognise the change in sovereignty if Crimea is ceded to Russia. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also opposed the referendum, saying it will not help to maintain the region's stability.

It is obvious that Merkel made the statement from the standpoint of Germany and the European Union. Ukraine has been torn apart in the recent turmoil. Ukrainian-speaking residents living in the northwestern region want to from a closer relationship with the European Union, while Russian-speaking residents in the southeastern region want to be part of Russia. The EU wants to expand its sphere of influence into Ukraine, and it would not be content to see Crimea ceded to Russia.

It was reported that the clashes that broke out in Ukraine's capital Kiev were in fact a confrontation between the East and the West, where protestors were mostly pro-Western residents while riot police were mostly comprised of residents of the country's eastern half.

It is strange enough that two peoples in Ukraine with so many differences - in terms of culture, language and political preference - should live together within the same nation. It is even more incredible that the international community can dictate the fate of a county. Russia wants Ukraine, but Putin is not interested in taking a “dissected” Ukraine, either.

The government of Ukraine is burdened with massive debt. It is estimated that the country will need US$35 billion in the next two years to avoid a default. The government was deeply corrupt and economic reforms are badly needed. It just shows that a country that does not keep its own house in order is susceptible to the influence of more powerful nations.

The conflict that occurred in Ukraine is mirrored in Taiwan. Just like residents in the eastern Ukraine long to return to Russia, there are some people on the island that want Taiwan to be reunited with mainland China.

When Chiang Kai-shek retreated to Taiwan from mainland China more than 60 years ago, he used the island as a base, intending to fight his way back and retake leadership of China. As time passed, his ambition became less and less likely to be realised.

Gradually, it became obvious that Taiwan would never gain the military prowess to retake China. Those mainlanders who fled to Taiwan with Chiang, although disappointed that the communists had won, still longed to be re-united with mainland China.

Residents who lived in Taiwan before Chiang's arrival, however, were not interested in becoming part of China. Thus, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was formed to oppose Chiang's Kuomintang (KMT).

The government of Taiwan occasionally pondered the idea of holding a referendum to let residents of Taiwan decide if Taiwan is to be independent or part of China. The Chinese government wields much weight on Taiwan's politics, and the US government has considerable clout. Taiwan is divided internally between the mainlanders and indigenous people, as well as externally by two powerful nations.

Just like Ukraine, if Taiwan wants to decide its own fate, the government must first put its own house in order. Taiwan must beef up its financial structure, enhance its export competitiveness and rid the government of corruption. Becoming a strong country and winning respect from the international community means that we can then decide our own fate.


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