UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Taiwan a frontline state against authoritarian influence: official

ROC Central News Agency

2018/05/28 22:37:32

Taipei, May 28 (CNA) In the fight against the growing influence of authoritarian powers, Taiwan is a frontline state with experience in resisting China's attempts to erode its democracy and defending fundamental democratic values, Deputy Foreign Minister Francois Wu (吳志中) said Monday.

With considerable experience in confronting China, "Taiwan is a unique and vital asset to the international community," Wu said in his opening remarks at the symposium "Defending Democracy: Combating Authoritarian Regimes" organized by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD).

Emboldened by its rapid economic development, China has used various tactics to expand its influence in Taiwan and elsewhere, including misinformation, cyberattacks, bribery, economic coercion, technology theft, and interference in international politics, Wu said.

"Taiwan is crucial. If it can hold on, other democracies will be able to hold on. But if it falls, there will be no security for the democratic governments of the world," Wu said. "This is why we seek to link up with the international community on every level."

TFD President Hsu Szu-chien (徐斯儉) said the symposium was being held at a time of backsliding on democracy in many countries and as millions of people are questioning whether democracy is indeed the best way to govern in the 21st century.

"Authoritarian and revisionist governments in Russia, China, Turkey and elsewhere are using this crisis in confidence to propose alternative models of governance -- models that are repressive, undemocratic, and, as history has taught us, ultimately destabilizing," Hsu said.

Ignorance of what such regimes are up to and of how they go about corroding democratic values and institutions is a reason why they have been successful in recent years, Hsu said, which is why the TFD is hosting the event.

In the keynote speech, Aaron Friedberg, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, said the failure of Western nations to make the boundaries of the liberal international order truly global after the cold war lies at the heart of current crisis.

Both Russia and China have adopted broadly similar strategies to increase their influence, he said, such as strengthening military capabilities, and developing "gray zone" techniques for reshaping peripheries.

They are also using economic instruments to exert leverage for political purposes against trading partners and deploying political warfare techniques to shape perceptions and policies of other nations, he said.

In terms of political warfare, however, China is playing "a deeper, longer-term game," Friedberg said, citing as examples resources deployed by China to pay for university professorships, research programs and Confucius institutes, to partner with think tanks, and to buy Western media outlets.

"In some cases, working through various intermediaries, it (China) has also evidently provided support to current and aspiring political leaders in the West," Friedberg said. "The aims of all these activities are first and foremost to anesthetize the West."

That serves to discourage advanced democracies from doing anything that would deny China continued access to their markets and technology and slow a more forceful, coordinated and sustained response to China's growing power and increasing aggressiveness, he said.

Friedberg said China is "deadly serious" in its recent attempts to demand foreign airlines and hotel chains to refer to Taiwan as a part of China in maps on their websites, because as British writer George Orwell made clear, "language ultimately shapes, and can limit, thought."

Awareness of challenges posed by authoritarian regimes is "just starting to dawn" in many countries, but it is something that people in Taiwan clearly have been wrestling with for a long time, Friedberg said. "There is certainly a great deal to be learned [about the case of Taiwan]."

During the discussion session, Anne-Marie Brady, professor of political science at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, said New Zealand is a prime target of China's influence and is a "canary in the coal mine" when it comes to dealing with the issue.

New Zealand is very vulnerable because it is a small country, and China is its major trading partner, so when China puts pressure on New Zealand, "it creates great anxiety," she said.

She called for small states to partner together to talk about how to deal with the challenges and for more countries to sign free trade agreements with New Zealand.

Wu Jieh-min (吳介民), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica's Institute of Sociology presented his study on the collaboration between the Chinese regime and local proxies to exert influence on Taiwanese society and the civil resistance for democracy they have met with.

Democratic resistance to authoritarianism in the case of Taiwan against China is distinct and significant, Wu said, adding that he hoped the case would contribute to global knowledge of China's influence.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list