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Home Editorials of Interest Jerome F. Keating's writings Occam’s razor relevant to Taiwan

Occam’s razor relevant to Taiwan

Looking to the future and next year’s presidential election, it is a good time for Taiwanese to take stock of their democracy.

In this, Russia, with its war in Ukraine and its recent visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) provides interesting insights.

Russia has always had an indirect historic relationship with Taiwan through its Marxist/Leninist principles and ideology. When Russia’s 1917 revolution was still being fought, the Bolsheviks took the communist name in 1918, and then founded the Communist International, or Comintern, on March 2, 1919, with the aim of establishing communist governments around the world.

By June 1920 Russian representatives had gone to China and by July 1921, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had been formed. Although Taiwan was a Japanese colony at the time, these events would set in motion the inevitable collision between Taiwan and China.

Fast forward to when that same CCP won the Chinese Civil War in 1949 and established the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was driven into exile on Taiwan and Taiwanese had to win their democracy after the imposition of martial law and the KMT’s White Terror era. This illustrates the many challenges that Taiwan’s democracy overcame and currently faces.

However, what is more important is that Taiwanese can see how Russia and China lost whatever ideological goals they might have had and became hegemonic, totalitarian states.

Neither Russia nor China has been able to pass the purifying fire set forth by British author George Orwell in his satire Animal Farm. Instead, although Orwell did not live to see his prediction fulfilled, Russia and China well illustrated his summary prediction on how one of the pigs’ Seven Commandments, “All animals are equal,” would mysteriously change to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

For Russia, the year 1991 best illustrates that as glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) took their toll. The USSR, which had been formed in 1922, dissolved in 1991; similarly the Warsaw Pact, formed in 1955, broke apart in 1991.

Russia is the world’s largest country; it borders 14 other countries and stretches from Europe to the Pacific Ocean. Its access to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans might not the be the best, but given its position, this would not be an economic trade barrier to any strong, peace-loving country.

Russia does not need more territory. Why then should the world’s largest nation be so hegemonic? Why should the focus of that hegemony be directed toward Ukraine, from which any passage to the Mediterranean still needs to maneuver the narrow Bosporus and Dardanelles straits.

Pundits would readily provide a vast variety of historic and ethnic reasons to justify Russian President Vladimir Putin in his endeavors, but for Taiwan’s consumption, a deeper but simpler answer is found by applying Occam’s razor and asking simple, direct questions.

Has communism ever had a viable ideology that went beyond its hypothetical stage?

Why have Russia and China lost their ideological goals and reverted to becoming empires in which Russia replaced a tsar with Putin and China replaced an emperor with Xi?

For Russia, why did so many Warsaw Pact members vote with their feet and leave? What benefits was the Warsaw Pact not providing that made such member states decide to leave? Similarly, why did so many member nations of the USSR abandon it?

For Putin, an even deeper message is revealed. Why have formerly long-term neutral nations such as Finland and Sweden now decided to join NATO? What did Russia’s actions in Ukraine betray that prompted this action?

Ideologically, it appears that Russia’s communist government is bankrupt. It can only revert to a totalitarian regime such as that fostered by former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Unfortunately, Stalin’s collateral damage constantly lurks in the background, especially in Ukraine.

The same can be said for the PRC in answer to why and how the goals of Marxism died in the testing fire of reality. Regions in China such as Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia look for answers. Even Hong Kong, which had originally been promised democracy from 2017 until 2047 has seen that dream go up in smoke.

This is what a democratic Taiwan must examine as candidates begin to present their platforms for the presidential election.

Taiwan’s democracy is not perfect; no democracy is, but it offers its citizens the freedom and control that its totalitarian neighbors want to take away. Will the next president defend that?

Jerome Keating is a writer based in Taipei.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2024/04/26

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Taiwan Solidarity Union Chairman Huang Kun-huei, right, accompanied by party lawmaker Lin Shih-chia, speaks at a press conference in Taipei yesterday after the eighth round of cross-strait negotiations.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) yesterday blasted the freshly signed cross-strait agreement on investment protection and promotion, saying Taiwan has suffered a humiliating defeat in the negotiations.

Both opposition parties called press conferences yesterday afternoon right after the signing of the cross-strait agreement.