Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tibet and Taiwan

Some of this is coming a little late, but hey, I was hiking through mud while carrying a debilitating stomach bug.

Anyway, one of the obvious big pieces of news are the riots in Tibet. I can't add any additional analysis to what's already out there, but one question floating in the blogosphere did pique my interest. Namely, can you have a meaningful dialogue with the opposing side given the restrictions on information? I think it's clearly impossible with the rabid bloggers that have been unleashed on the Chinese side. However, I hold out hope that other Chinese netizens are willing to acknowledge that things in Tibet have not gone well for Tibetans, that their history is filtered, and that they don't have access to all the resources that people in the West do.

This is probably a fool's hope. But, I do wish that the Chinese government would recognize that democracy and free speech/press is typically a moderating force. With increased dialogue on the issues comes (ideally) increased respect for the other side. Now, they probably recognize this and want to stir up nationalism. But ultimately that's a failed policy. The anti-Japanese riots several years back are a clear indication of this: eventually you lose control, and that is ultimately constricting on the government's freedom of action.

Now, Taiwan. Obviously, I'm disappointed with the result. But this is a good time for the DPP to take stock and institute the internal reforms that people have been grumbling about for at least two years. However, even beyond this, I'm more disappointed with the analysis coming out of the State Department. They love the fact that the KMT won, and they should. But I don't think they realize the extent of Taiwanese nationalism - the feeling among Taiwanese that they should decide the country's future and no one else. None of this "the 1.3 billion Chinese will decide" crap: that's clearly not in keeping with international law.

But the fact that this feeling is widespread and strongly felt is an issue for the U.S. This election didn't change the political sentiment on this issue: it just kicked it down the road a bit. The U.S. still has to find a way to meaningfully resolve the Taiwan Strait issue in such a way that it doesn't allow China to threaten more U.S. interests. Even more, the U.S. needs to find a moral, democratic solution to the tensions. Economic inducements only go so far, and you only need to look to Tibet to see that.

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