Taiwan’s successful experience in economic and democratic development could be borrowed by the United States to bolster its rebuilding efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, a U.S. expert in East Asian affairs suggested recently.
Taiwan should be held up as a model of successful and equitable economic development and peaceful democratization, said Shelley Rigger, a professor of East Asian politics at Davidson College in North Carolina, during a talk Tuesday on the Forum with Michael Krasny on KQED,a U.S. public radio channel.
During the interview, Rigger talked about her new book, “Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse,” and the aim of the book -- to remind Washington and the public to have a better understanding of Taiwan’s importance.
Taiwan’s representative office in San Francisco, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO), helped arranged the interview.
The Michael Krasny Forum, an hour-long talk show, is the most popular program that KQED broadcasts and one of the most influential programs broadcast on public radio in the United States, according to the San Francisco TECO.
Rigger said the U.S., currently helping Iraq and Afghanistan rebuild their war-ravaged countries, could take its cue from “Taiwan’s success in achieving democratization without bloodshed,” efforts that Rigger described as being in line with American values.
She noted that Taiwanese companies have been key players in China’s economic takeoff over recent decades. Made-in-China products have dominated global markets, but most of the high added-value products exported from China are developed, designed and assembled by Taiwanese investment operations.
Although it is a small island nation, Taiwan is also an important trade partner of the U.S., she said. She urged the U.S. to continue to support Taiwan in its efforts to resist unification on China’s terms.
On the cross-Taiwan Strait issue, she said that despite their common language and culture, Taiwanese and Chinese people have very different ideas of nationalism and identity consciousness as a result of their long-term separation.
Since it is hard for China to force unification upon Taiwan, Beijing has made greater efforts to deter Taiwanese independence than to push for unification under its current policy, she said.
According to the TECO, a caller on the forum, hailing from China, condemned Rigger for calling Taiwan a country.
Rigger rebutted the comment, saying that Taiwan is a unique case in the international community. She pointed out that Taiwan has its own customs and immigration systems, which any foreigner wishing to enter Taiwan must satisfy.
In her book, Rigger also explains how Taiwan -- despite its tiny size -- became such a key global player, highlighting economic and political breakthroughs so impressive they have been called “miracles.”
She links these accomplishments to Taiwan’s determined society, vibrant culture and unique history. Drawing on the arts, economics, politics and international relations, Rigger explores Taiwan’s importance to China, the United States and the world. Considering where Taiwan may be headed in its wary standoff with China, she traces how the focus of Taiwan’s domestic politics has shifted to a Taiwan-centered strategy.