Scholars: Taiwan's democratic elections informative to Chinese citizens regardless of results

Political and legal experts say Taiwan has disproved the notion that democracy is unsuitable for Chinese society

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Professor Ming Xia during the elections

Professor Ming Xia during the elections (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — International legal and political scholars who visited Taiwan to observe the nine-in-one elections say democratic elections on the island have a positive and demonstrative effect on China, regardless of results.

Two professors of Chinese origin who have held positions at U.S. universities told CNA that their observations over the past week led them to conclude that Taiwan’s democracy is thriving, and the country truly is of its own state and political system.

Professor Teng Biao, a lawyer and activist dedicated to exposing China’s human rights offenses, and who held a visiting position at Princeton University, arrived in Taiwan for the first time this month. He told CNA that the conviction he saw in people driving campaigns and street canvassing, and turnouts during the vote, allowed him to truly understand the connection between the government, parties, and the people in Taiwan, in a way that books are unable to describe.

Teng said that Chinese visitors to the island, regardless of their preconceptions about Taiwan being merely a Chinese province, would be able to understand it is an entirely independent sovereign state, and vastly different from China, after witnessing the elections.

The professor further added that Taiwan has demonstrably broken through the notion that “democracy is unsuitable for 'Chinese' society.” Onlookers need no further proof that society is worse without democracy than the CPP’s demolition of religious institutions and detainment of accused dissidents, he commented.

Professor Ming Xia, a China and political economy expert at The City University of New York, told CNA that the elections truly demonstrated the vigor of Taiwanese society, and the exchange of political ideas and emotion he witnessed as having been put into campaigns has demonstrated a sense of “ownership” over politics. It is a valuable asset that highlights the completely different attitudes on each side of the Taiwan Strait, he added.

Xia expressed that he was worried about how some candidates, including newly-elected Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), “exaggerated China’s economic prosperity.” He noted that China’s economy is slowing, and strict government control makes it difficult for people to remit money abroad and operate financial lending platforms.

The operational difficulties faced by small and medium enterprises, along with the inability of the government to resolve personal and private debt issues (due to a lack of bankruptcy law) and the ongoing trade war with the U.S., has led specialists to conclude China’s economic future is not so bright, he said.

The professor warned Taiwanese citizens and businesspeople against making assumptions about China’s economy and market potential without understanding the economic risk factors.

Xia said he believes Taiwan’s nine-in-one elections are very informative for Chinese citizens, proving the illogicality of the notion that “democracy is unsuitable for 'Chinese' society.”

An observing group of more than 10 international scholars from China, Hong Kong, Macao, and elsewhere came to Taiwan to witness the elections that took place on Nov. 24.