TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — During a tirade over news of an AUKUS deal to build nuclear submarines for Australia, former Australian PM Paul Keating on Wednesday (March 15) belittled Taiwan as a "so-called democracy" that is a mere "territory. "
On Monday, the three members of AUKUS, Australia, U.K., and U.S., unveiled a US$368 billion (NT$11.27 trillion) nuclear submarine program that will include at least three American-made nuclear submarines and the option to purchase two additional submarines. The submarine program aims to "lift all three nations' submarine industrial bases and undersea capabilities, enhancing deterrence and promoting stability in the Indo-Pacific."
In response to the news, Keating issued a statement via The National Press Club in which he claimed the move was the worst international decision by Australia's Labor government since former Labor leader, Billy Hughes, "sought to introduce conscription to augment Australian forces in World War One." Keating claimed that the "ball game has begun" over the future of Taiwan, and alleged that the real aim of AUKUS is to serve Washington's "underlying imperialism."
Keating, whose tenure as prime minister ended in 1996, described Taiwan as a "territory that became a so-called 'democracy' as late as 1996." In previous statements to the press club in 2021, Keating said that Taiwan is "not a vital Australian interest," and he said that remains to be the case.
He argued that an invasion of Tasmania would be a matter of vital interest to Australia. The ex-prime minister asserted that because Taiwan is a "territory we have never recognized as a State," it is not worthy of such interest.
Keating then dared current Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to "explicitly suggest or leave open the question that Australia might go to war over Taiwan – at the urgings of the United States or anyone else."
On Friday (March 17), political scientist Wen-Ti Sung tweeted a screenshot of Keating's statements about Taiwan and stressed that although no democracy is perfect, the country is a "solid multi-party liberal democracy that has undergone three peaceful transfers." Sung noted that the 2022 Human Freedom Index (HFI), an index compiled by two think tanks, the U.S.-based Cato Institute, and Canada's Fraser Institute, rated Taiwan as the freest country in Asia .
Sung also observed that The Economist Intelligence Business Unit (EIU) recently ranked Taiwan as the top "fully democratic" country in Asia and No. 8 in the world. This week, the human rights organization Civicus listed Taiwan as the only country in Asia with an open civic space for the fourth year in a row.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to claim that Taiwan is part of China and constantly coerces world governments and international organizations to toe this line. However, Taiwan has never been part of the People's Republic of China. The country has its own military, currency, constitution, legal system, passport, flag, diplomatic allies, and democratically elected government.
Wikipedia editors in May 2020 fiercely debated the merits of referring to Taiwan as a "state" or a "country," and after a month of heated back and forth, a vote was cast. In a summary of the exchange posted on June 4, a numeric majority was reached with 33 editors voting in favor of "country," 10 opting for "state," and five others choosing a variant of "state."
Former Australian PM Paul Keating wrote: "Taiwan, a territory which became a so-called 'democracy' as late as 1996"— Wen-Ti Sung (@wentisung) March 16, 2023
While no democracy is without imperfections, Taiwan is a solid multi-party liberal democracy that has undergone 3 peaceful transfers of power since 2000. /1 pic.twitter.com/3XmHWgWKp5