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Democracy-What Is It Really?

It seems like the general elections is really approaching soon. At this very moment, have you ever thought seriously what is democracy? Which democratic model suits our country best? Taiwan Politics University doctoral student Huang Su said that democracy should be a continuous process. What does he mean?

Western democracies are more developed than ours as they have been around much longer. But democracy does not stop here, it still keeps on developing and exploring new models and new directions. Therefore, we should not refer to a single democracy as the absolute model.

The United States sees itself as model for democratic countries and hence it’s the “Big Brother”. It wants the world to follow its democratic model. Otherwise, a country should not call itself a democratic country. However, this would actually stifle democracy if we stop developing our own model and it would turn out to be a failure eventually.

It has been proven that a democracy that stops developing is ineffective. The most loyal of allies of the United States, the Philippines, pursues American style democracy all these years, but it turns out to be one of the poorest countries in Asia. Assassination attempts are common during elections, so are military coups. Its unstable situation confuses and scares the people. Ironically, the United States does not only turn a blind eye to it, but it helps in worsen the situation.

In the eyes of Westerners, China is definitely not a democratic country. But even communist China is calling for political reforms and promotes socialist democracy. Surprisingly, a public opinion survey conducted by an institute in the United States showed that the Chinese people is actually satisfied with their political system.

China is far from being an ideal democracy, but we should consider public opinion especially in Hong Kong and Macau that highlights growing inclination toward China. The outcome of the implementation of “one country two systems” also impacts Taiwan by way of the process of “dechinalization”.

From the political point of view, Taiwan is definitely more democratic than Hong Kong. Taiwan was ranked 32 in the latest list of the world press freedom ranking, which is far better than Hong Kong’s 61. However, Hong Kong has been ranked first in the world's free economic ranking for many years which is much better than Taiwan at the 25th slot. According to a special report published in 亞洲週刊 (Asia Week), some Taiwanese and scholars who have lived long enough in both countries believe that Taiwan is more democratic than Hong Kong although Hong Kong enjoys more freedom than Taiwan. Therefore, whether Taiwan and Hong Kong enjoys more freedom has become an interesting but serious issue to be discussed.

Taiwanese are proud of their democratic elections and some of them even laugh at Hong Kong people for not enjoying true democracy and freedom under the “one country two systems” as they are still unable to directly elect their Chief Executive. But if we examine the situation carefully, the freedom of speech and economy enjoyed by Hong Kong people is no different and is even better than the handover in 1997. As for Taiwan, democracy led to disputes between the ruling and opposition parties and resulted in economic recessions. Also, the country is constantly fragmented.

If we agree with the theory that democracy should be keep evolving, then the democratic institutions practised by both Taiwan and Hong Kong are still evolving and maturing. And whether the countries could succeed would not only affect the political reform direction of China but also accelerate democratization in Asian countries.

Freedom, democracy, equality and prosperity are all interrelated. This is the simplistic political ideal and what the people wants. As the next general elections is fast approaching, what kind of democracy should we practise keeping in mind the situations of Taiwan and Hong Kong? (By LIM MUN FAH/ Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE/ Sin Chew Daily)

MySinchew 2008.02.01



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