Taiwan Versus the Beijing Narrative

 

As a European in Taiwan, I came to understand why the conflict of Taiwan is often misunderstood in the West. The knowledge about the civil war between the Kuomintang and Communists, resulting in the retreat of Chiang Kai-shek and his troops to the island, is not widely known. The implications of the term “One China,“ therefore, leaves many Westerners clueless. When Chinese President Xi Jinping deals with the island as if it were a defecting province, as he did at the 19th Communist Party Congress this week, he sounded somewhat legitimate.

 

Surely, Western governments are aware of the complicated situation and the pending threat, but they may feel that their hands are tied. Europe has always looked to the United States of America when it came to supporting Taiwan. Now, with declining support for the values of liberal democracy across the Old World in recent years, as evidenced by the Brexit vote and the rise of far-right xenophobic movements, little compassion is left for a far-away country such as restricted Taiwan. The stance that US President Trump takes on the issue is still unclear.


Prior to the National Day on October 10th, an article was widely shared and discussed on social media. The text claimed that the Chinese military would finally meet the necessities to invade Taiwan by the year 2020. Observers, however, would argue that the Mainland’s military would neither dare nor have the capacity to invade and long-term occupy Taiwan. Alas, that doesn’t mean Taiwan will not see some serious infringement on its liberal democracy. 


For Beijing, Taiwan is a threat because the leader of the Communist Party sells the idea to his followers and the West alike that being Chinese and simultaneously a liberal democrat is impossible: the tradition of Confucianism can only live on in the form of the one-party state. Mr Xi Jinping’s fight against corruption and moral misconduct needs to be seen as him catering to the narrative that he has deployed during his first term as president of the People’s Republic of China: emerging to the very top is only possible by applying the highest ethical standards


In the West, where democracy is typically deliberately limited by the rights of individuals or specific groups such as minorities, leaders do not cease to praise the Chinese president (and leaders before him) as visionary, innovative, and thoughtful. What they mean is that, due to the autocratic one-party rule, Beijing is capable of following through with policy ideas – such as tackling climate change – that would take years in a democratic framework.


The existence of Taiwan, however, reminds Mr. Xi Jinping and the West of the existence of a democracy in a Confucian context. As a matter of fact, Taiwan is not the only liberal democracy of the region. It has potentially powerful allies in South Korea and Japan. All three are allies of the United States, and all three have a similar set of interests when it comes to fighting off a power-hungry China.


Yet, for historic reasons, the three have not elaborated on their common policies. And it is doubtful that they will do so anytime soon. Beijing is anything but sad about the disagreements of its democratic rivals across the Sea. In Taipei, Seoul, and Tokyo observers may already be nervous when they anticipate Donald Trump’s visit to China in a few weeks. The US president seems to have been marveling autocratic rulership.


One can only hope that the result of the meeting between these two power-hungry men of dubious mindset and character when it comes to civil liberties and liberal freedoms will not be frightening the three truly democratic countries in the region. As for Taiwan, the leadership and the people should be eagerly trying to strengthen their ties with Western allies and the liberal democracies in South Korea and Japan. For China may not be able or willing to invade the country, but it will also not tolerate any further development of a free and independent society for this may, in the logic of Beijing, inevitably lead onto the street of independence. 


Alexander Görlach is an affiliate professor with the FDR Foundation’s Defense of Democracy Program. He is also a fellow to the Center for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge, UK. He’s a senior fellow to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs and a senior advisor to the Berggruen Institute. Alex holds a PhD in linguistics and a PhD in comparative religion. He is the publisher of the online-magazine www.saveliberaldemocracy.com and an op-ed contributor to the New York Times. This academic year he is a visiting scholar to National Taiwan University and City University of Hong Kong. This article represents his views alone, not those of the FDR Foundation or other institutions.

How the new right-wing party AfD dominates German politics

Now Germany…
After all other European countries, the Federal Republic will also have a right wing party in the midst of its national parliament. The 13 percent, which the party achieved on Election Day, September 24, can be called a landslide victory. Beyond strongholds in the East of the country where they gained nearly thirty percent of their followers, their voter base now also extends to wide parts of the West of the country, where they numbered, in many places, in the double digits. 

The country, however, even 26 years after its reunification, still shows regional electoral preferences. In the nineties and the early ‘aughts the far left party Die Linke attained power in all states in the former East. They have now lost plenty of voters to the new right. In the West, on the other hand, right wing parties have sparked every ten years or so, only to disappear after a short while. Usually, they had a try-out period in state parliaments where they did not convince the electorate. They were not voted for again.

Until now Germans in the West, so it seems, had had enough of this extremism, for it led the country into the catastrophe of the Second World War and the Shoa. Nazism should never return to the country. The notion of a strong leader with claims to have the capacity to solve all the country’s problems was frowned upon. Moreover, today’s right wing extremists, the so called Alternative for Germany, did not fall in with one chairman but with a whole array of front row politicians, some of them using extreme right wing vocabulary. That included praise for the German Wehrmacht and revisionist utterances when it comes to German’s commemoration of the Holocaust. The new right wing populism is a pan-German phenomenon. And that was the real news in the results of this year’s election in Europe’s largest country.

Since the election, both German and international media are trying to wrap their head around the success the AfD had in this years voting. Undoubtedly the refugee crisis of 2015; where up to one million refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia made it into Europe and further on to Germany; has played a role. The Alternative for Germany before the crisis had plummeted in the polls. Created in 2013 as a party mostly opposing the European Union and the European currency, they had initially lost momentum. When the refugees entered into Germany, one of their AfD chairs, Alexander Gauland, cheered: the refugees were a godsend to his party.  With their xenophobic, anti-Muslim voice they indeed quickly re-gathered followers: in the state of Sachsen-Anhalt they gained 24 percent of the votes in the state election, in Baden-Württemberg 15 percent. Mr. Gauland is the one who recently claimed that Germans ought to be proud of the Wehrmacht, the German army, and their doings in both two world wars; this outrageous statement only surpassed in egregiousness by Björn Höcke, who claimed that the Holocaust Memorial Site in Berlin should be considered a monument of shame for the Germans, urging the country to move on and leave any narrative commemorating the Shoa behind. The pundits disagree on whether the AfD receives their support for this sort of rhetoric. They are now in 13 of the countries 16 state parliaments and in the national parliament, the Bundestag.

The Bundestag in the Reichstags-Building is now the international stage for the party. They are in their view on equal terms with other similar movements all across Europe. But, more importantly, they are also on the radar of the international media that usually does not report about the ongoings in state-level German politics. That’s why the former right-wing movements disappeared rather unnoticed. Focusing on a single topic, they fail to govern once confronted in parliament with actual legislative work (“what is your stance on the pension funds, the retirement age or environmental protection?”). As a matter of fact, AfD made it into the Bundestag without having a concise pension model. And this in an aging society such as Germany! 

In the weeks before the Election Day, the AfD had sunk to seven percent in the polls, as one could expect given the prior experience of right-wingers. But all of a sudden – and there is lots of guesswork why this has happened – it went up again to 12, 13 percent, a figure very close to their final result. As a result of the success of the right wing populists the political spectrum in Germany has shifted to the right. It is a dangerous approach: the hope that people will return to traditional parties simply because they may use sharper rhetoric against the AfD is delusional. In Bavaria the conservative CSU (Christian Social Union), sister party to the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) that governed the country for almost seventy years, lost 11 percent in the federal election. They tried to mimic the new appeal and rhetoric of the AfD. But when people have the choice between an original and the copy, they go for the original. Very sadly so in this case.

Alexander Görlach is an affiliate professor with the FDR Foundation’s Defense of Democracy Program. He is also a fellow to the Center for Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge, UK, and a senior fellow to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. Alex holds a PhD in linguistics and a PhD in comparative religion. He is the publisher of the online-magazine www.saveliberaldemocracy.com and an op-ed contributor to the New York Times. This article represents his views alone, rather than those of the FDR Foundation.

E3 Conference 9/20

Early in his first term of office, Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved to dismantle the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Act, a protectionist measure of 1930 which severely curtailed world trade and worsened the Great Depression. Almost throughout his presidency, FDR encouraged the reduction of trade barriers and the negotiation of a rules-based global economic system.

Unfortunately, the same protectionist urges that drove Smoot and Hawley have re-emerged on both the political Left and Right in 21st-century America. These trends, along with the revival of the anti-FDR, isolationist “America First” slogan, run contrary to – among other things – the interests of American business enterprises. The FDR Foundation is therefore pleased to co-sponsor the Boston E3 Conference on Harvard’s campus on September 20, 2017.

E3 conferences connect entrepreneurs and small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) with global markets. E3 events are designed to provide SMEs with an intimate, in-depth opportunity to gain insights needed to navigate global growth, and engage with US and foreign trade officials. Topics include new markets, international trade policy, legal and tax implications of international business, growth industries in specific regions, etc.

Details on E3 Boston can be found here. We are grateful to the E3 team for making conference internships available to current students from any Harvard school who wish to participate. Interested students should contact Adrienne Palmer. Current Harvard College students may also apply to attend the conference as official guests of E3. These undergraduate guest postings are extremely limited; interested students should contact Jed Willard.

Eleanor and Hick

Eleanor Roosevelt’s Close Relationship With the Journalist Lorena Hickok

By Amanda Vaill, OCT. 13, 2016

When Franklin Roosevelt was elected president of the United States in November 1932, his wife, Eleanor, made an extraordinary admission to the Associated Press reporter on the Roosevelt beat. “Being a Democrat, I believe this change is for the better,” she said, but she “never wanted to be a president’s wife. . . . Now I shall have to work out my own salvation.” A devotee of progressive causes and a veteran political helpmate (Franklin had been assistant secretary of the Navy and then governor of New York), Eleanor didn’t shrink from public service; but she was dismayed at the loss of privacy being a first lady would entail, and she worried that her position would keep her from the activism that gave meaning to her life.

Paradoxically, it was the A.P. journalist, Lorena Hickok, who helped her find her equilibrium…

In “Eleanor and Hick,” Susan Quinn, the author of several books including a biography of Marie Curie, is both circumspect and suggestive about the nature of their relationship…

Read More at the New York Times

ELEANOR AND HICK
The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady
By Susan Quinn
Illustrated. 404 pp. Penguin Press.

FDR’s New Deal brought jobs to Saddleback Valley

Sept. 1, 2016
By JANET WHITCOMB

During the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program, aimed at reducing unemployment as well as providing services, initiated a number of oganizations. Perhaps the most famous of these was the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Originally the CCC provided outdoor-based jobs such as soil conservation and firefighting for young men ages 18 to 21; later the age range would include 17- to 28-year-olds, as well as veterans.

On May 30, 1933, Company 545 became Orange County’s first CCC camp, headquartered in San Juan Capistrano. The following year, Company 545 was replaced by Company 912. In his 2014 book, “The New Deal in Orange County, California,” Charles Epting states that Company 912 worked with the local Works Progress Administration, another New Deal organization, to build San Juan Capistrano’s fire station. Company 912 also worked at Doheny and San Clemente state beaches, creating stone gutters, constructing campgrounds and building offices and other structures.

Read more at the Orange County Register