Taiwan democracy an inspiration: American foundation - Focus Taiwan

Taiwan democracy an inspiration: American foundation

Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy in the United States
Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy in the United States

Taipei, Dec. 12 (CNA) The head of an American private, non-profit foundation dedicated to the growth of democratic institutions around the world said Wednesday that Taiwan is an inspiration to people who believe in democracy.

Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy in the United States, told CNA that Taiwan can teach struggling countries about its success in building a democracy.

"Taiwan was an authoritarian country, and it made a remarkably interesting and important transition to democracy in the 1980s and the 1990s, and it continues," he said.

Gershman noted that Taiwan was part of the "Third Wave" of countries that transformed to democracies, including the Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Thailand, and Nicaragua, decades ago.

Unlike some countries that have seen a decline in the quality of their democracy, Taiwan has not regressed, he said.

Taiwan can now offer the world lessons on how to respond to and defend against cross-border cyberattacks and how to use social media to strengthen citizen participation, Gershman said.

On Tuesday, Gershman was awarded the Order of Brilliant Star with Grand Cordon by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) at the 2019 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award Ceremony, in recognition of his contribution to the consolidation of Taiwan-U.S. relations and the advancement of freedom and democracy around the world.

Carl Gershman (left) and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文)
Carl Gershman (left) and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文)

The annual ceremony was hosted by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, which is dedicated to strengthening democracy and human rights in Taiwan and abroad.

Taiwan is a model that shows democracy is a universal idea and not just a western idea as China tends to argue, Gershman said.

"China will say, 'well China's different because it is a Confucian civilization and you can't have democracy in a hierarchical Confucian country.' Well, Taiwan shows that you can," he said.

When the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing spread to hundreds of cities across China, the people were pushing for the very thing that Taiwan now has, Gershman said.

"And what do the people in Hong Kong want?" he said "They are not westerners, they are Chinese people, and they want freedom and democracy."

He advised Taiwan to maintain its inclusive democracy, which he said will draw other like-minded countries.

"Ultimately, if it (Taiwan) can remain a strong and successful democracy, in my view this is the way to deal with the issue of isolation because there is tremendous attractiveness in a country like Taiwan being a successful democracy and having the resilience to withstand these constant threats," he said.

Carl Gershman (left) and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文)
Carl Gershman (left) and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文)

(By William Yen)

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