You may recall the Beatles’ song of 1967 sung by Ringo Starr entitled “With a Little Help from My Friends” that was ranked No. 311 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Coincidentally, I have a very dear Taiwanese friend who, despite his obsessive Beatle Mania, would never adopt the tune as Taiwan’s national anthem simply because his tiny island nation has seldom received much help from her friends: Taiwan has gone it alone, and done very well, thank you!
Taiwan is a modern miracle, transforming herself from a military dictatorship into a vibrant democracy and moving from poverty to prosperity in half a century despite a relentless military threat from China and almost no natural resources other than the intelligence, education, and hard work of her people.
Although small compared to China, in 2015 Taiwan ranked as the country with the 22nd largest GDP in the world. According to the CIA World Factbook, on a total purchasing power per capita basis, which is generally regarded as the best measure of an economy’s comparative strength, Taiwan ranked 29th, placing it just behind Germany (28) and ahead of Canada (32), France (38), the UK (39), Japan (42), and Israel (55).
In the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom for 2016, Taiwan ranks 14th, ahead of Germany (17), Japan (22), South Korea (27), Israel (35), France (75), and China (144). In the Global Economic Forum Competiveness Report for 2015-16, Taiwan ranks 15th, ahead of Belgium (19), Australia (21), France (22), South Korea (26), Israel (27), and China (28). In the World Banks’s 2016 “Ease of Doing Business” rankings, Taiwan earned 11th place, ahead of Australia (13), Canada (14), Germany (15), Israel (54), and China (84). And in the UN-initiated annual World Happiness Report for 2016, Taiwan ranked 35th out of 157 countries, ahead of Spain (37), Italy (50), Japan (53), South Korea (58), and China (83).
Taiwan is a key player in information and communications technology, and a world leader in semiconductors, flat panel displays, and software development. At the end of 2015, Taiwan ranked 9th in two-way trade with the United States, outranking even India.
Taiwan has held six free and fair presidential elections since 1996 and the political parties holding the presidency have changed three times. The Taiwanese enjoy a first-rate national health care system, excellent universities, and a very low crime rate. Taiwan has tremendous symbolic importance as a model of democratic transformation for Asia and the world.
While Taiwan modestly proclaims herself to be a small island nation, she is still bigger than 46% of the world’s nations and territories, and her population of some 23.4 million people is actually larger than nearly 78 percent of the world’s 238 countries and territories.
Despite Taiwan’s extraordinary achievements, an Australian commentator has argued that China is simply too important economically, and too powerful militarily, for anyone to confront it on Taiwan’s behalf. But imagine the world’s reaction should Australia, with a slightly smaller population than that of Taiwan, become the target of China’s aggressive ambitions.
Control of the seas along the Pacific rim requires control of the first island chain, which reaches from Japan through Taiwan to the Philippines. However, Chinese military ambitions have expanded to dominate the sea to some 1,800 nautical miles beyond her coast which will enable China to dominate the major sea-lanes of commerce and communication for Japan and Korea, as well to gain enormous leverage in territorial disputes, not only over Taiwan, but also in the South China Sea, through which almost a third of global crude oil and over half of global liquefied natural gas pass, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.
If China controlled both Taiwan and the South China Sea, it would in effect control the entire Pacific rim of East Asia. Thus, it is not hard to see why the People’s Republic of China’s domination of both Taiwan and the South China Sea are part of President Xi Jinping’s dream of world domination. As Rotary International puts it, Help to Self Help, the world needs to offer more than a little help to her friend Taiwan in order to secure peace, security and freedom for all her friends, openly declared or not!