China has the might, but Taiwan has democracy

Taiwan has demanded a formal apology from Manila over the fatal shooting of a fisherman found in disputed waters, but Manila is not doing so as it continues to respect its one-China policy.

THAILAND - Taiwan - the other China - invited our group of journalists from some 30 countries to witness its marvels, but instead we found ourselves embroiled in a row with the Philippines.

Taipei is demanding a formal apology from Manila for the fatal shooting of a 61-year-old Taiwanese fisherman caught in waters claimed by both nations, and the local papers were buzzing with this report the entire week we were there.

Taiwan's demand for a formal apology and Manila's refusal to do so apparently stems from the Philippines' one-China policy, which recognises the People's Republic as the only bona fide China.

In the "Penguin History of Modern China: Fall and Rise a Great Power (1850-2009)" Jonathan Fenby writes about the humiliation Taiwan suffered when it was expelled from the United Nations on October 25, 1971. "The Taiwanese walked out slowly while African delegates danced in the aisles … Britain, Japan and other countries lined up to upgrade their relations with Beijing."

Today, despite its de facto independence and freedom to maintain trade and cultural offices in 60 countries, including Thailand, Taiwan's future is becoming increasingly tied up with China. Of its 23 million people, at least a million Taiwanese are either working or living in China. Nearly 40 per cent of Taiwan's total exports go to China, which is one of Taiwan's three biggest trading partners. Taiwan, on the other hand, is only one of the top 10 trading partners of China.

There are 616 weekly flights between the two nations and the largest number of tourists to Taiwan hail from the mainland.

Cynthia Kiang, deputy director general of Taiwan's Bureau of Foreign Trade, told us that the government has had to introduce a quota of 5,000 persons for group tourists and 2,000 for independent visitors per day from China.

This is no surprise considering that China's population is 58 times larger than Taiwan's. The mainland's land area stands at 9.59 million square kilometres, while Taiwan is a mere 35,980sqkm.

Given China's rapidly growing global influence, as well as its politics and army - the worlds' largest standing army with 1.6 million personnel - it looks as if the day when Taiwan gets swallowed up by China is not that far ahead.

But then again, is it?

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