With­out a lit­tle help from her friends

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of these ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Y ou 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!

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