Driven to Revolt: On Our 22nd Anniversary
◎ Jin Zhong
This issue, no. 264, marks the 22nd anniversary of Open Magazine. We commemorate the anniversary, not with advertisements or a banquet, but with two pieces of big news: the US Presidential Election and the arrest of Taiwan's former President, the two main themes of this issue. These news items, one pleasant and the other regrettable, have caused quite a stir in people’s mind.
On the one hand, the news that Barack Obama has been elected the first black President of the United States has excited the whole world, as it shows the vitality of the country’s democratic system and a recovery of its credibility after being criticized over the credit debacle and its stance in the war against terror. On the other hand, former Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian has been formally arrested under allegations of corruption. In spite of the 8-year contribution the Democratic Progressive Party has made to Taiwan’s democratization, the party's leader has been mired in controversy over timocracy, which reflects that democracy has not been completely integrated into the system in Taiwan. Even though Taiwan has been in the process of democratization for two decades, along with sunshine laws to combat corruption and supervision of election finances and political contributions, it still has not developed a mature legal system like that of the US. It is hard for even the most pure-minded of incoming officials to avoid corruption. It can be anticipated that the Communist government will take full advantage of the incident.
As a result, we need to adjust our perspective on Taiwan’s democracy. As shown in Chen’s case, Taiwan’s road to democracy has been a brave exploration, and also a heroically tragic experiment. It is too early to hail it as a victory. We still have no reason for pessimism in light of this setback, given the unpopularity of the reunification policy, the maturity and irreversibility of Taiwan’s democratic system, and its demonstrative effect upon China.
Recently, a well-known artist called us and complained because we have long published articles by right-wing writers. This is in fact not the first time we have received such feedback, and we have reviewed our editorial policies again and again. Throughout the past 22 years, we have had the honor of bearing witness to a series of influential incidents in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the world. With our conscience and limited judgement, we have devoted ourselves to facing the challenges and sharing the bitter-sweet aspects of journalism. Our original aim of promoting the democratization of China has never changed. However, the complexity of today’s political issues drives any analysis and commentary away from tolerance and thus toward a lack of objectivity and conviction. Given that 46 percent of America's voters stood by John McCain, it makes no sense to reject the policies of the Republican Party. The difference on the Taiwan issues is even clearer. It is the responsibility of serious journalism not only to provide readers with the truth, but also with different viewpoints out of respect for their right to choice and independent thought.
In two more years we will see the centenary of the Xinhai Revolution. China, the first country to advocate the republican system and establish democracy in Asia, has now turned out to be the most entrenched autocracy in the world. What a shame. Today, all of China is celebrating the 30th anniversary of China’s economic reforms. People have forgotten, however, that in the past three decades, the number of democratic countries worldwide has reached 120, while only four of Asia's 50 countries are non-democratic. We all take note of China's rapid economic development, but uneven distribution of wealth and the prevalence of corruption and fraud have also increased to a shocking degree. Yet the CCP complacently talks of harmony, and its intellectual fellow-travelers devote their best efforts to glorifying its autocracy. Recently, when Yang Jia was executed for resisting despotism by unlawful means, voices of protest proliferated online. In the face of such a strong warning, how should members of the CCP reflect on their actions? Isn’t this an adequate wake-up call? Yang Jia’s violent revenge and the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 may not be the ideal acts in a democracy, but it has always been the case that despotism drives people to revolt.
Translated by Isabella Lam