Why Taiwan and Lithuania Matter

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Monday, December 27, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Bigger is not necessarily better, especially as regards nations. In the business world, using the Boston College Group (BCG) Matrix a company or corporation may aid its growth and power by purchasing other select companies to add to its portfolio. However at a later changing time, it may divest and choose to sell off its “Dogs” and even “Cash Cows” especially when they approach being clear liabilities. All this is done to please shareholders.

This practice does not fit the world of nations, especially as regards the big three, the US, China and Russia. The world of people is not the same as the zero sum game of business.

To counter this, more than ever today the world is in need of strong mid-sized and small democratic nations. And Taiwan and Lithuania are outstanding in this regard.

As I have written numerous times, in both "The Paradigms that Guide Our Lives and Drive Our Souls" and past op-eds, we are moving from a global village paradigm to that of a global home paradigm. The explanation of this is thus more easily seen in the allegories and metaphors of English author George Orwell’s classic post World War II novels, Animal Farm and 1984.

Orwell had it right about the future of nations as that war ended; and now more than 70 plus years later his words still ring true.

Looked at from a broad brush perspective in Animal Farm he saw how the most idealistic of revolutions easily slip and degenerate into power struggles between wannabe rulers and they lose the true spirit and purpose of the revolution being for all.

There is an irony in how the Russian revolution did get rid of the Tsar but then soon replaced him with Tsar Stalin, and again later down the road of today with Tsar Putin. The same has happened in China, where the people disposed of the Emperor only to find a second revolution fought between two megalomanic wannabe emperors, Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong. And today President Xi Jinping is seeking the same status.

The only major change that effectively took place in these nations is that they do not allow the rule to be passed on by lineage.

However, different questions must be asked: Are the people better off now than then? After all the deaths, and collateral damage, do they have any more freedom or opportunity?

With their one-party state rule have things changed that much in freedom? Unfortunately after all the deaths and sacrifices, what these countries now have is an Animal Farm with Russian characteristics and another with Chinese characteristics.

Whatever the revolution, the competitive, greed. and power-hungry instincts of human nature and of individual personalities soon become evident. Idealism has been easily lost or brushed aside and the nation goes through that spiraling factor described in W. B. Yeats The Second Coming, “Things fall apart and the center cannot hold” and therefore only an alleged strong man can save the day. Let him be king or emperor.

Other questions must be asked are why did these nations not become democracies? It was their goal. Why have they replaced one past “all perfect” ruler appointed by “God” or “the heavens,” with another current one?

In countries of such size and vast population, why is it that after a set term, the people could not find another competent leader to take the reins? Questions like these should be asked except for the fact that the answers may be too revealing.

Problems and ironies created by the draconian rules of one-party states become evident. Many can remember the trauma and suffering imposed in China by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) dictatorial one-child policy of the past. Families were punished and abortions forced if a woman had more than one child. Similarly forced sterilizations took place in many cases. Yet ironically, as China’s aging population now increases, there are editorials that it can be “one’s duty” to have three children.

This is not to say that a democracy like the US is a shining light in governance. It has its own problems. Democracies are not perfect either but their strength is that if one leader is not up to the task, he or she can be replaced in a peaceful manner.

The democratic US recently dodged its own bullet. With former President Donald Trump, it had a president who could mouth the jingoistic message that many voters wanted to hear. However if more closely examined one had to ask: Why were these people so easily fooled by simple, jingoistic rhetoric?

Trump did lose by nearly three million votes the first time, but got by on the quirks of an out-dated electoral college system. In his case, ironically, the nation had a man with at least six bankruptcies to his name, a man unable to run either a university or a casino, a man who avoided military service on fake excuses and yet would then turn and mock veterans of past wars all the while claiming he knew more than his generals.

His only saving characteristic was that he was a good huckster and he could sell real estate at a profit to people who apparently often wanted to launder or dispose of money. Yet he was able temporarily at least to sway enough voters that he gained the presidency the first time by the electoral college system.

What all this brings us to is Orwell’s second work, the dystopian 1984 where he saw the world heading towards a disturbing continuous competition between three major powers. Orwell named them as “Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia,” and these three superpowers were involved in continuous war to justify their existence. In effect, Orwell in an uncanny way predicted the current situation between Russia, China and the US as they compete in zero sum games between themselves when they should in stead be making an effort to work together. Such is the dystopian world that is currently evident.

This does not mean that small and medium-sized nations are automatically good, but with them it is easier to see where things fall through the cracks. Issues can be worked out at a more local level. In short, the small and medium-sized nations remain important, because they provide he needed balance to the foibles of the three larger ones. They should not have to bow to the personal whims of those three.

A current case in point is where the nation of Nicaragua gave in to “dollar diplomacy” and traded its recognition of Taiwan, the Republic of China to that of the PRC. Why could it not acknowledge both? Why should any nation be forced to choose between one or the other? What zero sum games are happening when the nations of the world should be working toward a unified whole?

Nicaragua has one third the population of Taiwan, yet it chose to diplomatically “sell out” its recognition of the people of Taiwan; such has been the case of many of Taiwan’s allies.

Lithuania has one third the population of Nicaragua, but it has chosen to stand by Taiwan. Why?
These are questions that must be asked, not just for the simple immediate answer yes or no of dollar diplomacy, but for the question of what should the nations of the world be working towards?

Instead of being solely driven and affected by the zero sum games of the three larger powers, the small and mid-sized nations should start looking at the larger picture. I grant that this skirts the question that not all small or mid-sized nations are that solvent or free, but the larger picture must be examined.

With the three super powers, it can be seen that they have their own problems and challenges in leadership. The people need to abandon any past cult of the hero or leader worship, whether it once was tied to a king or emperor or now even to a chief revolutionary etc.. At the end of the day, the leaders of any nation are simply men or women; they have no super powers and the vision that is needed in the fast changing world of today. It is difficult for any one person to sustain the needed vision. New leadership must constantly be developed.

Most democracies have term limits for this purpose. In Germany, Angela Merkel saw it was time to step down after over a decade of good service. In large one-party states, the problems multiply especially as the adage reads: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Stepping down becomes a matter of losing face or power or both, and few leaders can do such gracefully.

This is why Taiwan and Lithuania matter here. They are mavericks but in another way they are prime examples pointing the direction to the future as they work toward a joint sustainable environment that must be jointly obtained by all nations.

Taiwan is a mid-sized democratic nation that punches far above its weight in today’s world of competing economies. It has no territorial ambitions; it contributes well and yet it is often not a member of the club and allowed a seat at world tables.

Lithuania is a small democratic nation; it also has no territorial ambitions. And it has been able to free itself economically and resist the threat of economic sanctions from the PRC. It stood up for the democracy of Taiwan and has pointed the way for others in the European Union.

Taiwan, Lithuania and Orwell are linked. They exemplify points that matter for the future if the nations of the world want to escape the Orwellian universe of the big three and realize that we are all one family in one home, earth. That is where sustainable living must be worked out.