Taiwan is a democratic nation, having evolved from near autocratic rule in the 1980s to a fully functioning democracy with two highly competitive political parties, with different ideologies and agendas, vying for political power in regularly scheduled and internationally monitored elections.
It is an axiom in international politics that democratic nations rarely, if ever, go to war with each other.
Since Taiwan is a Chinese society, there is a high probability that its successful experiment in democratization will have an influence on the evolution of China's political system on the mainland from its current one-party dominant, communist system to one more democratic in nature.
To the extent that Taiwan can influence this evolution of mainland China's political system, the likelihood of the United States and China coming into conflict can be reduced.
Other issues in Sino-American relations will exist, but if China is moving in a democratic direction, and if democracies rarely go to war with each other, then divisive issues between the United States and China are more likely to be resolved peacefully.
If a Sino-American conflict can be avoided, all nations in the Asia-Pacific region will benefit.
It is in the interests of democratic nations in the region to encourage the success of Taiwan's democracy and to urge mainland China to learn from Taiwan's experience in democratization as China modernizes its own political structure.
The benefit of the Taiwan example in democratization would very likely be diminished if Taiwan were to become part of a communist-dominated unified China.
The political unification of Taiwan with China should not be prematurely expedited. Rather, the drawing closer of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should be allowed to progress naturally, over time, giving the mainland an opportunity to absorb Taiwan's lessons in democracy.
October 23, 2011