TAIPEI, TAIWAN March 22, 2023—Taiwan has to build consensus to democratically make tough decisions about its future, said Dr. Richard Bush, nonresident senior fellow at Brookings Institution, in a public forum hosted by the Center for Asia-Pacific Resilience and Innovation (CAPRI) and the National Taiwan University College of Law on Wednesday.
Bush, a former Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, praised Taiwan’s democracy but noted that much improvement is still needed, saying that “Taiwan’s democratic process is more impressive than the government’s performance.” Nevertheless, “Even if the American system may be failing, I can still hope that Taiwan will succeed,” said Bush to students from National Taiwan University, National Chengchi University, and others who attended the event.
The forum drew ideas from Bush’s recent book Difficult Choices: Taiwan’s Quest for Security and the Good Life and incited conversation on the challenges Taiwan faces in government budget, public health, energy security, and military defense. Bush commented that the Taiwanese democratic government has the arduous task of reconciling competing priorities, needing to decide between economic growth and social equity, domestic priorities and defense, and lower and higher taxes.
Desiring to engage with audience and especially the students, Bush invited the audience to participate in a poll on Taiwan’s performance in democratic governance and public policy. The results showed that 79% of respondents were confident or somewhat confident in Taiwan’s future, and 82% agreed that compared with other forms of government, a democratic government can best address the challenges Taiwan faces; however, over one-fourth of those that agreed to the statement believed that Taiwan’s government, despite being democratic, is ill-equipped to do so. Many participants agreed that Taiwan’s political parties do not divide the Taiwanese people but rather reflect the division already between them.
Afterward, expert panelists Alicia García Herrero, Chief Economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis; Enoch Wu, director of Forward Alliance; and Jiunn-rong Yeh, chair professor at National Taiwan University College of Law, highlighted that Taiwan’s economic development, national security, and democratic governance have a great influence on not only the Asia Pacific but also the world.
“There may come a day when the people of Taiwan must make a fundamental choice about their long-term future,” Bush said. “It is vitally important that this choice be made democratically, […] and it must be a smart choice, crafted by this society’s best minds and based on the best interests of the population at large.”