This article by Zoe Leung and Alan H. Yang is published by The Diplomat. Here is an excerpt:
Global democracy is in retreat. The United States is now a “backsliding democracy” for the first time according to the 2021 Global State of Democracy Report. At the same time, China uses the word “democracy” to describe its own governance, while meaning something completely different. As democratic practices regress, like-minded countries should combat this by expanding partnerships to protect and improve democratic institutions and civic spaces. In this context, Taiwan, a thriving democracy in the Indo-Pacific, represents both an exemplar as well as a potential partner. Taiwan provides valuable lessons in how to address challenges facing modern democracies while under constant threat.
A conventional narrative has solidified around the idea that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed flaws of democracy in coping with the public health crisis while China’s quick economic rebound and pandemic success, albeit through strict lockdown measures, may serve as a showcase for its model of governance. However, Taiwan stands in contradiction to this narrative and its own success is well documented. It has leveraged contact tracing, apps, “civic hackers,” and “radical transparency” to effectively combat misinformation and contain the pandemic spread absent lockdowns while staying true to its core democratic values. This is exemplified by its robust civil society, which built most of the pandemic-related information systems as opposed to the government. The model adds a citizen-centric dimension to digital governance, which is otherwise dominated by authorities, and forms an integral part of Taiwan’s digital democracy.
In 2021, Taiwan was ranked the second freest place in Asia, according to Freedom House. It is a vibrant multi-party democracy, with peaceful transitions of power between ruling and opposition parties for the past two decades. Not only that, but Taiwan is a leader in public civic participation through programs such as Citizen Congress Watch, a fourth-generation society legislative oversight mechanism. The organization gathers representative opinions, publicizes oversight outcomes, and puts forward suggestions to the legislature to effect changes the public want to see.
Continue reading here.