Taiwan's democratic system exhibits multiple faces at the same time. Positive
and negative trends coexist simultaneously. Both optimism and pessimism are
warranted. Dark clouds possess silver linings—but they are still dark clouds.
Yet if one asks whether democracy has made Taiwan more stable, the answer is
unequivocally yes. The message for Taiwan's policy makers—and China should take
note—is that they would do well to listen to the centrists tendencies of the
Taiwan people, who see no contradiction between establishing their identity and
recognizing that their prosperity cannot ignore China as a major driver in the
Face Number One: The results of the 1990s transition to democracy have not been fundamentally reversed in any significant way. . . .
Face Number Two: Formal democratic institutions may exist but they don't work well. . . .
Face Number Three: Some people believe that Taiwan's democracy is bad for regional peace and stability. . . .
Face Number Four: Despite the strength of Taiwan identity and the existence of de jure independence sentiment, what is remarkable is that Taiwan's democratic system, imperfect as it is, has in some ways acted as a moderating force to shape a centrist consensus to defer discussion of ultimate solutions like unification or independence. A significant majority of the public wishes to preserve the status quo (even though they probably don't agree on what the status quo is). . . .
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