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Taiwan: A Role Model for Asia

Nikita Makarenko is 2023 McCain Global Leader (MGL) and a prominent Uzbek journalist, media expert, and public figure who is known for his significant contributions to public service in Uzbekistan. The McCain Institute recently led several members of its MGL program to Taipei, Taiwan as the first stop of the 2023 MGL Changemaker Tour. The visit follows Senator John S. McCain’s legacy of visiting Taiwan – his last trip to the island was in 2016.

The question of whether democracy and Asia are compatible has been debated for centuries. After the Cold War, a new window of opportunity opened for democratic transition in the region. However, not all countries have made smooth progress. Five Central Asian republics are still struggling with authoritarianism after 33 years of independence. The Middle East has not become a successful role model after the Arab Spring, and the lessons of Afghanistan are still being studied.

These thoughts were in my mind as I flew from Tashkent to Taipei to participate in the Changemaker Tour of McCain Global Leaders. I had never been to Taiwan before, and I believe I am the first journalist from Uzbekistan to be officially invited to visit this fascinating island.

Taiwan is a unique place. Chinese people are divided into two countries and two societies. One is democratic, and one is not. This is like the situation in Korea, but Taiwan is much more vulnerable. It is not recognized by most countries in the world, and it has little opportunity to speak for itself.

During my trip, I had the opportunity to study many aspects of Taiwan’s political system and daily life. I met with high-level officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Parliament, and other organizations. I also had the chance to talk to grassroots NGO workers, ordinary people, and learn about the history and culture of Taiwan.

I was excited not only to know more about Taiwan, but also to share what I learned with my readers and audience in Uzbekistan. For example, it is almost unknown in my country that the current Taiwanese president is a woman. But what a great role model she is, in addition to the strong democratic culture on the island.

I believe that the McCain Institute has played a very important role in bridging different countries with Taiwan. Due to pressure from the People’s Republic of China, our countries have little chance to interact with Taiwan. That is why it is important to develop horizontal connections between civil society, the media, and politicians.

We can learn a lot from Taiwan, a country that has proven that a vibrant and successful democratic society is possible in Asia. Even if the foundation was authoritarian, it is possible to build a democracy on top of it. Even if you are surrounded and oppressed, you have a chance. If you believe, work hard, and inspire others.

DISCLAIMER: McCain Institute is a nonpartisan organization that is part of Arizona State University. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent an opinion of the McCain Institute.

Nikita Makarenko, McCain Global Leader, Uzbekistan
Publish Date
August 16, 2023