Skip to main content

TAOYUAN, TAIWAN - JANUARY 14: Supporters hold pictures of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen during rally campaign ahead of the Taiwanese presidential election on January 14, 2016 in Taoyuan, Taiwan. Voters in Taiwan are set to elect Tsai Ing-wen, the chairwoman of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, to become the island's first female leader. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Taiwan successfully converted itself into a democracy from 1987 to 1990. China should do likewise, looking to Taiwan as a political model, just as the Chinese have learned much from it about business and economics. But Beijing persists in calling Taiwan a province.

On Saturday, the people of Taiwan will elect a new president and parliament. According to opinion polls, Tsai Ing-wen, the presidential candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party, will win.

Her party has long preferred independence for Taiwan, but Ms. Tsai is prudent. The electorate as a whole is not inclined to provoke Beijing. So Ms. Tsai has promised not to make changes to "cross-strait stability." Her speeches tend not to even mention China or Beijing at all. In other words, she and the DPP are wisely appealing to the consensus. They're not rocking the boat.

Ma Ying-jeou, the outgoing President (now approaching the end of his two-term limit), belongs to the Kuomintang, the party of the late dictator Chiang Kai-shek and former president of China itself. The Kuomintang still continues to prefer some sort of political link with China. But it seems that many of the voters don't want that either. Mr. Ma's meeting in November in Singapore with Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, appears not to have gone over particularly well at home in Taiwan.

As for the parliament, it's chosen by a complex mixed-member proportional system. Six single-transferable-vote seats are allocated to aboriginals – people whose origins are similar to Filipinos, Malaysians, Indonesians. Who knows? Maybe the Taiwanese model will appeal to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his committee on proportional representation.

Late in his life, Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader of China, said, "If we can't reunify China right away, we will do it in a century; if not a century, then in a millennium."

Never mind eventual reunification. Taiwan has already experienced one peaceful change of the party in power. Another seems imminent. It is a great democratic model for the whole Chinese-speaking world.