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May 26, 2017

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President must remember, channel resilience of Taiwan

Ever since its foundation, the Republic of China has seen very few easy days. It was founded famously after eleven failed attempts, led by a physician on a Don Quixotic globe-trotting quest for support fighting against the weakened but still formidable Qing empire. The nation has been under grave threats for much of its 101 years of existence.

Its very first official president, Yuan Shikai, tried to turn back the clock and briefly brought back a monarchy. After Yuan's death, his subordinates and other warlords tried to divide China into small fiefdoms among themselves. Later, Japan invaded China in World War II and tried to turn it into the base of their dream of a united East Asia under Tokyo. Then the Chinese Civil War came and the Chinese Communist Party's People's Liberation Army defeated the Kuomintang (KMT) and forced the R.O.C. to retreat to Taiwan. Ever since the R.O.C. left the U.N. and ties with the U.S. were severed in the 1970s, it has been diplomatically isolated while its old rival, the People's Republic of China, gains international clout day by day.

If anyone from Yuan, the warlords, the Japanese invasion forces, the People's Liberation Army, or the current PRC government had their way, the R.O.C. would no longer exist.

Yet here it still is, braving challenges as always, its democracy noisy as ever.

If there is one thing Taiwan does well it is to endure. The native residents of Taiwan — the aboriginal Taiwanese and the Han Chinese who came here centuries ago — endured the influx of immigrants during the KMT retreat, willing or not. It is easy to be cynical about the "native provincial vs. extraprovincial persons" issue in Taiwan but the situation could easily be much worse. If history is any guide, the sudden explosion of immigration of millions to an island of millions and the parachuting of these immigrants to positions of power seldom end well. Yet against all odds, people in Taiwan have learned to co-exist with each other on this crowded island. Together they endured the challenging decades that led to Taiwan's "Economic Miracle."

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