A Woman President for Taiwan

January 18, 2016

Tags: Taiwan, election, woman president

In all of Chinese history, there have only been two women who functioned as heads of state, including an empress who ruled as a man and the Empress Dowager of the last empress.

Woman have always influenced emperors as wives or concubines.

Last week, in Taiwan, in a democratic election, a woman was elected to be the president of Taiwan.

And the first thing she did was tell Xi Jinping that Taiwan would not be threatened for mentions of independence.

To think that a century ago, footbinding had to be banned as a cruel and unusual practice.

It has always amazed me as a scholar, and in my work on the Mongol Empire, that the Mongol Khans thought of their principal wives as excellent counselors in matters of statecraft. This was true for the mother of Chinggis Khan and for his principal wife, Bortai.

Khubilai Khan went so far as to include his principal wife, Chabi, in counsels of state with his cabinet of Confucian advisers, even though the presence of a woman in counsels of state, horrified the Confucians.

Mongol women owned horses and property, including herds of the five snouts, the animals that the Mongols kept for sustenance and livelihood. They engaged in trade on behalf of their own camps, and they ruled while their men were away making war. They also rode horses. This was the difference between the nomad culture of the great horsemen of the steppes and the women who were closest to the rulers of civilization, meaning settled agricultural society.

Congratulations to Tsai Ing-wen, of the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan. In her first speech, she warned that threats from the PRC would damage relations with the mainland. You go, girl.

The Puzzle of the Chinese Middle Class

January 14, 2016

Tags: China, Middle Class

On a recent trip to New York, I interviewed on of the world’s pre-eminent experts on China, Professor Andrew Nathan of Columbia University.

Nathan has an uptown role as a China specialist at Columbia, but downtown, he is a human rights advocate and is on the board of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Apart from the United States, China is likely to be important in determining the global advancement of democracy because of its population, perhaps a quarter of humanity.

Another reason for China’s importance is its economic and military strength, but also its advancement of the so-called “China model.”

The China model is the combination of authoritarian government with capitalism.

As Nathan points out, China has offered its model as an attractive alternative to the Western model of liberal democracy to undemocratic regimes around the world.

The Chinese proclamation of its discovery of a new way to harness the energies of capitalism with a top-down government is the subject of multiple works over a period of decades by Professor Nathan. This piece is a small slice of the analysis.
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