TO be rich may be glorious, as Deng Xiaoping is supposed to have said. But to be rich and democratic is more glorious still.
That's the message accumulating around the perimeter of China. Taiwan now has joined Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand in asserting or upgrading popular rule. All have thus added increased democracy to dramatic economic success.
Beijing put the best face on its loss of face, after its missile rattling brought Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui more votes rather than fewer in Saturday's election. Mr. Lee, energetic salesman of Taiwan to the world, took 54 percent of the vote, compared with 21 percent for his nearest opponent. That opponent happened to be the candidate espousing independence from China. And his party's drop from 41 percent in elections in 1993 to just 21 percent gave Beijing a chance to claim success for its gunboat tactics.
With that claim of success came a cooling of the Communist government's rhetoric against Mr. Lee as it waits to see what he does with his new mandate. On that score, it's instructive to note two factors:
First, there's the matter of how Taiwan's business leaders who invest in and trade with the mainland reacted to Beijing's war games. Most of them retreated not an inch. Most of those who were physically in China stayed.
Second, Taiwan's economics minister and central bank governor, both bulls on trade with the mainland, emphasized the need to go on building economic bridges to and from China. Mr. Lee himself had said he sought the mandate he has now won in order to resume negotiations with Beijing. There is, for instance, unfinished business involving direct transport and mail links between the two Chinas.
Both sides now must find a way to return to the progress they were making toward stronger commercial relations. That, after all, is the best route toward what Beijing says it wants: "one country, two systems." It also leads toward what many Taiwanese want: an eventually democratic, prosperous China with which to negotiate.