Has China Seen the Light?

China's claim on Taiwan is a burning ember left over from the cold war. Voters on that island nation defied China's claim last Saturday in a watershed election.

They forced the long-ruling Nationalists from their controlling roost in parliament, thus fully rejecting the Nationalists' platform for eventual reunification with the mainland.

The first blow came last year. The Nationalists, once led by Chiang Kai-shek, lost the presidency to Democratic Progressive Party leader Chen Shui-bien. His party was a longtime advocate of Taiwan declaring official independence from China.

What's remarkable now is the mild response from Beijing to this election. Not only didn't it threaten Taiwan beforehand with missiles, as it has done in the past, but its reaction to the result was rather mild.

Perhaps China now likes its erstwhile alliance with the US in the war on terrorism. Or perhaps it's busy opening its largely closed markets as it joins the World Trade Organization next week. Or maybe it needs the booming Taiwanese investment in the mainland.

But the point is that Taiwan, since 1987, has shown that democracy is the best antidote to China's bullying.

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