Taiwan Pride 2005. Wikipedia
Taiwan, a self-governing island off the coast of China, has always been the most delicate issue in Chinese-US and Chinese-Western relations. China regards it as a breakaway province, but the people of Taiwan are fiercely independent and are jealously protective of its hard-fought freedoms. However, it can be said that Taiwan is trying too hard to embrace the West’s liberal insanities in its effort to snub China, and in the long run that can only be damaging to the island nation’s survival.
Taiwan is the first Asian country to legalise gay marriage. Many Taiwanese were overtly jubilant when this happened earlier this year and believed it made them the “pride of Asia”. They also used it to distinguish themselves from the more conservative Mainland China, where homosexuals as such are not really persecuted but gay marriage has been ruled out as an option in the short to medium term. Taipei, the capital city, has East Asia’s largest gay pride parade and the massive event attracts members of the LGBTQ community from across the region. This leads many of the liberal media outlets in the West to claim Taiwan as “one of us”, a liberal oasis in a Confucian desert, and celebrate its gay pride as proof of Taiwan’s vibrancy and diversity.
However, beneath all of the “Love Wins, Love Won” beautiful talk lie many problems. Taiwan’s massively influential gay organisations have now pressurized the government to go much further in promoting LGBT-friendly sex and “diverse family-making”(多元成家) in educational curricula. This, like the insanity that has engulfed the West, simply denies the reality that a biologically male father and biologically female mother are needed to generate children. The curriculum promoted by Taiwan’s LGBT lobby also aggressively pushes for transgenderism, where children must be allowed to undergo radical life changing treatments to indulge their confused gender identity, without the need for parental discretion.
It is very likely that Taiwan is going to implement such laws very soon, as organized opposition to this agenda is very weak and limited to religious organisations (the vast majority being Christian churches) that have come under intense attack from all sectors of society and both sides of the aisle in Taiwan’s parliament. Critics have been labelled bigots and homophobes and even pro-China weaklings.
All this is done simply to satisfy Taiwan’s desire to completely break out of its culturally Chinese/Confucian shell by doing the exact opposite of everything China does, and, most importantly, to make Taiwan the darling of the liberal West.
But, one is tempted to ask, at what cost?
Many Taiwanese find this aggressive liberal policy of shoving everything LGBT and Western down their throats problematic. In a nationwide referendum on gay marriage last year, the impossible happened: the majority voted against radical marriage reform. Instead, they approved a watered-down version of gay marriage that rejected changing the legal definition of ordinary marriage as between a man and a woman. A separate law defining same-sex marriage was passed with much the same rights granted to same-sex couples, without redefining everything relating to marriage in the Civil Code. This unlikely victory for the religious conservatives who are so demonized in Taiwan’s mainstream media proves that many people remain cautious about what they are being told to believe.
Taiwan’s liberal policies do not help solve its demographic woes, indicated by a total fertility rate that stands at a paltry 1.1. In the first half of 2019, and for the first time in recorded history, there were more deaths than births in Taiwan. Fertility has been below replacement since 1984, and, long before South Korea flirted with fertility levels below 1, Taiwan already hit 0.9 in 2005. The birth rate made limited rebounds in the next few years, partly thanks to the pro-natalist policies of the previous Ma Ying-jeou administration, which hails from the pro-China and somewhat conservative KMT.
However, Ma’s KMT was voted out of power and one can say, rightly so, for being too cushy and comfortable with Communist China. In 2016, Tsai Ing-wen’s DPP, which promotes Taiwanese independence, came to power. Since then, the DPP has found it easier to promote gay marriage, transgenderism-friendly and conservative-bashing policies than to tackle the much harder issues of fixing the economy, maintaining stable relations with an increasingly assertive and aggressive Communist neighbour, and the birth dearth.
It was only this year that a nationwide comprehensive plan to boost the birth rate and attract more migrants to the island nation was adopted, and that plan had a not-so-ambitious goal of boosting the TFR to 1.4 in 2030, which is still way below replacement fertility. It also offered few concrete measures to reduce the costs of childrearing and improve young people’s chances of raising children. It can also be said that teaching children “facts” such as that two men or women or genderfluid individuals can form families is definitely not going to help the next generation of Taiwanese youngsters procreate. But, as in the West, one cannot say anything like that in the public discourse in Taiwan without being labelled a bigot.
So, what’s the long-term consequences of this dismal demographic reality that is further exacerbated by successive governments that have not really been family-friendly in their policies?
One short-term and easy to observe trend is that Taiwan’s demographic of military age men is fast drying up. In 2018, Taiwan moved from conscription to a volunteer military, a move ridiculed by critics, because even if Taiwan maintained its conscription rule, it would still not have enough manpower to draw from, since its number military aged young men is estimated to have more than halved in the past few years or so.
Furthermore, given the demographic trends stated above, Taiwan’s population is predicted to shrink by over a third, to just 16-17 million, by 2065 from the current 23.5 million. This is the government’s official prediction, published last year, and based on the overly-optimistic belief that the TFR will rebound to 1.3-1.4, “high” levels that have not been seen since the new millennium started. By 2100, Taiwan’s population is certain to have at least halved.
That can only mean Taiwan’s already sluggish economy will be knocked off its rails as its labour force shrinks, while the nation’s generous healthcare and social pensions will likely become bankrupt soon. Most concerning is that Taiwan will lose the ability to defend itself as its army is bound to shrink, and that by falling off the demographic cliff, Chinese societies on both the Mainland and Taiwan will have proven to have fallen in the trap of inevitable demographic decline.
For an ethnic Chinese observer, this is a very depressing but very real conclusion. Taiwan’s government and people are certainly not doing themselves any favours by further aggressively destroying of what is left of traditional family values. Instead, in order to emulate their idols in the liberal West, they are smashing traditional Confucian values to smithereens with glee and a sledgehammer in hand, thinking that will help them save their democratic nation.
William Huang is an avid researcher into China and East Asia’s looming demographic crisis. He also aims to raise his voice for the sanctity of life wherever and whenever he can.