Taiwan has elected a woman president in direct, democratic elections. Unthinkable in China, both direct elections and a woman at the helm.
Both Taiwan and South Korea now have women presidents. That’s symptomatic. These are genuinely modern countries and cultures. They have modernized not only as economic tigers, but also followed through politically and socially. That puts China’s modernization in perspective. China has modernized, to some degree, economically, but politically it stubbornly holds on to dictatorship and socially it remains immature. On the standing of women in society, for example, when young women demonstrate for protection against sexual harassment in public transport, they get rounded up and detained.
China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, has described China as ‘the greatest success story of our time’ (at the World Economic Forum in 2014). How wrong he was. China is big and looms large, but for genuine success in the region we must look to the smaller neighbors, to Taiwan and South Korea.