Culture,  Lifestyle

A Foreigner’s View on Growing up in Taiwan’s Democracy

On Saturday, January 11, Taiwan re-elected President Tsai-Ing Wen to a second four-year term.

With the multitude of international events that have occurred during the last decade, the election has served as a symbolic win for Taiwan, a democratic country that has conducted presidential elections since 1996. 

Sixteen years ago, I would not have realized the significance of the election if it were not for the benefit of hindsight. I grew up in Taiwan from the age of six to eighteen. There, I experienced struggles that any minority and immigrant would experience in a new country; assimilation, racism, and language barriers. 

While I can talk about the difficulties that I may have experienced, the past four years living in North America has taught me to appreciate the most beautiful and wonderful aspects of Taiwan. The country had given me a life of comfort, ease, safety, and economic stability. The general kindness and welcoming spirit of the people has left an indelible mark on my life.

More importantly, the country gave me my first real experience of living in a democracy as a teenager.   

I remember going downstairs of my apartment building and seeing mayoral candidates and city officials shaking hands with every resident in the building.

“What are they doing?” I would naively ask myself.

Little did I know that it was democracy in front of my eyes; the right for citizens to decide who they want to vote for in shaping country.

That immigrant experience eventually led me to study and graduate with a degree in international studies. By taking classes in comparative politics and international affairs, I gained a deeper appreciation for the simple liberties granted in democratic nations. Freedom of speech, free markets, right to protest, right to religious freedom, and free and democratic elections decided by the people. 

For the twelve years I spent growing up in Taiwan, not once did I feel that any of my liberties were threatened or taken away. Perhaps I was simply fortunate, but it speaks more so to its well-functioning democracy in which citizens and non-citizens are treated with dignity and respect. 

I had witnessed protests, political campaigns, presidential elections, and was always impressed with how passionate people were about their elected officials and the independence of the people.  

Once I arrived in the United States for college, I proudly educated people about the democratic practices and ideals Taiwan had. I would explain the history behind the Chinese Civil War and the democratization process the country experienced in the 1990’s. I would also talk about its different branches of government, including the legislative yuan (parliament), judicial yuan, and executive yuan.

To top it off, I would boast about the immense economic growth the country went through in the 1960’s and how it continues to serve as a model for many developing nations. 

There are valid arguments to be made for other forms of government, and I am not here to dispute them. 

However, I am grateful to have experienced another Presidential election where I get to witness the immense energy and civic engagement from my fellow Taiwanese friends. 

It is another step in progress for a country that has continued to impress people from home and abroad. 

Including myself, thousands of miles away.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions displayed belong solely to the blog owner, and are not meant to malign any individual, company, ethnic group, religion, anyone, or anything.


Marjon is the Creator of Third-Culture Thoughts. A political nerd and basketball enthusiast at heart, he writes about everything related to culture and the international experience.