After the events in Ukraine over the past month, the news from Taiwan feels eerily familiar. The turmoil takes place in a small country that has spent years living uncomfortably in the shadow of a major power—one with ambitions to recover territory lost during a humiliating period of weakness. The small country has a weak economy, and the government decides to push through a controversial deal to tie the small country’s prospects closer to its powerful neighbor. That move sparks outrage against the unpopular president, who has already faced criticism after the jailing of a popular opposition leader on corruption charges. The protests grow, turning violent as the embattled president orders security forces to break up the demonstrations.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is not former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych—Ma, for one, doesn’t have an opulent home with seven limos, a private zoo, and a life-size galleon on a man-made lake—but as political unrest grows in Taiwan, the similarities between the two are striking. Just as Russians considered Crimea to be territory unjustly separated from Mother Russia, the Chinese government has insisted since the days of Mao Zedong that Taiwan is an inseparable part of the People’s Republic.