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Tea Leaves

Taiwan holds lessons for 'good' and 'bad' dictatorships

Beijing should follow Taipei's model of gradual liberalization

Exhibits of Japanese infrastructure building at the Sun Moon Lake museum. (Photo by Humphrey Hawksley)

In 1979, not long after America's Jan 1. recognition of Beijing's Communist regime as the legitimate government of China, former U.S. President Richard Nixon returned to China and was feted as a hero for his groundbreaking visit to the Chinese capital in 1972.

As a young reporter on the South China Morning Post, I covered Nixon's press conference in Hong Kong, where he suggested that the U.S. should arm China to balance Soviet expansion in Asia. With the naivety and confidence of youth, I described the former president as "driven and passionate," but noted that the new U.S. policy meant swapping a dictatorship in Taiwan for one in Beijing.

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