Written by Nguyễn Thị Thanh Hà and Isabelle Cheng. It has been more than three decades since Southeast Asian nationals began to work and establish their families in Taiwan. Men and women from the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia fill the labour shortage in construction, fishing, manufacturing, care and agricultural industries, whilst the women became members of Taiwanese society because of their marriage and family formations. This ongoing regional migration flow has enriched the socio-cultural landscape of Taiwan, where multiculturalism becomes the prevailing normative value that respects and appreciates differences. Nevertheless, this development has not been smooth or unchallenged.
Written by Linh Le. Taiwan and its migrant workers are tangled in a bitter-sweet marriage: one needs another but cannot stand the flaws of the other. Like Director Tsai Tsung-lung’s attempt to show the human side of migrant workers through his latest documentary “Nine shots,” this article shares the same sentiment by highlighting these workers’ needs for leisure, enjoyment and entertainment like any other human being. However, these needs are rarely satisfied due to many unfortunate circumstances.
Written by Andreas Sierek. A migrant construction worker was enjoying himself at a river. We might have disapproved of him being drunk, drugged and naked. We even might have been incensed by his rampageous behaviour. But shooting him dead? Like a stray dog infected with rabies? Not with one bullet but with nine? Insisting that the man – while lying on the dirt, in a pool of blood, dying – must be handcuffed before medics can approach him?
Written by Isabelle Cheng. On 31 August 2017, Nguyen Quoc Phi, an undocumented Vietnamese worker, was shot dead by a policeman in Hsinchu, northern Taiwan. Public responses to Phi’s death were polarised between pro-police campaigners, who supported the police’s use of force, and human rights activists, who emphasised the plight of migrant workers who are exploited by brokers and employers and who are regulated by a hostile guest worker system. This polarisation is also evident in cyberspace. The reporting of Phi’s death in September 2017, the sentencing of the policeman in July 2019, and the deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks in the U.S. in May and June 2020 prompted Taiwanese netizens to comment on PTT.
Interviewed, translated and edited by Isabelle Cheng. On 30 October 2020, the Taiwan Studies Programme hosted a webinar after the online screening of a pilot documentary Nine Shots (槍響之前) directed by Tsai Tsung-lung. This essay is an interview with Tsai about this pilot documentary, which discusses what, if not who, was responsible for the tragic death of Nguyen Quoc Phi. The latter was an undocumented Vietnamese migrant worker who was shot dead by the police, firing nine shots in 12 seconds, on 31 August 2017 in Hsinchu, northern Taiwan.
Written by Bonny Ling. Since late-July 2020, a diplomatic row has embroiled the governments of Indonesia and Taiwan over who in principle should pay the cost of recruitment for low-skilled workers seeking jobs abroad. To date, the industry norm is that low-skilled migrant workers pay these fees of recruitment or placement to labour brokers in their home country, months before they begin their work and see their first pay. In order to secure a job abroad, many borrow heavily to pay for these recruitment costs upfront.
Written by Kyoung M. Shin and Chan-Yuan Wong. As the initial shockwave ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to subsiding, it is imperative to start a more nuanced discussion about pertinent public policies. Even in countries such as Taiwan, who have thus far proven to be relatively more successful in stemming the tide, the government is still emphasising economic re-opening. It is often touted across the globe that Taiwan has been one of the more, if not the most, successful countries in combating COVID-19—and rightfully so. As of October 1, 2020, there has been a total of only 514 documented cases in Taiwan, most of which have been “imported.” While most countries around the world are still struggling to cope with the coronavirus, there has been no report of domestically contracted case in Taiwan since mid-April.
By Chan-Yuan Wong and Kyoung M. Shin. It is indisputable that Taiwan’s restrictive emergency policies have successfully brought the coronavirus under control and gave Taiwan the enviable status of a “virus-free haven.” Although one may argue that outcome should be used to measure “success” and “failure,” it is not the only criterion to evaluate public policies. Even from a purely economic efficiency point of view, how the outcome is achieved is equally important—that is, the measure of the associated costs and resource inputs. To effectively control the spread of the coronavirus, Taiwan has essentially taken a page out of its old “developmental state” playbook.
Written by Hsu Hung Bin.The history of doctor outflow in Taiwan tells us that doctors of all eras are continually reflecting on what it means to be in the medical profession and what the “good life” of a doctor is. The unique history of Taiwan’s medical system is an essential resource as we come to reflect on the issues of today. This history reminds about the diverse sets of values (not all of which have been good) that have existed within the system. It also provides clues of what a new system might look like.
Written by Hsu Hung Bin. The phrase “五大皆空” (all the key fields are lacking) has become common, referring to the lack of doctors in internal medicine, surgery, gynaecology, paediatrics and emergency care. There has also been discussion of the net outflow of doctors from Taiwan. All of this brought doubts to the once hopeful students as they began their medical education. I often hear students asking questions like “is the medical system here really going to collapse?” “Do we have to leave Taiwan and start a new life abroad?” “Did I make the right choice for my career”?
Written by Pei-Chia Lan. My recent book, Raising Global Families: Parenting, Immigration, and Class in Taiwan and the US, started with a puzzle: Why do Taiwanese parents nowadays face even more intensified pressure, anxiety, and uncertainty, despite their expanded access to cultural resources, market services, and global mobility in comparison with the earlier generations?
Written by Ji-Ping Lin. Although ethnic integration had played a crucial role in promoting ethnic harmony, ethnic relations in Taiwan was typified by hates” outweighing “loves.” Nevertheless, such a situation changes in the late 1980s and the 1990s. Indeed, Taiwan’s political, socioeconomic, and cultural systems began experiencing several fundamental transitions; a transition from authoritarian to democratic polity, from a planned economy to globalised one, and from close to open and multi-culturalism society.