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 Ratih Kabinawa. In an attempt to raise awareness about the lives of marginalised groups in Taiwan, the Taiwan Studies Programme at the University of Nottingham, U.K., organised a movie screening and discussion – Migrant Lives Matter: ‘Nine Shots’ – that showcased the dark side of migrant labour recruitment and employment in Taiwan. The film reveals some perspectives from different stakeholders, including labour advocacy networks, in addressing problems related to Taiwan’s labour migration system. Using the movie as a prompt, this article explores various advocacy networks and migrant labour movements in Taiwan. Why and how do these networks emerge and organise themselves? What are their motivations and activities? And how do these networks advocate for policy change and work to build solidarity to empower migrant workers?
Written by Guo-Huei Chen, Ming-En Hsiao and Li-Ke Chang. The semiconductor industry is strategic to national security and critical to international connections in the high tech and techno-geopolitics era. In regard to tech, along with strategic competitions between America and China, Taiwan is at the frontline for its supply chains and geopolitics.
Written by Wei-Ting Yen. In the past few years, two political outsiders in Taiwan have quickly accumulated popularity and became serious political contenders in elections. One is Ko Wen-Je, currently the mayor of Taipei. The other one is Han Kuo-Yu, the recently impeached mayor of Kaohsiung, the second-largest city in Taiwan. Their rise has prompted the island nation to widely debate whether populism has grown its roots in Taiwan because Ko and Han share similar populist traits.
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 Robert Sutter. Despite official disclaimers, the election of President Joseph Biden has been greeted with considerable angst in Taiwan. The fear concerns how the new US government will not follow through on various security, diplomatic and economic advances in US-Taiwan relations undertaken by the Trump government. This is despite the strong objections from Beijing, returning to the strict adherence to the One China policy prevalent during the Obama-Biden government of 2009-2017.
Written by Michael Mazza. The new Biden administration will have its hands full from day one. Even as it focuses its energy on finally getting a handle on the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration will have to recalibrate its China policy, making numerous decisions about which aspects of the Trump administration’s approach to keep and which to jettison. Beyond China, it will have to meaningfully strengthen alliances and security partnerships worldwide, make a decision about how best to rein in Iran’s nuclear program going forward, and work quickly to preserve (or not) the New START arms control agreement with Russia. Taiwan policy, on the other hand, should not require significant deliberation in the early going.
Written by Ian Inkster. The world is nowhere near getting over the COVID pandemic. Whether referring to the possibilities of mutations of the virus itself or to the transformations, reactions and perhaps resistances of the national populations who are being continuously coerced or persuaded into adherence to often dubious and motley official regulations, most commentators and analysts think we are either within or entering a strong second cycle of contagion and mortality.
Written by Jason Chuah. Taiwan, with her economic strength in shipping, could perhaps be likened to a first-class marathon athlete running in the Olympics with flipflops unless it modernises its commercial maritime law. UNCTAD reports in its 2019 Shipping Outlook Report that Taiwan ranks 11 in terms of “ownership of world fleet ranked by dead-weight tonnage.” This is one place above the UK and only two places below the US. In terms of monetary value, it is ranked number seven in the world for ownership of bulk carriers (excluding oil tankers) and in the top 20 ship owning countries by value. Yang Ming and Evergreen are in the top 20 of terminal operators in the global league table.
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 Malcolm Turnbull. Countries that displease China have been threatened with economic consequences. It might be boycotting Japanese retailers; or stopping tourism to South Korea. Or as we have seen in Australia, holding up beef exports and slapping tariffs on wine. On the other hand, and especially in the developing world, billions are being offered for infrastructure development through the Belt and Road initiative.