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.
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 Isabelle Cheng. [Migrant] men can’t produce babies, but women can. We can’t allow foreigners to give birth in Taiwan and breed more foreigners […] It is indeed inhumane to repatriate a pregnant woman. However, even permitted to give birth in Taiwan, she and her child would have to be deported eventually. It is even more inhumane to break her family and separate the child from the [Taiwanese] father after they’ve developed bonds (the Legislative Yuan, 17 April 1992, Taipei).
Written by Milo Hsieh. To what degree is race-based discrimination an issue in Taiwan? The answer may differ depending on those asked. To the World Health Organization Director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus—who was made into an effigy by anonymous Taiwanese comic artists in April over the WHO’s continued exclusion of Taiwan—yes, Taiwan’s government allegedly sponsored racist attacks against him. One the other hand, to the group of Taiwanese influencers—who came under attack later in June after wearing blackface to imitate the dancing coffins viral video—no, as clearly many in Taiwan overreacted.
Written by Thung-Hong Lin. In March 2014, the Sunflower Movement, a student-led protest to oppose the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA), shocked the Taiwanese public. For 24 days (March 18–April 10, 2014), Taiwan’s legislature was paralysed by protesters occupying the chamber, nearby roads and surrounding alleys, which prevented their eviction by police. The protesters claimed that the CSSTA would favour large companies investing in China, damage local small and medium-scale enterprises’ (SMEs) business and have a devaluing effect on local labour’s wages.
Written by Chin-fen Chang. As an export-driven economy, Taiwanese manufacturing has suffered a sharp drop in demands overseas during the first half of this year. Local businesses in Taiwan have also been affected by a lack of foreign tourists. Moreover, Taiwanese have been self-restrained in their consumption, suffering from income loss or concerning worse financial conditions to come in the near future. Labour markets also show significant job losses along with cutting regular earnings for those fortunately still on the payroll.
Written by Dorothy I-ru Chen. Ethnocentrism is often found in a highly homogenous society like Taiwan. There have been stereotypes and bias against new immigrant children over the years. Studies conducted in the early days suggested that these children’s academic achievements were lagging. Moreover, these studies failed to recognise the problem may lie within schools which are not capable of meeting the needs of children from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Written by Christian Aspalter. Taiwan today has a relatively comprehensive welfare state system due to the work of Lee Teng-Hui and millions of Taiwanese. These citizens pushed the very same man to open and safeguard the process of democratisation back in the late 1980s, and to set up the first major system of the Taiwanese welfare state, the universal National Health Insurance, back in 1996. Lee listened to what people wanted, and that means all of the Taiwanese people, not just the elite, the ancient regime of the Kuomintang (KMT) or the business tycoons. Other leaders behaved quite differently.
Written by Ruo-Fan Liu. If you travel to Taiwan in February or July, you will probably hear people talk about their children’s exam scores in MRT stations, coffee shops, and traditional markets. These days, high schoolers are busy applying for colleges, sustaining admissions from selective universities, and hoping that what happens at this stage in their life will set themselves apart from peers in the future. Since the Taiwanese Government expanded higher education and diversified admission channels for different kinds of students, this process has become more complex, and admission rules are continually changing.
Written by Yi-hui Lee and Kai-chieh Yang. As a result of geographic and economic factors, educational recourses have long been distributed unevenly in Taiwan. This has long caused some disquiet. The effect of this recourse inequality worsens at every stage of the education system and severely hampers class mobility. The new “school-determined curriculum,” which is so central to the 2019 curricula reforms, will change many of the compulsory class requirements for high-schoolers in Taiwan. With inequality being such a clear issue, it is essential to ask: what affect will this have on the uneven recourse distribution across schools?
Written by Jen-Chen Chao. Up until the 1990s, all university applicants in Taiwan were allotted university places based solely on their test scores on a standardised exam. This was generally seen as leading to a high-pressure environment in which students had to prepare endlessly for a high-stake test. Recent attempts by the Government have tried to alleviate some of this pressure whilst also promote the learning and developments of students.