Written by En-Chieh Chao. Scientific epidemic prevention measures are essential and critical, but sometimes not enough. As demonstrated in Taiwan’s experience of 2020, other than an alert government, it takes a civil society and divine deities. After all, to prevent an epidemic literally requires human bodies to work together. The question is: what makes us work together? It could be democracy for some, and divination for others. Sometimes, it is both.
Written by Lihyun Lin and Chun-yi Lee. On November 18, 2020, the National Communications Commission (NCC) in Taiwan refused to renew the licence of CTiTV. This decision caused much protest from the opposition party, with the Kuomintang (KMT)’s high-pitch of ‘protecting press freedom.’ We found ironic how the KMT used Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) ‘s case as an example to indicate how the ruling party in Taiwan – the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) – intervened in press freedom and sacrificed Taiwan’s democracy.
Written by Milo Hsieh. Corruption in Taiwan has been a significant issue since the democratisation in Taiwan. In the early years of Taiwan’s democracy, this was a major issue for politicians in all political parties. Despite numbers and figures showing that Taiwan has been working well to root out corruption amongst its bureaucracy and politics, high-level corruption and illicit deals between politicians and the business community continues to Taiwanese politicians.
Written by Boyu Chen. Taiwan has won accolades internationally for its success in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still wreaking havoc worldwide. The IT minister, Audrey Tan, has gained recognition due to the successful application of information technology to control the pandemic. This includes the digital mask map that efficiently delivers masks to citizens, along with smartphone applications for contact tracing by GPS data. The young and innovative Audrey Tan has become very popular in Japan, where many people envy Taiwan’s excellent use of information technology to counter the virus.
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.
Written by Ian Inkster. Corruption has been a dirty word for many years. Whilst it was a normal mechanism of courtly governance in most nations at some much earlier times, the move to modernity has everywhere removed any legitimation it might have had in the past. Usually, this is seen as in contradistinction to the growth of electorates, civil societies, and democratic constitutions, however partial or ill-applied the latter often are. Nevertheless, we must also revisit the numerous exceptions and the general irregularity of this historical trend even at the heart of the claim.
Written by Yu-Hsien Sung and Chin-shou Wang. For many years, Taiwan has suffered from substantial amounts of corruption. The dominant political party used voting-buying machines to secure popular support and elicit cooperation from elites. Following the changes in the political environment during the democratization period, the old mechanisms gradually failed in their effectiveness. In recent global surveys on governance and corruption, Taiwan is considered as one of the best performers in the Asia-Pacific region. However, during the past year, several Taiwanese politicians and government officials were involved in bribery scandals.
Written by Erik Mobrand. Assessments of the state of corruption in Taiwan show wildly diverging conclusions. Corruption scandals break out regularly, seeming to keep the island in a series of emergencies. At the same time, global surveys laud Taiwanese authorities for successfully fighting corruption. If Taiwan is so clean, why do corruption scandals happen? Or, if corruption scandals are so regular, how can Taiwan be assessed as an anti-corruption success story?
Written by Ernie Ko. On September 22, 2020, five Legislative Yuan (Taiwan parliament) members, including four current members and one ex-member, were formally indicted by the Taipei Prosecutors Office for bribery charges. This group of accomplices has been consistently receiving bribery for nine years from a local businessman in exchange for putting pressure on government officials to tilt the law in the businessman’s favour.
Written by Michael Johnston. Taiwan’s reputation for good government has vastly improved over the past generation and more. Its scores on the Transparency International’s well-known Corruption Perception Index have improved from a low score of 49.8 in 1996 to 58 in 2010 and 65 in 2019. The more sophisticated World Bank Institute’s World Governance Indicators include an index of Corruption Control. There too, Taiwan had risen from a score of +0.58 in 1996 to +1.03 in 2018.
Written by Corey Lee Bell. The annual Yushan Forum was inaugurated in 2017, yet has quickly come to assume the mantle of one of Taiwan’s leading non-governmental platforms for international dialogue. Its 2020 incarnation was no different, and featured keynote speeches from influential political figures including President Tsai Ing-Wen, Australia’s former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and Sweden’s former Prime Minister Carl Bildt. While the impact of the COVID19 pandemic meant that this year’s forum was relatively low key, its impressive register of foreign dignitaries, and the profound security, economic and health crises that formed its backdrop, arguably made it the most significant to date.
Written by Cheng-Chia Tung. COVID-19 has cost thousands of lives outside of its place of origin and has put 20% of the global population under lockdown. It is hard to envision it not having a long-lasting impact. Many influential commentators have focused on how it has exacerbated the decline of globalization and intensified political tension and strategic competition among great powers. While many may crave a “return to normalcy,” if we are to address the challenges created by the pandemic more effectively and holistically, we need to do more than simply ask “whether we’re going back to where we were.”