Written by Alexander C. Tan. Even before the official start of the Trump presidency in January 2017, Taiwan has received attention from the then US President-elect Trump as he received a congratulatory telephone call from President Tsai Ing-Wen. That phone call was heard around the world as it broke ranks with the usual quiet approaches of the past. The next four years showed the Trump administration ‘talking up’ and actively engaging with Taiwan while ‘talking down’ and confrontational to China, e.g., the trade war, South China Seas, etc. Taiwan finally felt that a US president is willing to take their side. Indeed, Taipei Times on October 19 reported that a YouGov survey showing Taiwan is alone in Asia-Pacific where the majority of the respondents are favourable to Republican Donald Trump than to Democrat Joe Biden.
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 Bas van Beurden. Can the United States and China escape Thucydides Trap? While international relations experts grapple with the question whether the two powers are destined for war, a storm seems to be gathering in the Asia-Pacific, and it seems increasingly clear where lightning might strike. Considering recent developments, the Taiwan Straits seems to be the most likely battleground for Sino-American conflict. The prospect of conflict appears to be looming as Beijing closes in on Hong Kong and ratchets up its rhetoric on a forceful reunification with Taiwan.
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 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 Elsa Sichrovsky. Due to Taiwan’s geographically strategic position in Southeast Asia and proximity to the Golden Triangle of the heroin trade, it has had a long relationship with narcotics, dating back to opium smoking in the Qing dynasty. In the 1800s, the opium trade thrived following the Opium Wars in China, bringing in more than half of Taiwan’s revenue by 1892. During the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945), the Japanese established an opium monopoly in Taiwan which benefited them economically while they maintained an appearance of opposition to opium smoking. Through sales to hospitals and pharmaceutical companies around the world, opium composed up to 46 per cent of yearly colonial income from Taiwan until 1904.
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 Emily Weinstein. Nearly ten months after scientists identified COVID-19, China, South Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand, and other countries are seeing a return to semi-normal life, albeit with mask-wearing and other precautionary measures. In most cases, these successes have been born from the deployment of various technologies aimed at monitoring citizens who have been exposed to the virus. At the same time, government use of these technologies is alarming privacy and human-rights advocates, particularly in countries with inadequate track records in personal freedoms for citizens. Is there a happy technological medium that respects personal privacy while simultaneously managing the spread of this pandemic?
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 Qi Dongtao. China’s recently released communique of the fifth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) drew much attention. This is because it not only contains proposals for China’s 14th Five-Year Plan but also because people are curious to know how Beijing will address the unprecedented internal and external challenges that China is facing.
Written by Leo Chang and Alan H. Yang. Taiwan’s effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a growing number of countries to support Taiwan’s membership in the World Health Organization (WHO).
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.