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 Karl Chee-Leong Lee. Organized by the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation (TAEF), the recent Yushan Forum (October 18) in Taipei was the fourth forum since the event’s inauguration in 2017. While the previous themes of the forums were on social and economic connectivity, regional prosperity as well as innovation of progress, this year it was resilience that took the theme of the distinguished forum. This is difficult to understand as the current COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly demonstrated how vulnerable countries and societies in the world are when responding to the unprecedented crisis individually or in a group.
Written by Wei (Azim) Hung. Economic interdependence under rapid globalization has brought about unprecedented economic prosperity. However, it has to some degree failed to promote the establishment of mechanisms for inclusive regional cooperation in Asia. Globalization has not promoted the types of positive diffusion that has been anticipated, in the sense that growing cooperation on technical and economic issues have not been able to stimulate a much greater sense of solidarity around common values.
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.”
Written by Chih-Wei Chen. In recent decades, the world is facing increasingly severe challenges caused by climate change, natural disasters, worldwide public health issues, and so on. To combat the challenges, the United Nations officially launched Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 and advocated that all countries around the world endeavour to cooperate to achieve the goals. On the other hand, the advent of the digital era and the rapid development of digital technologies, such as big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), have provided new opportunities for people to implement sustainable development measures.
Written by Chieh-chi Hsieh. Recent international developments have prompted some to speculate that we are in the midst of a critical juncture for Taiwan’s bid for admission to the United Nations (UN). On the plus side, Taiwan has received considerable international recognition for its successful policy responses toward the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is arguable that this in itself will increase the odds for its campaign to join the UN.
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 Ferran Perez Mena. During the past year, the Hong Kong protests, along with the newly approved National Security Law, have generated much anxiety in Taiwan. They have been perceived by both the DPP’s political elite and the Taiwanese public as a premonition of what lies ahead for Taiwan. One of the popular slogans of the protests, “Today Hong Kong, Tomorrow Taiwan” (今天的香港,明天的台灣), perfectly epitomises the widespread unease that such political events are producing and the apparent inevitability of Taiwan’s downfall.
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 Ratih Kabinawa and Jie Chen. President Lee Teng-hui transformed ROC Taiwan’s foreign policy from a rigid “man and bandits don’t co-exist” mindset, a dictum which defined the Chiangs’ era, to one focusing on pragmatic diplomacy. This stance emphasised flexible ways to promote Taiwan’s international standing as its own legitimate sovereign state. President Lee used Taiwan’s achievement as a new democracy with impressive economic and technological prowess to win fresh international sympathy and support.