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Taiwan 2020 National Day: A beacon of democracy and freedom

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Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2020. 8:44 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: As the Republic of China (Taiwan) prepares to celebrate its National Day, it looks back with some satisfaction on a year different than most.

Taiwan has not only had to fight COVID-19, it has had to stand up to the threats and intimidation from mainland China; successfully employ the Taiwan Model to democratically and efficiently contain and retard the further spread of the disease, as well as proactively providing assistance to its allies, showing that Taiwan can help and is helping; and defended the democratic frontline against China’s totalitarian expansion. It has displayed significant fortitude and resilience in achieving these tasks, which have in turn earned it international acclaim. 

Taiwan continues to demonstrate democratic vitality and has earned the unprecedented support of many countries around the world. To these friends, Taiwan says thank you, and pledges to continue to stand united with like-minded nations in safeguarding regional peace and stability – to be the bastion of freedom and democracy it was created to be in the Indo-Pacific Region.

That stability started locally, with a record three in every four voters turning out to participate in the January 11, 2020, presidential election. Of 14 million votes cast, President Tsai Ing-Wen was re-elected by more than 8.17 million, an electoral record.

Meanwhile, across the Strait, Mainland China has continued to practice incessant rhetorical and military intimidation, brazenly sending its military aircraft and vessels to circle Taiwan; luring away diplomatic allies; attempting to diminish Taiwan’s international presence; obstructing interactions between Taiwan and other countries, and applying commercial pressure to airlines and multinational businesses to downgrade Taiwan’s designation. Yet they have failed with their heavy-handed actions to reduce the Taiwanese people’s vigilance and solidarity while strengthening their determination to safeguard their freedom and democracy.

President Tsai Ing-wen and Vice President Lai Ching-te, at the taking of their oaths of office on May 20 were congratulated and honored by some 263 political leaders from 47 countries and international organizations, commending Taiwan’s democratic success through statements, letters, and tweets.
Their first significant task was to tap into the democratic mechanisms and civic consciousness to cement mutual trust between Government and people, and thus more effectively contain the spread of COVID-19, with just 524 confirmed cases and 7 deaths up to October 8, at a time when the world had more than 36 million confirmed cases and 1 million deaths.

That remarkable success was obtained by being honest, open, transparent, and proactive. Prominent political figures, experts, academics, celebrities, and media around the world have praised the Taiwan Model of COVID-19 prevention and expressed hope of emulating Taiwan. Political leaders from other nations have also continued to endorse Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization.

Taiwan has become an internationally recognized model for containing COVID-19. But not only that it has been and continues to help friends around the world. Starting in April, the Taiwan Government launched humanitarian donations of anti-pandemic supplies to severely affected countries. By the end of August, Taiwan had donated more than 54 million medical masks, 1.16 million N95 masks, 170,000 protective gowns, 600,000 isolation gowns, 131 thermal imaging cameras, 35,000 forehead thermometers, 250 body temperature detection systems, 80 ventilators, 34 PCR rapid test devices, and 500,000 quinine tablets to over 80 countries.

To help frontline medical professionals in other countries, many Taiwanese citizens also donated the masks allotted to them under a name-based rationing system. These voluntary contributions had exceeded 6.3 million masks by the end of August. The government and people of Taiwan have had a crucial impact and demonstrated their warm power throughout the pandemic, showing that Taiwan can help and that Taiwan is helping as they work together with the international community to overcome these difficult times.

Taiwan’s bid to participate in the virtual 73rd World Health Assembly in May received unprecedented levels of support, with more than 600 political leaders from 43 countries using a variety of channels to express strong backing for Taiwan. Taiwan’s professional, pragmatic, and constructive approach toward increasing international participation has gained worldwide recognition, and going forward Taiwan will seek to expand and deepen participation in more international organizations.

Economically, Taiwan has managed to avoid using lockdowns or any form of stopping sustained activity to control the virus. Economic growth is registered at 0.78 percent for the first half of 2020 and is projected to reach 1.56 percent for the year.

Trade and investment were stable between January and July, with trade surpluses of US$26.7 billion. Exports climbed 0.49 percent to US$186.215 billion, while imports dropped 1.34 percent to US$159.512 billion. Outbound investment rose 39.25 percent to US$5.703 billion, and inbound investment grew 10.56 percent to US$4.403 billion. A new economic development model has helped it outwork, outpace and outperform the economic growth of “Asian Tigers” such as Singapore. It has encouraged Taiwanese-owned overseas bsuinesses, foreign investors and small and medium enterprises to invest locally to the tune of US$35 billion, creating more than 80 thousand new jobs.

With the pandemic speeding up the restructuring of global industrial supply chains, the Taiwan government will leverage its comprehensive semiconductor industry to transform the country into a high-end production hub for Asia and an advanced semiconductor manufacturing center.
Industrial development has been competitive in terms of the biomedical technology sector and government plans to spur more industries such as information and digital industries; 5G, digital, and cybersecurity; biomedical technology; national defense and strategic industries; green energy and renewable energy; and strategic stockpile industries.

On the 109th birthday, the Republic of China (Taiwan) has a lot to be thankful for and celebrate. Its freedom and democracy are inscribed in its DNA, the fundamental and common values that connect it to the international community. Taiwan stands like a rock against the constant pressure of China, contain the spread of COVID-19 and other storms and ills. And as another National Day comes and goes, Taiwan pledges to its people and the world to continue to stand, a towering beacon of democracy, shining its light across the globe. Not alone, but together, will Taiwan and its allies take pride and share joy in their hard tough victory over the scourge and adversary.

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