Summary: Pandemic changes are still coming. Some foreigners may get stimulus vouchers, but only a few. Taiwan GDP forecasts boosted, with 2021 expected to be strong. A German foundation flees Hong Kong for Taipei. More moves to improve Taiwan-Indian ties. Once again, support is building for Taiwan to attend the World Health Assembly. Taiwan prepares for a Biden presidency.
Police have announced that last month they uncovered a shipment of 100,000 9mm bullets mixed into a shipment of trapshooting shotgun shells to be delivered to a Taichung shooting range.
The order was for 100,000 shotgun shells, but the shipment contained only 83,300, with the leftover space filled with 99,700 9mm cartridges and 500 .38 cartridges.
A man has been arrested in Kaohsiung, but he maintains he is innocent.
The record-breaking bust raised national security concerns.
While they didn’t specify the nature of the concerns, there is one pretty obvious source of concerns.
The Ama Museum, established in December 2016, will close down its operation at the current location in the historical district of Dadaocheng in Taipei City on November 10 due to financial difficulties.
It will move to a new location and is scheduled to reopen in April next year.
The museum is dedicated to the victims of Japan’s sex slave system, but doesn’t address martial law era sex slaves.
Foreign institutional investors recorded a net fund inflow of more than US$2 billion in Taiwan in October, following two months of net outflows.
Taiwan’s manufacturing sector in October recorded the biggest expansion in more than two years, according to the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER).
The electricity/electric equipment and basic raw material industries also climbed out of a recent slump caused by the pandemic.
A legislative friendship group that seeks to build closer ties with the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been established to promote regional peace, regional economic development and bilateral trade.
Around 30 lawmakers across party lines have joined the friendship association.
Taiwan has doubled their annual contribution to US$1.5 million to support economic and technical cooperation initiatives led by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
The funding from Taiwan will focus particularly on members’ capacity building needs and on promoting regional economic integration and inclusive and sustainable growth, the APEC Secretariat said in a statement.
APEC is one of the few significant international organizations Taiwan is a member of, but due to Chinese pressure when national leaders meet for summits, Taiwan has to send a lower-ranked representative and is referred to as “Chinese Taipei”.
Turkish President Erdoğan has removed the Taiwan flag from a thank-you tweet to countries that offered support in the wake of a massive earthquake last Friday.
He posted pictures of the flags Saturday, but the tweet was later taken down and replaced with a new one that did not include the Taiwan flag.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) told reporters “according to information obtained by our representative office in Turkey, it was due to China’s meddling and pressure.”
Pandemic changes still coming
Starting Monday, international travelers who arrive in Taiwan having experienced COVID-19 symptoms within the previous 14 days will need to provide two consecutive negative test results before being allowed to return home or to a quarantine hotel.
Travelers from the Philippines without symptoms will be required to stay at centralized quarantine facilities.
That may be a factor in the Council of Agriculture (COA) saying it will subsidize half of the quarantine costs for new migrant workers in the agricultural sector.
The government will refund employers 50 percent of the mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine costs, up to a maximum NT$15,000 (US$525.03) per person.
Recruitment has been slow during the pandemic.
As of September, the country’s agriculture sector employed only 143 of the total 633,925 migrant workers.
In related news, the Japanese government has announced that it lowered its COVID-19 travel alert for Taiwan.
The travel alert was downgraded from Level 3, which cautioned the public not to take any trips, to Level 2, which advises against non-urgent, non-essential trips.
Some foreigners may get stimulus vouchers, but only a few
According to Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) , the government is considering allowing foreign nationals who hold Alien Permanent Resident Certificates (APRC) to buy into its economic stimulus voucher program.
She said the Cabinet had tentatively agreed to open the “Triple Stimulus Voucher Program” to the roughly 10,000 foreign permanent residents in Taiwan, adding that a formal announcement would be made once the plan was finalized.
The program only runs through the end of the year, but she thought that there will still be demand for the vouchers, citing the Christmas holiday in December.
The voucher program, which launched on July 15, allows Taiwan citizens and their foreign or Chinese spouses with residency permits to purchase NT$3,000 worth of vouchers for NT$1,000.
As an APRC holder this is good news for me, but the program would continue to exclude non-permanent foreign residents, including 633,000 migrant workers, most of whom pay taxes like Taiwan citizens.
The only reason she gave for why to only include APRC holders was to “stimulate spending.”
Clearly, that’s not the reason they’re considering this, APRC holders are a tiny drop in the bucket.
Fairness to taxpayers was also clearly not a consideration, either.
Most likely the government came under pressure from either foreign governments and/or prominent APRC holders.
Probably they made the case that permanent residents in Taiwan are often not treated the way Taiwanese permanent residents in other countries–such as green card holders in the United States–are treated.
This is a small step in the right direction if they go through with it, but only a small one.
Similar cases of discrimination abound, including the Taichung City Government’s plan to cut out non-citizens from the city’s 10 kilometer free bus program.
We have made appeals to the Taichung City Government, but so far I’m unaware of any change in the policy.
Taiwan GDP forecasts boosted, with 2021 expected to be strong
A slew of GDP forecasts have been raised, showing that Taiwan’s good handling of the pandemic has produced dividends.
The Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (TIER) revised upwards a previous projection for 2020 growth it made in July by 0.8 percentage points to 1.91 percent.
That is more optimistic than the government’s Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) which projected 1.67 percent in August.
DBS Bank Ltd has revised upward its forecast for Taiwan’s GDP growth this year to 1.8 percent, from the zero percent it predicted in August.
ANZ bank is predicting 1.99 percent growth this year.
If these predictions are in the ballpark, while lower than pre-pandemic predictions, would still make Taiwan one of the best economic performers in the world.
However, it is the predictions for next year that are eye-popping.
The government’s DGBAS predicted 3.92 percent growth for next year, but TIER is predicting 4.01 percent.
ANZ is the most pessimistic, predicting the economy will expand by 3.33 percent next year, but the other bank, DBS is the most optimistic, predicting 4.2 percent.
Possibly reflecting this, Taiwan’s TAIEX on Friday ended on a record high just 26 points shy of 13,000.
A German foundation flees Hong Kong for Taipei
The Germany-based Friedrich Naumann Foundation has announced that it will move its Hong Kong office to Taipei after closing the office earlier this year when China imposed the new security law.
The foundation belongs to the relatively small Free Democratic Party (FDP) in Germany and supports human rights, rule of law, and democracy.
They said its new Taipei office is scheduled to open early next year.
According to the foundation, the safety of its Hong Kong employees and partners has been under threat.
There had been fears employees could be accused of spying, the foundation said.
More moves to improve Taiwan-India ties
Recently there has been a steady drumbeat of growing ties between Taiwan and India.
In India, representatives of the Taiwanese businesses operating in India met officials in Andhra Pradesh to discuss strengthening economic relations at a meeting convened by the state government Friday.
The state’s chief minister said a point of contact would be set up for Taiwanese firms to facilitate better communication.
Meanwhile in Taiwan, Taipei is set to host a large Diwali celebration that is being sponsored by the Taiwanese government and will be attended by Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister.
Once again, support is building for Taiwan to attend the World Health Assembly
Once again, support is building for Taiwan to attend the World Health Assembly (WHA), the World Health Organization’s (WHO) meetings as an observer.
More than a dozen countries have proposed to discuss what AFP terms the “controversial Taiwan issue” and many more nations expressed support prior to their May meeting–but the issue was moved back to November due to a shortened May session.
The US mission in Geneva said in a statement “During this unprecedented global health emergency, the international community is counting on a WHA that leaves no one behind, including Taiwan.”
Parliamentary groups have been especially active in bringing back Taiwan, which was allowed to join as an observer under the name “Chinese Taipei” from 2009 to 2016, but has been blocked since due to pressure from Beijing.
A total of 644 parliamentarians from 25 European countries, including Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden and Belgium, signed a joint letter to WHO Director-General Tedros.
“Just as you said in a press conference in August, ‘No one is safe until everyone is safe,’ we therefore should not leave Taiwan behind, especially while each and every one of us is grappling with a second wave of infections,” the letter said.
Another alliance, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), with over 170 parliamentarians from 18 of the world’s democratic legislatures, including the U.S., the U.K., Japan, Germany, Canada and Czech Republic also sent a letter.
Their letter praised Taiwan’s response, and added “this not only threatens the health and wellbeing of Taiwan’s citizens, but also creates a dangerous gap in the global network.”
A parliamentary resolution was passed by the Japan-ROC Diet Members’ Consultative Council, comprising more than 280 parliamentarians across party lines to affirm their support.
Similarly, a total of 144 parliamentarians from various Latin American countries and the Central American Parliament (CAP) issued a joint declaration.
They were joined by 181 parliamentarians from 29 African countries, who are all members of the Formosa Club, which now has a branch in Africa, after similar groups were established in Europe last year and in Latin America earlier this year.
On the NGO side, the World Medical Association (WMA), a confederation of national medical associations that jointly represent more than 10 million physicians also added their support.
They noted “We believe it is both cynical and counterproductive to continue excluding the health representatives from Taiwan from participating in the World Health Assembly.”
If things play out like they did back in May, it is very likely we’ll see governments, such as the major European ones, Canada and Australia also back Taiwan over the next week or so.
In spite of China’s heft and ability to strongarm smaller countries, Taiwan has the wind at its back this time.
Taiwan’s effective response to the pandemic has drawn worldwide praise and attention.
So has Taiwan’s widespread donations of facemasks and PPE to hard-hit areas.
China, meanwhile, has made enemies.
In this specific arena, their initial cover-up of the coronavirus has infuriated much of the world.
So too has their thuggish behaviour in other areas, and their ratcheting up of tensions with their neighbours–including India which currently holds the chair.
Donald Trump’s declaration that the US will be leaving the WHO may be a problem, but much less so now that Joe Biden is the presumptive president-elect.
This is very much worth watching how it plays out, as it will be a clear test of China’s influence, and how effective the international push-back against it is.
If Taiwan comes out victorious, this may pave the way for similar moves in other international organizations.
Taiwan prepares for a Biden presidency
With Joe Biden now the presumptive president-elect, President Tsai responded to a tweet Biden had sent her on her successful election victory with this message:
“Now it is my turn to extend congratulations to
@JoeBiden & @KamalaHarris on being elected President & VP-elect.
The values on which we have built our relationship could not be stronger.
I look fwd to working together to further our friendship, & contributions to int’l society.”
That is a nice tweet, and the foreign ministry sent something similar.
KMT chair Johnny Chiang sent out the following, also on twitter:
I would like to extend my cordial congratulations to President-elect @JoeBiden and VP-elect @KamalaHarris.
The @Kuomintang and I also see the “United States of America” and “possibility” as Joe says.
We look fwd to enhancing the ROC (Taiwan)-US relations with your administration.
Also a nice tweet, though why United States of America was put in quotes, but ROC wasn’t I can’t say.
It is also interesting that while he used ROC, he also included Taiwan in a manner not too differently than the current DPP does.
He also issued a longer statement which was quite positive as well.
Chiang, leaving aside his party’s stance on ractopamine in American pork imports, has been openly more pro-US than recent KMT chairmen, but his predecessor only just the other day undermined him, yet again.
Speaking at a five-year commemoration of the Ma Ying-jeou-Xi Jinping meeting in Singapore, former President Ma said President Tsai should stop “choosing sides” in the competition between China and the United States, contrasting it with his own approach of “balancing” Taiwan’s relations with the two superpowers, in order to “maximize opportunity and minimize threats.”
Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen also congratulated Biden and Harris, but went on to bring up the issue of racto-pork and Taiwanese food safety.
I feel pretty confident that neither Biden nor Harris follows her on Facebook, reads Chinese or plans to put racto-pork exports to Taiwan high on their agenda following inauguration on January 20.
So, what does the Taiwanese public think about the upcoming Biden presidency?
A survey conducted Nov. 5-6 by the Asia-Pacific Elite Interchange Association (APEIA) suggests they aren’t too worried.
According to the survey, 52.8 percent of respondents said they believe Taiwan-U.S. relations will remain the same in response to the question “how do you think Taiwan-U.S. relations will be in the next four years, assuming Biden wins the election?”
Nearly one in four respondents said they believed Taiwan-U.S. relations will worsen under Biden and 10.2 percent said they will improve, the survey showed.
The remaining respondents either refused to answer or expressed no opinion.
Half of those polled believed cross-strait relations will remain unchanged if Biden wins; 22.7 percent said relations will deteriorate even further and 20.8 percent said relations will improve.
The survey also had some interesting questions on local political parties.
When asked if they thought the KMT was “pro-China and anti-US,” 42.6 percent agreed and 50.8 percent disagreed, while 67.9 percent agreed and 26.9 percent disagreed that the DPP was “pro-US and anti-China.”
Asked which party’s stance aligned best with the opinions of Taiwanese, 51.2 percent said the DPP and 19.3 percent said the KMT, a message the KMT really needs to heed.
Asked which party would best protect Taiwan’s national security, 45.2 percent said the DPP and 21.5 percent said the KMT, it showed–also something the KMT should be paying close attention to.
Meanwhile, the Facebook account of the American Institute in Taiwan on Friday was inundated with messages such as “Biden is a joke,” and “the US Republican Party are the dogs of the evil Chinese Communist Party.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the messages were an attempt to “drive a wedge between supporters of each party and destroy the US-Taiwan relationship.”
They also claimed many of the posts were created by bots.
One comment included a message from Kobe Ju, who said AIT should leave Taiwan because Trump lost the election.
While it is too early to know for sure how strongly a Biden administration would support Taiwan, it is pretty clear it will be fairly supportive.
For more on that check out my recent show on the subject.
For another interesting look at the subject, check out the Commonwealth interview with former AIT chair Richard Bush.
A link to that article is on our site Report.tw under the “must read” section.
Image courtesy of Joe Biden’s Facebook page