As the world continues to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan has had relative success in lowering local transmission and maintaining its economic growth.
According to a former member of the U.S. State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, Daniel Twining, this is due to Taiwan’s “transparency, accountability, and public trust”.
In an opinion piece published on Nikkei Asia titled, “Taiwan is the future of the Asia-Pacific, not China”, Twining explained that even before the severe spread of the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in countries forcefully inducing “lockdowns”, the Asia-Pacific regions have already become extremely vulnerable to “authoritarianism and instability”.
Under these circumstances, Twining explained that the “crisis of democracy” became even more prominent following the pandemic.
He pointed out that as the world tried their best to curb the virus-spread, China was busy exploiting the chaos to further its political agenda in Hong Kong.
However, this also highlighted Taiwan’s stellar performance regarding public health and economic growth, which suggests that “Taiwan, not China, is a more likely pacesetter for the wider region.”
In addition, Twining pointed out that Taiwan not only managed to remain a “vibrant democracy” handling the pandemic “far better than China by all measures”, but also avoided huge economic impact and at the same time, maintained its respect for human rights.
He added that “this success was the sum of social and political factors made possible by the Taiwanese people’s staunch commitment to democratic ideals.”
Twining further elaborated to when the pandemic first hit Taiwan in January, the government immediately built tracing apps and distributed face masks to its people.
Through updating transparent information and relying on its past of responding positively to people’s protests movements rather than suppressing them, Taiwan’s government earned the trust of its people and subsequently, their willingness to comply with reasonable policies.
Twining concluded that other democratic countries should “invest in strengthening ties with Taiwan” as it demonstrated through the pandemic, how democracy can “protect public health and grow economies even as they honor their people’s freedoms.”
Only through deepening partnerships with each other can democracies safeguard a free and open Asia-Pacific, Twining added.