Taipei’s “warm power” has benefited its international ambitions amid the pandemic.
Date: June 02, 2020
By: Wen-Ti Sung
Credit: Office of the President, ROC (Taiwan)
Taiwan’s pragmatic “warm power” diplomacy during the COVID-19 outbreak represents a low-key approach to boosting its international participation while minimizing the burden for its sympathetic international partners and friends. The government of President Tsai Ing-wen’s successful management of the COVID-19 crisis has also made a strong case for liberal democracies as the superior form of government for public health crisis governance. This, in turn, has translated into more positive international publicity for Taiwan, as well as greater opportunities to network with other states’ relevant agencies and potentials for functional spillover into other forms of cooperation at the governmental level.
China, the alleged origin of the virus, has seemingly kept its official toll relatively low. While officially China has less than 100,000 confirmed cases, several Western liberal democracies — even, some have argued, with more reaction time and insight from the Chinese experience — have suffered greatly, with close to 2 million confirmed cases in the United States and 180,000 or more in each of five populous Western European nations (Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France).
Assuming these official statistics are dependable, this development might have engendered yet another blow to liberal democracies in the ongoing battle over perceived performance legitimacy between authoritarian and liberal democratic regime types, adding fuel to what Larry Diamond has termed the global democratic recession.
It is in this context that Taiwan finds a way into the international collective narrative. Despite Taiwan’s geographic proximity, as well as close economic and demographic linkages with China, it has kept its COVID-19 toll remarkably low — with less than 450 confirmed cases to date and a death toll in the single digits. Together with fellow high performers such as South Korea, Taiwan’s performance provides solid proof that liberal democracies can be just as effective in public health governance as authoritarian polities. In so doing, Taiwan helps prevent the COVID-19 crisis from diminishing the case for democracy in the global marketplace of ideas. [FULL STORY]