Taiwan Insight
Date: 24 October 2020
By: Karl Chee-Leong Lee.

Image credit: DSC06863 by Natsume♪棗/Flickr, license CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Organised by Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation (TAEF), the recent Yushan Forum (October 18) in Taipei was the fourth of its kind since its 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. Without doubt, resilience has become an essential element every country should adopt, regardless of whether it is in the field of public health or economic development.

Furthermore, the Yushan Forum 2020 has invited policymakers, business figures and non-governmental organisation (NGO) leaders to explore ways to build partnerships and collaborations in the post-COVID-19 world. At the same time, it suggests innovative approaches to mitigate current challenges at the global stage. As highlighted in the Roundtable Dialogue session, the forum’s central vision is to forge a resilient future together with Taiwan as a contributory member within international society.

The ASEAN Context

Being a central focus in the Tsai administration’s New Southbound Policy (NSP), ASEAN stands to be the best ‘testing’ ground to gauge how effective the implementation of incoming resilient cooperation is and how it can be realised soon. First and foremost, most ASEAN countries require resilience-building following the COVID-19 pandemic that impacted their public health and economic development. While Taiwan has been providing many forms of assistance to individual ASEAN countries during the COVID-19 era, they do not necessarily conform to resilience-building in their vision of cooperation. As such, targeted cooperation with a focus on the principle of resilience regarding ASEAN countries is worthwhile for Taiwan to consider and implement in the post-pandemic period.

Second, relevant challenges and consequences of resilient cooperation with ASEAN countries can provide a clue to Taiwan. Such an approach can create realistic expectations and way forward for such an undertaking. As a region which has deep relations with China in the areas of trade, investment, socio-culture and politics, Beijing’s shadow looms large in Southeast Asia. As such, Beijing will likely obstruct any formal cooperation between Taiwan and ASEAN countries. Still, these challenges will be less for other NSP countries such as India and Australia. These countries currently have challenging relations with China while also recalibrating their foreign and security policies concerning Beijing. That said, ASEAN’s centrality and openness have allowed the region to possess deep partnerships with the Quadrilateral powers (US, Japan, Australia and India) as well as Taiwan. This is despite the island-state not being formally recognised by the Southeast Asian bloc.    [FULL  STORY]

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