The island nation’s government is staying ahead of the virus, but don’t ascribe it to “Confucian values.” Credit democracy and transparency.
As millions of citizens in the US shelter in place while girding themselves for the double whammy of an accelerating outbreak and a vicious economic recession, it is natural enough to look at Taiwan’s example and wonder why we didn’t do what they did, or, more pertinently, could we have done what they did? But a common theme in the recent press coverage of Taiwan’s (and Singapore’s) efforts to contain Covid-19 has included a consistent cautionary note. With particular attention to the technologically intrusive surveillance-state aspects of Taiwan’s response—notably, its real-time integration of national health care databases with customs and travel records and its use of government-issued cell phones to remotely monitor quarantine orders—we keep seeing the culturally embedded assumption that East Asian-style state social control just won’t fly in the good old, individualist, government-wary, freedom-loving United States.
The New York Times: People in “places like Singapore … are more willing to accept government orders.” Fortune: “There seems to be more of a willingness to place the community and society needs over individual liberty.” Even WIRED: “These countries all have social structures and traditions that might make this kind of surveillance and control a little easier than in the don’t-tread-on-me United States.” [FULL STORY]