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Taiwan

Taiwan

The War In Ukraine Should Force China To Rethink Its Taiwan Narrative

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has put China's stance on Taiwan back in the spotlight. But despite shared narratives of national unity, there are key differences in how Beijing and Moscow approach territories they consider their own.

–Analysis–

Ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there have been comparisons between the Russian-Ukrainian war and China's standoff with Taiwan, with divergent views on whether the same scene would be repeated.

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The situations have similarities: Both Moscow and Beijing use the notion of “national unity” and Putin's war narrative also reflects China's theoretical dilemma on the issue of "anti-secession".

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The Ukraine-Taiwan Analogy: Real Fears And False Correlations

The United States has no treaty obligation to send troops to protect Taiwan against China, but it has a "fairly clear" commitment to aid its defense, unlike in Ukraine. The economic stakes are also a source for worry.

-Analysis-

Days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the flight of Chinese jets near Taiwan provoked jitters around the world. The worries were unnecessary as Taiwan's air defense identification zone, where the jets had flown, is effectively bigger than its airspace.

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Also, the incursions were not unusual, having occurred 900 times since the air zone was created. Any comparison between the cases of Taiwan and Ukraine overlooks the fact that — beyond the current context — Taiwan is actually more important to the United States than Ukraine.

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Why These 7 Eternal Flames Around The World Keep On Burning

The president of Turkmenistan announced plans this year to extinguish the country's famous "Gates of Hell" gas crater. But it's by no means the only one of its kind. We rounded up the eternal flames still burning in all corners of the globe.

On Jan. 8, Turkmenistan’s leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, known for his authoritarian tendencies, announced on television that he had set his sights on the Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the “Gates of Hell”, a mysterious vat of flames that has been spewing fire for over 50 years in the Karakum Desert.

The burning crater is one of the central Asian country’s few tourist attractions, yet President Berdymukhamedov has ordered it extinguished once and for all, saying the methane-belching pit was bad for the environment and locals’ health, while also representing a lost opportunity for the impoverished nation to capture marketable gas.

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What Putin Feared Most About Ukraine: It's A European Democracy

For authoritarian leaders from Beijing to Moscow, it’s unbearable that democratic institutions like the European Union succeed. So it is vital that we Europeans build measures to protect democratic sovereignty.

-Analysis-

PARIS — For a dictatorship to endure, it needs more than just surveillance and terror. It must also be able to convince the people it enslaves that their future, in a regime of freedom, would not be sufficiently better to justify taking the risk of rebellion.

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So dictatorships have always done everything possible to discredit any neighboring society their subjects could look to for a comparison. Before starting the war, Nazi Germany spent its time denouncing the weaknesses of European and American democracies and ridiculing their leaders. It must be admitted that the latter provided it with good arguments to do so.

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Future
Dan Wu

Taiwan's Virtual "Tuck-Me-In" Platform Shows COVID Impact On Dating Apps

Do you long for bedtime stories told remotely? Or miss the companionship a voice provides? There's an app for that, which also responds to special COVID-19 needs of dating apps that allows for more direct online communication.

TAIPEI — PlayOne is a popular app in Taiwan that provides online partners for streaming video gaming and other chat functionality. But recently the app began to offer online companionship with a new option: “Calling to sleep.”

On this particular platform, a user can select the characteristics of their ideal companion to be nearby, virtually, when bedtime arrives. A range of features can be selected, including the go-to-sleep voice and appearance of the person who is there with you remotely as you drift off to sleep. The price? One sleep buddy says that he charges about $13 per hour.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

Assange’s Extradition, Nicaragua & China, Sweden v. IKEA

👋 Сәлем!*

Welcome to Friday, where the U.S. wins bid to extradite whistleblower Julian Assange, Nicaragua breaks off ties with Taiwan to align with China and Sweden takes issue with IKEA branding. In the wake of New Zealand’s plans to ban all future cigarette sales, we take a look at toughening smoking laws around the world.

[*Salem - Kazakh]

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Weird
Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

Micronations, A World Tour Of 8 Bizzaro Spots Barely On The Map

A journey through the unlikely phenomenon of microstates, which have been founded on nothing more than a personal whim or nothing less than a diehard political stance.

Taiwanese businessman James Chang has been mired in a long battle with municipal authorities over what he sees as "excessive" taxes on the hotel he owns on the eastern coast of Australia.

So when all traditional legal and political means have been exhausted, what do you do?

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food / travel
Zhang Yan,

Taiwan To Hong Kong To L.A., Birth Of Bubble Tea Culture

Originating in Taiwan, bubble tea was one of many products hard hit by the pandemic. But the internationally-beloved, tapioca-based drink isn't just any import any longer — it's an entire culture.

TAIPEI — In mid-April, a report entitled "Another Unlikely Pandemic Shortage: Boba Tea" appeared inThe New York Times. This rang alarm bells for fans of the great Taiwanese delicacy, also called bubble tea, milk tea or Zhenzhu Naicha in Mandarin Chinese. The bad news came just as the weather was warming up, the tensions brought about by COVID-19 were easing, and the food and beverage industry was hoping for a pick-up in business.

The global pandemic caused a major shortage in the supply chain of tapioca pearls, bubble tea's most important ingredient that sets it apart from other beverages. More than 90 % of tapioca starch comes from Taiwan, as the three partners of Boba Guys, a franchise chain, explained to their clients in an Instagram post.

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Taiwan
Genevieve Mansfield

Popular Taiwanese Cactus Toy Raps In Polish About Cocaine

If not for a Polish shopper, it might have remained lost in translation for all the Taiwanese parents who've bought their kids the popular toy cactus that raps in some exotic language.

But a Polish mother living in the city of Taichung was doing some grocery shopping with her baby at the local Carrefour when she heard something that made her ears perk up: a foul-mouthed Polish rap song referencing cocaine and suicide. It turned out that the source of the obscene music was the singing cactus.

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Taiwan
Byun Chung Pei and Li Ka Ho*

Taiwan Counting On ''Self-Discipline'' To Stop COVID Spread

After having just a handful of cases, the virus is suddenly spreading on the island nation. Despite a relatively loose lockdown, residents boast that they know how to shut COVID down on their own.

TAIPEI — Since May 15, when Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center announced that Taipei and New Taipei City were on "Level 3 Epidemic Alert," photos and videos of street scenes of Taipei's "empty city" have filled social media. The posts often refer to Taiwan's "self-discipline," with one boasting "Watch out world, Taiwan will only demonstrate once how it will lift the level 3 (alert) within two weeks." What explains such public confidence?

Indeed, Taiwan's Level 3 alert is far less restrictive than measures implemented in many other countries, including China, France, and the United Kingdom. But for many commentators, judging from the quiet streets and empty businesses, they believe that the spontaneous behavior of the Taiwanese people has already entered the quasi-city closure stage, which will help the country to quickly overcome the COVID-19 surge.

Despite Taiwan's proximity to Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus first broke out, the island nation has been largely spared. It held a record of 252 consecutive days of zero confirmed cases this past year. With confirmed cases mostly kept to a single digit, Taiwan was considered a "model student of epidemic prevention" by outsiders. However, the myth is now destroyed. With loosening adherence to protocols, lowered quanrantine requirements for flight crews and vaccine shortfall, cluster affections in late April soon led to the spike in cases during May, resulting the anouncement of Level 3 Alert.

In terms of restriction force, Taiwan's "Level 3 Alert" is just average in comparison to these cities; but in terms of results, the average drop in data after the week of closure for driving, public transportation, and walking was greater than 30%, ranking first among the top seven cities. In other words, by looking at the data from this stage, it could be deducted that Taipei and New Taipei have entered a state of "voluntary lockdown."

A rapid COVID-19 in New Tapei — Photo: Daniel Ceng Shou-Y/ZUMA

Another noteworthy phenomenon is that the flow of people to their homes has increased significantly, while the flow to workplaces has declined, but by less than 20%, compared to the strictest lockdowns abroad, where the flow of people to workplaces has decreased more significantly, such as Los Angeles 31%, New York 26%, Paris 63%, Singapore 43%.

Since May 10, when local cases began to appear in Taiwan, Taipei has seen a gradual decline in traffic, whether by car, public transportation, or on foot. Judging from the trend of the mobility flow data, it is indeed evident that Taiwanese people are willing to be highly cooperative in the face of the "crowd control" policy put into place.

Taiwan is facing a challenge that most countries in the world have already faced.

As the epidemic has escalated, there have been calls for the government to further "harden" the measures. However, according to international studies, if we look at nine countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany, we will eventually find that the key to an effective lockdown policy is not to take harsh measures, but to "start early and gradually unblock" the cities.

This could be the reason why strong closures have failed to contain the epidemic, necessitating the repeated issuance of closures of different standards. After all, it's not just about strict closures; it's also about how well people accept and abide by the policy, and how much they can tolerate.

Taiwan is facing a challenge that most countries in the world have already faced, and has announced that the Level 3 Alert is prolonged until June 14. There have been 6,856 new cases registered between May 20 to June 2, compared to a total of under 1,000 between Jan. 2020 and March 19, 2021.

What does the future hold for Taiwan? Are the people still willing to cooperate with the government's order to stay out and move less? It is still worth watching very closely.

It's still too early to see the full effects of the current soft lockdown measures. However, experts say that if people in Taiwan can maintain "less travel and less movement," we may soon see the COVID curve flatten — and all the boasting about "self-discipline" will be vindicated.

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Taiwan
Alice Hérait

Tropical Terroir: The Man Turning Taiwan Into Wine Country

On this subtropical island, Chien-hao Chen fought typhoons and monsoons to develop his vineyards — and to produce wines admired by some of the most important oenologists.

TAICHUNG — How could anyone imagine any sort of viticulture on land that never experiences winter and is ravaged by an average of five typhoons per year? The island of Taiwan is much more famous for its tea and street food than for its vineyards. Producing wine is certainly possible, but producing very good wine is another story. And most of the bottles found in this hot country are closer to cheap plonk than great vintages.

Yet Vino Formosa, a sweet white wine, and Vino Formosa Rosso, its red equivalent — developed in this very tough environment by the eccentric Chien-hao Chen — are two notable exceptions. Their names evoke the island's former designation, Formosa. We meet the 53-year-old winemaker at the end of Oct. 2020, under a blazing sun. The winery, Shu-sheng, is located on the outskirts of Taichung, Taiwan's second largest city with 2.8 million inhabitants. Chen takes us on a tour of its five hectares of vineyards. Except for the Chinese characters that indicated the name of the estate, it feels like a summer afternoon in the Perpignan province of France.

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Taiwan

In Taiwan, Where Seven Watermelons Spell Victory Over COVID-19

Taiwan's success in containing the coronavirus is certainly cause for celebration, and to really emphasize the point, farmers in one agricultural region decided this week that it's high time to break out the… watermelons?

After a string of six straight days with no new confirmed coronavirus cases, a group of farmers in Changhua, in central Taiwan, decided that to keep the streak going, they'd come together — each with a hefty watermelon in their arms — and pray, the Liberty Times reported. And it worked: Two days later, Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed a record eighth day in a row with no new reports of contagion, according to the news site Focus Taiwan.

The unusual event was clearly about lifting spirits, but by choosing to pose with watermelons, the farmers were also hoping to boost sales of the fruit after COVID-19 has caused a sharp drop in the island nation's agricultural exports. For now, domestic sales at least have gotten a boost: to celebrate Mother's Day, the New Kinpo Group, one of Taiwan's major electronics firms, along with several other companies, gave their employees each a watermelon as a present.

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Taiwan
Lisa Lane

Taiwan's Amazing Mask System: Apps, IDs And Convenience Stores

Taiwan has once again upgraded its so-called Name-Based Mask Distribution System.

If you want to see a model for efficient mass distribution of face masks, take a look at Taiwan.

The country just rolled out what it's touting as the Name-Based Mask Distribution System 3.0, a rationing system for face masks that allows the public to go to a convenience store and buy masks within seconds, while being sure supplies are well-monitored and stock is secured for the future. Not surprisingly, it operates through a universal healthcare system, NHI (National Health Insurance) administration.

  • The procedure involves inserting your National Health Insurance (NHI) card in a service machine, keying in a mobile phone number then checking-out at the cashier. (It helps that Taiwan has the world's highest density of convenience stores.)
  • For $1.73 , one can buy up to nine face masks for a two-week adult allowance and 10 for children. Foreigners with a resident certificate and a NHI card can equally use the service.
  • Back on Feb. 6, with the view of preventing a COVID-19 outbreak similar to China's, Taiwan announced a name-based rationing system for face masks. In the beginning they were to be purchased from the government's contracted pharmacies, with a limit of only two masks weekly due to the mask shortage at that time.

A couple wearing surgical masks in Taipei — Photo: Walid Berrazeg/SOPA Images/ZUMA

  • To avoid long lines outside pharmacies and also to avoid people lining up for nothing, Audrey Tang, Taiwan's Digital Minister, came up with a real-time map of local mask inventory accessible by smartphone.
  • This first effort was then updated to distribution system 2.0 where the public could order masks via the Name-Based Mask Distribution System at either the eMask website or the NHI App from a mobile phone.
  • The 3.0 system is an extension of the two previous measures. It's mainly designed for elderly people who do not use the Internet, and is also designed to relieve the workload of pharmacies.
  • To help in preventing an epidemic, back in mid-February several dozen Taiwanese machine tool manufacturers took the initiative to voluntarily set up a face mask production line to respond to the mask shortage.
  • As of today, Taiwan "s daily production of 16 million medical masks will reach 20 million by the end of this month, making it second largest country for mask production after China. This has enabled the island nation to donate millions of masks to foreign countries hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
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Taiwan
Laura Lin

Taiwan To France, Witness To The Global Contagion Of Chinese Lies

As a Taiwanese, even one who has lived abroad for years, her instinct is to distrust the Chinese regime. Others chose to ignore all the warnings.

-Essay-

PARIS — It was on January 8, after days of reading news about an outbreak of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan, that I sent a message to a friend, in case she hadn't been following the news. She comes from that city in mainland China, but lives in Hong Kong. I warned her sternly not to travel back to Wuhan for the upcoming Chinese New Year, which was scheduled to begin two weeks later.

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Taiwan

Masks For Milan: Italian Priest In Taiwan Reaps What He Sowed

NEW TAIPEI CITY — The Catholic priest, Father Giovanni Rizzi of the Camillians religious order, has been well known in Taiwan for his decades of work helping to set up hospitals on the island nation.

But in recent days, Rizzi humbly asked for some help in return: for contributions to purchase face masks for hospitals in his hometown of Milan, Italy, one of the worst-hit epicenters of COVID-19. Taiwanese officials and individual citizens alike were quick to respond, donating upwards of $4 million, the United Daily News reported.

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Taiwan
Jiang Heqing

Same-Sex Marriage In Taiwan And The Pursuit Of True Equality

-OpEd-

TAIPEI — It was back on May 24, 2017 that Taiwan's Constitutional Court ruled that the constitutional right to equality and freedom of marriage also takes into account same-sex couples. Yet it took two years until the moment earlier this month — after layers of difficulties, including three homophobic referenda led by conservative and Christian groups — that same-sex couples could finally tie the knot.

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