Taiwan Editorial Archive

Taiwan Editorial Archive

Taiwan Acts to Mitigate Climate Change

By Stephen Shu-hung Shen, Minister, Environmental Protection Administration

Mitigating climate change has a direct bearing on humankind’s survival and therefore poses a pressing challenge that the global community must face together. Consequently, despite Taiwan’s special status in international politics and its exclusion from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the government has still endeavored to join the global movement to reduce carbon emissions. Efforts revolve around implementing various policies and encouraging the people to take concrete actions.

In response to the Copenhagen Accord, for instance, Taiwan voluntarily pledged to the UNFCCC secretariat and the international community in 2010, that it would cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 30 percent below business-as-usual (BAU) levels by 2020. It also pledged to implement Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and assume its share of responsibility. This is not only in line with the fundamental principles of the UNFCCC, but is also a clear declaration of Taiwan’s position and determination to reduce GHG emissions.

Two major approaches can be considered for mitigating climate change: carbon reduction and climate adaptation. The Committee for the Promotion of Energy Conservation and Carbon Reduction, established by Taiwan’s Executive Yuan in the end of 2009, has drawn up a master plan to fulfill its mandate. The plan calls for concrete actions in such areas as energy, industry, transportation, architecture and lifestyle. In 2012, the Executive Yuan also approved national climate change adaptation guidelines covering eight major domains — disasters, essential infrastructure, water resources, land use, coastal areas, energy supply and the energy sector, agriculture and biodiversity, and health. The guidelines call for the impact and challenges brought by climate change to be studied, for adaptation strategies to be proposed by the relevant government agencies, and for an implementation and evaluation mechanism to be established.

In addition, Taiwan’s government is continuing to promote the passage of a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Bill. This bill, along with the Energy Tax Bill that is currently being studied, the Energy Management Act that has already been implemented, and the Renewable Energy Development Statute, constitutes the legal framework for GHG reduction in Taiwan. Meanwhile, to keep abreast of international development trends, the EPA has also laid the groundwork for a Measurable, Reportable, Verifiable (MRV) system for GHG mitigation actions and commitments. It was announced in May 2012 that, in accordance with the Air Pollution Prevention Act, six GHGs, including carbon dioxide, were being classified as air pollutants, and that institutionalizing the reporting of GHG emissions is a policy priority.

In his 2012 inaugural address, President Ma Ying-jeou explicitly stated that “developing an environment characterized by low carbon emissions and high reliance on green energy” is one of the five pillars of Taiwan’s national development. It is hoped that green industry will become a new economic bright spot that brings employment and growth, so that Taiwan can gradually become a “low-carbon, green-energy island.” Confronted with the daunting challenges that climate change presents, Taiwan’s public and private sectors are joining forces to promote a “low carbon and sustainable homeland.” This is having the added benefit of boosting both horizontal and vertical coordination in the central and local government. In addition, it will promote self-evaluation at the local level in terms of achieving various low-carbon and sustainability targets, and will encourage the public, communities, towns and cities to voluntarily participate in building a low-carbon and sustainable homeland.

Saving energy and reducing carbon are not just abstract concepts in Taiwan. Indeed, they have become very much a part of everyday life. Confronted as we all are with the severe challenges that climate change poses, I sincerely urge the international community to take Taiwan’s bid to meaningfully participate in the UNFCCC seriously, and to include Taiwan in its mutual assistance system. We are extremely willing to share the fruits of our hard work and experience in environmental protection with the international community, and particularly with those countries that need our help the most.

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APEC in 2012: Rising to the Challenge

By Dr. Mignonne Man-jung Chan 

Republic of China (Taiwan) delegates to Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) discussions throughout the year have taken part in numerous meetings on cooperation and trade among the organization’s members. Russia, as this year’s APEC host, has inherited some key issues from 2011, and added for discussion the priority areas of liberalizing trade and investment and expanding regional economic integration; strengthening food security; establishing reliable supply chains; and fostering innovative growth.

Regional Economic Integration
Republic of China (Taiwan) is moving forward with the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with mainland China, and expects to complete negotiations concerning it within the next 18 months. Meanwhile, Taipei signed a bilateral investment pact with Japan, while bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with Singapore and New Zealand are proceeding at a steady pace. Taipei and Seoul have also started negotiations on an investment accord. Republic of China (Taiwan) is geared toward making pragmatic progress, and looks forward to joining regional economic integration schemes in due course.

The pace of such schemes among APEC members is also gathering momentum. Eleven APEC economies are now undertaking Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Although it is unlikely that they will complete the FTA negotiations by the year’s end, as declared in 2011, participants aim to achieve substantive progress on the issue. The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-centered Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), also known as ASEAN + +, is making solid progress as mainland China, Japan and South Korea (CJK) have moved forward by establishing the CJK Secretariat in Seoul. ASEAN + + replaces the previously used terms of ASEAN + 3 and ASEAN + 6, and is so named as the first “+” represents CJK and the second “+” is open-ended, rather than necessarily representing another three member economies. Although talks for a mainland China-South Korea FTA now appear to be proceeding at a fast pace within the CJK trilateral arrangement, the eventual completion of a CJK FTA will be key to a successful ASEAN + 3 (ASEAN + mainland China, Japan and South Korea), which in turn will serve as a catalyst for the RCEP.

Food Security
During the Ministerial Meeting on Food Security in May, delegates discussed the APEC Food Emergency Response Mechanism (AFERM), an initiative put forward by Republic of China (Taiwan) in view of the frequent natural disasters in the region. AFERM was intended as a second-line defense for providing humanitarian aid, and as a supplement to existing international aid agencies when necessary. There were some reservations about the scheme, however, due to a concern over upsetting market mechanisms, even during emergencies caused by natural disasters. Ministers expressed their hopes that a follow-up proposal could explore ways in which to complement existing food emergency mechanisms. Republic of China (Taiwan) anticipates contributing to that dialogue. In the meantime, Republic of China (Taiwan) is keen on collaborating with like-minded partners on ways to prevent post-harvest food loss as well as ensure food quality from farm to table. As a result of the May meeting, APEC ministers agreed to focus on the five key themes of increasing agricultural production and productivity; facilitating trade and developing food markets; enhancing food safety and quality; improving access to food for socially vulnerable population groups; and ensuring sustainable ecosystems-based management and combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and associated trade.

Reliable Supply Chains
The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) has identified eight bottlenecks in the bloc’s supply chains, of which three have the potential to disrupt supply chain connectivity. These are inefficient transport infrastructure or a lack of cross-border links such as roads and bridges; underdeveloped multimodal transport capabilities combining air, sea and land links; and a lack of regional cross-border customs transit arrangements.
> Russia hopes to focus on three key dimensions of supply chains, namely the diversification of supply chains, particularly alternative transport routes during emergency situations; intelligent supply chains, or the integration of existing mechanisms; and coordination among regional crisis management centers.

Republic of China (Taiwan) has begun developing a Customs-Maritime-Trade Single Window, which utilizes radio frequency identification to ensure transparency and traceability of products in supply chains. As such, Republic of China (Taiwan) could share its expertise in the single-window system through APEC economic and technical cooperation schemes.

Innovative Growth
Russia has focused the discussion on the three aspects of educational development, innovation in technology and human resource development. Republic of China (Taiwan)’s ABAC members have sponsored a study on the government’s policies for nurturing innovation, and are expected to put forth a number of recommendations to APEC leaders. The Women’s Forum highlighted the importance of human resource development and women’s contribution to the process of innovation.

Although some member economies shied away from the issue of educational accreditation, most APEC members support the idea of exploring further educational cooperation. In terms of technology development, a pilot project has been proposed that would see a dialogue meeting set up and attended by one scientist from each member economy. A trial meeting is to be arranged in 2013 when Indonesia hosts APEC.

Geo-Politics and Geo-Economics
APEC members have been keenly aware of the geo-political and geo-economic dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region in recent years. Sino-US leadership contention seemed to intensify at the conclusion of the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Hawaii in 2011. The TPP, led by the United States and proclaimed as a high-quality FTA, is facing enormous difficulties in negotiations. This seems in contrast to the RCEP, which may well move solidly forward as a building block toward a regional integration scheme. Unlike the one in 2010, the Leaders’ Declaration in 2011 made no mention of ASEAN + 3, ASEAN + 6 or the TPP as schemes toward a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

This year, the United States and mainland China are at odds over how to resolve issues with Iran and Syria, with Russia siding firmly with mainland China at the United Nations Security Council.

Next-generation issues are also important for this year’s discussions. In addition to the traditional trade and investment issues of tariff and non-tariff barriers at the border, such issues emphasize cross-the-border and behind-the-border matters. Among them are the free flow of information, environmental goods and services, and regulatory reform. Other key issues in this area are support for small and medium enterprises in global production chains and transparency in trade agreements.

Public-private partnerships remain another important area for discussion, especially those dedicated to promoting the ease of doing business. It seems that there is a danger of overstretching private-sector participation without actually integrating the various standpoints of diverse business perspectives. Also, the overlapping structure of private-sector participation in various APEC fora may not be conducive to establishing an efficient and streamlined organization in the long run. ABAC has set up the Policy Partnership on Food Security, while official working groups attempt to establish public-private dialogues as both one-off and ongoing events. There are diverse interests even within the business sector and companies with more resources can better afford participation and potentially have more influence in shaping the agenda.

Finally, it is interesting to note that the majority of members have expressed their aspiration to join Indonesia in examining issues concerning the “blue economy,” or the conservation and sustainable development of marine resources. Indonesia has put forward the concept to cover climate change-related biodiversity and efforts to combat illegal fishing, among other issues. The Philippines, as the host of APEC 2015, has highlighted resource competition and exclusive economic zones as part of the same concept.

Certainly, APEC will be a more valuable organization when regional issues of concern can be highlighted and addressed through regular dialogue among senior officials, ministers and leaders.

Dr. Mignonne Man-jung Chan is the executive director of the Chinese Taipei APEC Study Center, Taiwan Institute of Economic Research.

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Towards Universal Coverage — Taiwan’s Experience


By Chiu Wen-ta, Minister, Department of Health

I. Preface

The World Health Organization (WHO) attaches great importance to the establishment of health care systems. Its 2010 World Health Report focused on universal health care, and the 2012 World Health Assembly has chosen for its theme “Towards Universal Coverage” — indicating global recognition of the need to establish sound and comprehensive health care systems.

Taiwan’s National Health Insurance (NHI) program, launched 18 years ago, has received affirmation at home and abroad. The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) have separately produced programming highlighting the NHI. This year, Cable News Network (CNN) aired a report on the medical and health care systems of Taiwan, the U.K. and Switzerland, lauding Taiwan’s success with its program. In 2011, delegations from over 50 countries visited Taiwan to study its universal health insurance program.

II. An introduction to the National Health Insurance program

In the days before the NHI was established, over 40 percent of the nation’s citizens had no health insurance. Following seven years in the planning stage, the NHI program was introduced as a single-payer plan on March 1, 1995 as a form of self-financed social insurance. Premiums are shared among the insured, the insured’s employer and the government. About 99.6 percent of Taiwan’s population is covered by the NHI.

The program allows for all insured persons to access comprehensive medical service. Among services covered are inpatient and outpatient care, Chinese herbal medicine, dental services, childbirth, rehabilitation therapy, home care and care for chronic psychotic patients. All insured persons have the right to immediate medical treatment at any of the over 25,000 clinics and institutions in Taiwan.

III. Recent reforms

More than a decade after the NHI program came into force, the government conducted a review of the system and proposed a “second-generation” system to institute a fairer payment scheme by levying a 2-percent supplementary premium on non-payroll income and individual capital gains. When the new system takes effect in 2013, basic premium rates will be reduced to ease the financial burden on the working class, ensuring greater fairness and strengthening social justice.

The greatest factor behind the NHI’s success is Taiwan’s dedicated medical professionals, who have earned our deepest appreciation and greatest respect for their commitment to the public.

For years, Taiwan has focused on providing affordable, accessible and effective medical service based on a fair payment scheme. It now faces another problem—that of medical staff shortages and work overload—and is making an effort to attract more people to the medical profession and improve working conditions.

IV. Conclusion

Taiwan’s health insurance scheme has successfully enrolled nearly the whole population, is of a high quality, allows for convenience in seeking medical care, and has kept a lid on costs. Collective medical costs for the entire citizenry under the NHI amount to just 6.9 percent of GDP. Administrative costs take up just 1.5 percent of all outlays thanks to a sound information technology network. Moreover, as of the end of 2011, 3.07 million people had benefited from insurance premium subsidy programs. As the most vulnerable in society are covered by the insurance scheme, the link between illness and poverty has thus been broken. The NHI is one of Taiwan’s most successful public projects in history, with a public satisfaction rate of 88.6 percent.

For its NHI system and many other public health achievements, Taiwan has earned affirmation from countries worldwide. Since 2009, it has been invited to be an observer at the annual World Health Assembly (WHA), opening up new opportunities for broader and deeper participation in international cooperation on health-related issues. Taiwan is also eager to help raise global health standards by sharing its experiences through the WHO platform. Unfortunately, however, though Taiwan has gained WHA observer status, no substantial progress regarding its further participation in the WHO has been seen. In May 2011, a confidential WHO memo came to light indicating that Taiwan had been downgraded in status and made subject to many restrictions. The people of Taiwan and many in other nations have voiced dissatisfaction and grave concern over the situation. Taiwan has also expressed time and time again to the WHO Secretariat its protest at such treatment. Here, I call on the international community to support us. I urge the WHO Secretariat again to respond to our request that Taiwan’s participation in WHO affairs be expanded from attendance at the WHA to inclusion in other WHO meetings, mechanisms and activities. This will ensure Taiwan’s meaningful, dignified participation in the World Health Organization.

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Combating Global Warming: Make Taiwan Part of the Solution

By Stephen Shu-hung Shen, Minister, Environmental Protection Administration 

Global warming is a danger to sustainable development and the survival of Homo sapiens and other species on Planet Earth. Countries the world over—including Taiwan, the Republic of China—have come to regard it as a prime threat to national security. Consequently, they are striving to develop and implement strategies to ensure our common well-being.

Despite the exclusion of Taiwan from participation in the forums of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—for complex historical reasons—the government of Taiwan has taken action to halt global warming and usher in a “Green New Deal” for the nation and for the world by cutting energy consumption and reducing carbon emissions. In line with the UNFCCC Copenhagen Accord of 2009, our government in 2010 declared to the UNFCCC Secretariat that by 2020, we will cut our “business-as-usual” (BAU) level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 30 percent—a sharper reduction than what has been pledged by other countries.

In pursuit of that goal, our government’s Master Plan of Energy Conservation and Carbon Mitigation calls for concrete “nationally appropriate mitigation actions” (NAMAs) in the energy, industrial, transportation, construction, residential and commercial sectors. In preparation for implementing programs for reduction of GHG emissions, our Environmental Protection Administration is putting in place mechanisms to ensure that our actions and their results are measurable, reportable and verifiable (MRV) in accordance with UNFCCC requirements.

In the spirit of reinforcing accountability, Our government is also drafting a “Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act” and an “Energy Tax Act,” which, in combination with existing legislation will serve as an effective regulatory foundation for boosting energy efficiency across the board, expanding our renewable energy generation capacity, empowering our citizens to take the initiative in adopting green lifestyles, creating new employment opportunities based on green products and services, and reinvigorating our industries.

As a major pillar of President Ma Ying-jeou’s vision of a “golden decade” of sustainable national development and environmental preservation, he has pledged to forcefully pursue multipronged strategies to achieve the above-stated goals. From the President on down, energy conservation and carbon mitigation have become much more than slogans for Taiwan’s people. For us, the creation of a low-carbon society and caring for our natural environment have become the basis of a “new life movement.”

Taiwan deeply cares about global warming and the dangers it poses to life on Earth. But collective problems demand collective solutions. To deal effectively with the most serious challenge of the century—climate change— Taiwan needs to participate in activities of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties. We hope that our global partners will affirm this reality and make Taiwan part of the solution. In return, we are committed to sharing our insights, experiences and resources with all in quest of planet-wide security and well-being.

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Taiwan: A Player in APEC


By Dr. Mignonne Man-jung Chan

As Republic of China (Taiwan) celebrates two decades of participation in APEC, now is a good opportunity to identify the current state of play in the regional schemes of economic integration, look at the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with Beijing, and assess the role Taiwan plays in the construction of a future Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).

Regional Integration Schemes

In the Asia Pacific region, there are basically two parallel approaches to economic integration. One track stems from ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-centered schemes that were reborn in the aftermath of the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997–1998 and include the AFTA (ASEAN Free Trade Agreement), ASEAN + 3 (ASEAN plus mainland China, Japan and South Korea), ASEAN + 6 (ASEAN + 3 + Australia, New Zealand and India), and the East Asia Summit (also known as ASEAN + 6 + the United States and Russia or ASEAN + 8).

Another track is the trans-Pacific based, high-quality inclined TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership). So far, the Pacific 9 members include the original Pacific 4 (Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore) plus Australia, the United States, Peru, Vietnam and Malaysia. TPP members say the grouping will eventually expand to APEC members, and aim to deliver substantive outcome by the time of the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Honolulu this year.

APEC leaders declared in 2010 that: “We will take concrete steps toward realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), which is a major instrument to further APEC’s regional economic integration agenda. An FTAAP should be pursued as a comprehensive free trade agreement by developing and building on ongoing regional undertakings, such as ASEAN + 3, ASEAN + 6 and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, among others.”

Institutionalizing Cross-Strait Economic Relations

On the domestic front, Taiwan has endeavored to institutionalize cross-strait economic relations in order to provide a needed boost to economic competitiveness in the aftermath of the global financial crisis triggered by the US subprime mortgage crisis. The economic meltdown particularly affected Taiwan companies, which are present at nearly every stage of the technology supply chain. As a result, Taiwan’s economy shrank by 8.56 percent at the beginning of 2009. Coupled with the fact that the ASEAN + mainland China FTA was to take effect in 2010, there was a strong sense of alarm in Taiwan regarding the potential negative impact on local industries. Lest more local firms relocate into ASEAN territories, the government signed ECFA on June 29, 2010, and the pact became effective on September 12 that year. Over a period of two years, mainland China will reduce and eventually eliminate import tariffs on items worth an estimated US$13.84 billion annually, while Taiwan will do so on goods estimated at some US$2.68 billion a year. Early harvest provisions, which came into effect at the beginning of January this year, will see Beijing remove tariffs on more than 500 products from Taiwan.

While businesspeople from Taiwan have long invested in mainland China, mainland Chinese investment was forbidden in Taiwan until the first-round of opening in 2009. Policies have been revised in the past three years to attract foreign investment. Highlights include the accession to the World Trade Organization’s Government Procurement Agreement as well as visits around the globe by ranking government officials to attract foreign investment. Direct cross-strait flights, the lifting of restrictions on mainland Chinese tourists, tax reform, mainland Chinese investment liberalization, and the signing of ECFA are all efforts to improve foreign direct investment in Taiwan.

ECFA will also speed up the pace of the two-way flow of goods, capital and tourists across the Taiwan Strait, and enhance Taiwan’s contributions to mainland Chinese exports, such as for those in the information technology industry. Furthermore, mainland China’s goodwill gestures in ECFA’s early harvest agreement, as a starter, imply Beijing’s willingness to forsake contentious issues and address Taiwan’s key concerns to the benefit of both sides.

Catalyst, Not a Cure-All

ECFA has also served as a catalyst to regional integration and a model for conflict resolution. In its post-ECFA evaluation, the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, a South Korean think tank, has advised Seoul to negotiate quickly with Beijing on an FTA. ECFA is likely to bring more opportunities for Taiwan to be linked with regional integration schemes, including an economic partnership agreement between Taiwan and Singapore and a possible revitalization of Washington-Taipei Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks. Japan recently completed a bilateral investment pact with Taiwan.

In addition to 14 agreements previously signed with Beijing, ECFA helps normalize cross-strait trade and investment relations. Nevertheless, while the pact can also be seen as a means for Taiwan to integrate with economies in the region, it is not a cure-all. The dynamics of local economic development will hinge upon a number of key issues such as effective industrial restructuring, product differentiation for local businesses, the ability to forge corporate strategic alliances in the global marketplace and the skill of local people to adapt to innovative forms of employment. Also important will be Taiwan’s ability to sign FTAs with other key partners and whether or not Taiwan could continue to divert risks in terms of national security, for instance, investment oversight in vital industries.

With ECFA in place, however, exports from Taiwan to mainland China will likely compete well with those from ASEAN members, although this does not have to be a zero-sum game. ECFA’s early harvest list might well serve as a springboard for regional economies to join forces with Taiwan in competitive industries and venture into the mainland Chinese market. Further cross-fertilization of ECFA and ASEAN + mainland China FTAs might well weave into a broader building block for regional integration. For sure, it could be a win-win-win situation for all.

Optimizing Opportunities

As Asia remains the engine of growth on the global platform, Beijing’s 12th Five-Year Plan to 2015 highlights mainland China’s attempts to ease double-digit growth, open more domestic markets and enhance the service industry. Taiwan’s Golden Decade blueprint through 2020 has a number of overlapping interests and both sides seem ready to improve economic cooperation and seek common development and prosperity. Taiwan has identified six emerging industries in biotechnology, tourism, green energy, medicine and health care, high-end agriculture and the cultural and creative industry. Furthermore, four intelligent industries are being promoted, namely, cloud computing, smart electronic vehicles, patent commercialization and intelligent, green buildings.>/p>

Taiwan’s Role

Taiwan cherishes its APEC membership and the opportunity to learn from other member economies. In addition, Taiwan has initiated several projects, including APEC Digital Opportunity Centers, One Village One Product, Paperless Trade, Women Entrepreneurship, the SME Risk Management Center, the APEC Research Center for Typhoon and Society and the APEC Food Response Mechanism, an emergency food reserve.

In 2010, Taiwan’s bilateral trade with the other 20 APEC members exceeded US$400 billion, constituting 76 percent of its total trade. Taiwan ranks 20th for purchasing power parity with gross domestic product per capita of US$35,000. Taiwan is prepared to join in good faith any building block with like-minded partners toward a future Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific and regional economic integration.

Dr. Mignonne Man-jung Chan is the executive director of the Chinese Taipei APEC Study Center, Taiwan Institute of Economic Research.

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The 1992 Consensus: Foundation for Cross-Strait Peace & Stronger International Links

By Philip Y. M. Yang, Minister, Government Information Office

Changes in the cross-strait relationship directly affect peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. As a responsible stakeholder in the international community, Taiwan must deal with this key issue. In fact, through the ups and downs of this relationship after exchanges resumed in 1987, the Republic of China government steadfastly asserted its sovereignty and made no concessions in this regard. It was only during a cross-strait meeting in 1992 that a consensus was reached by the two sides that “there is one China, with each side having its own interpretation of what that means.” Since then, this “1992 consensus” has served as the framework and foundation for cross-strait interaction and has been favorably received by the majority of people in Taiwan. It has become a principle that Taiwan and the mainland should not avoid when facing cross-strait issues. But as differing views have been voiced recently about this consensus, it is worthwhile at this time to once again clarify matters.

Significance of 1992 Consensus: Abiding by the Constitutional Definition of the ROC
At the heart of the 1992 consensus is the concept of “one China, respective interpretations.” It is clear that as far as we are concerned, “one China” is the Republic of China stipulated in the ROC Constitution, and we have never wavered on this definition. As President Ma Ying-jeou said, while the ROC Constitution has been revised seven times through the amendment of additional articles, under four presidents in the past 20 years, the provisions on national territory, sovereignty and the cross-strait status have never been changed. This represents the collective decision of the populace regardless of political affiliation.

In other words, there has never been any “ambiguity” or “concession of sovereignty” regarding the concept of “one China” in the 1992 consensus. To support the 1992 consensus is to support the Republic of China, and to support the ROC Constitution.

Cornerstone for Peace in the Taiwan Strait and East Asia
Indeed, any national security policy should be based on identification with the ROC and its Constitution, which make up the largest common denominator acceptable to the people of Taiwan. Any actions deviating from or intentionally obfuscating this denominator would create unnecessary uncertainty and risk in domestic politics, cross-strait relations and regional peace in East Asia.

As Taiwan sits at the nexus of East Asia and plays a central role in regional peace, neighboring countries naturally would like to see sustained peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. The United States, Japan and the European Union have also expressed hopes for stable progress in cross-strait relations. At home and abroad, the mainstream opinion on our cross-strait policies is that denying the 1992 consensus and advocating the idea that the ROC is a “government in exile” would not be in the interest of Taiwan and may once again jeopardize regional peace.

Looking back to the years before 2008, the ROC faced a litany of diplomatic troubles. The administration’s position on cross-strait affairs was unclear, and its foreign policies were cutting Taiwan off from the world. Those policies — including denying the 1992 consensus, espousing the “one country on each side [of the Taiwan Strait]” concept and promoting “scorched earth diplomacy” — escalated cross-strait tension, caused great anxiety among the people of Taiwan, and further isolated Taiwan from the international community.

From Cross-Strait Impasse to Win-Win Situation
Developments over the past three years show that pursuing cross-strait negotiations on the basis of the 1992 consensus and maintaining peace and stability under the principles of “no unification, no independence and no use of military force” have received widespread support domestically and internationally. Surveys conducted in Taiwan in the first half of this year indicate that over 70 percent of the public supports the promotion of institutionalized negotiations on this basis. This cross-strait policy, so oriented in the present environment, has brought considerable benefits to Taiwan’s overall development.

In cross-strait exchanges, ever since the two sides restarted institutionalized talks after a 10-year hiatus, several breakthroughs — including 15 agreements on trade and a variety of other issues — have been achieved through six rounds of talks between Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation and the mainland’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits. The success of these negotiations has come in the form of concrete exchange and cooperation between the two sides, as well as stronger links between Taiwan and the global market. With the implementation of the early harvest list of the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, the value of Taiwan’s exports to the mainland grew 10.5 percent year-on-year in the first seven months of this year. Exports to six of the 10 ASEAN members (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) also increased 26.2 percent in the same time period.

In terms of foreign relations, our cross-strait policy based on the 1992 consensus has spurred greater international support for Taiwan’s pragmatic participation in global affairs. This is evidenced in the ROC’s solid relations with its 23 diplomatic allies, resumption of high-level mutual trust with the U.S. and other major countries, visa-free and visa-on-arrival privileges in 117 countries and territories, accession to the Government Procurement Agreement after six years of denial, and invitation to participate in the World Health Assembly three years in a row.

Forging Ahead While Grounded in Peace
Policies on national security and cross-strait relations should be based on principles that support the nation’s interests without compromise to sovereignty, security or dignity. The 1992 consensus on the concept of “one China, respective interpretations” was reached by Taiwan and the mainland after several rounds of negotiations. The purpose of building such a consensus was to address sensitive cross-strait issues and shelve disputes in a pragmatic way to maximize benefits to Taiwan. It was on this basis that the 1993 Koo-Wang Talks were held and a new era in cross-strait negotiations dawned. The many positive developments that followed also indicate that this consensus is indeed the cornerstone to peaceful developments between Taiwan and mainland China.

Compared with the situation in 1992, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have made large strides toward a period of peaceful and stable interaction not seen in six decades. But as we have only taken the first steps toward cross-strait peace, we must continue to abide by the framework of the ROC Constitution and the 1992 consensus to create a peaceful environment for the next generation.

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Taiwan -- Fresh Vitality for World Health


By Chiu Wen-ta, Minister, Department of Health

Taiwan, located at the nexus of northeast and southeast Asia, is the 18th largest economy in the world and is replete with vitality and a robust humanitarian spirit of caring. With greater opportunities for global cooperation in health issues since being invited to the World Health Assembly in 2009, Taiwan has wholeheartedly abided by the humanitarian principle that diseases know no borders, enthusiastically joining the effort to safeguard world health. It does so not only to discharge its obligation as a member of the international community, but also because it can add fresh vitality to the effort of keeping our global village healthy.

Taiwan has been steadfast in its support of international humanitarian aid and healthcare activities over the years. Our government and people have actively taken part in various worldwide medical aid and health exchanges. For instance, TaiwanIHA (Taiwan International Health Action) has toured the globe to offer emergency rescue and relief in recent years to countries suffering natural disasters, such as Haiti. We have also successfully shared our experience and knowledge via Taiwan Health Center branches located in the Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands.

As a member of the international community, Taiwan has accumulated a great deal of successful experience and has developed an advantage in the areas of national health insurance, medical technology and epidemic prevention and control. The World Health Organization of the United Nations chose “national health insurance” as the theme of its 2010 World Health Report, indicating the importance that the global public health community has come to attach recently to setting up a well-developed health insurance system.

Taiwan’s national health insurance system has used relatively low premiums to cover outpatient and inpatient services since its implementation in 1995. With an insured rate of more than 95 percent, it has attained the objective of covering the entire populace and making access to medical care barrier free. It has also safeguarded the right of minority groups and the seriously ill and injured to medical treatment.

As a key manufacturer of information and communications products for the world, Taiwan has a solid foundation for developing medical technology. We have developed world-class expertise in biochips, biomedical materials, biomedical informatics and both medical and pharmaceutical engineering. This has allowed us to implement electronic medical record management and the practice of distance healthcare, greatly boosting the safety and treatment standards for patients, while lowering national health insurance costs.

As the International Health Regulations of 2005 are being implemented worldwide, Taiwan is now able to receive timely information on epidemics and food safety so that it can help safeguard public health in the Asia-Pacific region. We are willing to share joint responsibility with the world community to report information promptly and to contribute resources and expertise to the establishment of a safety net for public health in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world.

In the future, we shall continue to invest resources, as well as promote and take part in various international world health activities. We shall also encourage our scholars, medical professionals and NGOs to forge closer links with academic associations and groups in their respective areas of expertise. In addition, we shall work to promote the Millennium Development Goals for medical cooperation set by the United Nations to deal with prevention and control issues pertaining to trans-national contagious diseases and non-contagious diseases. This will demonstrate Taiwan’s soft power and the fresh vitality that it brings to the effort on behalf of human health worldwide.

For Taiwan news, editorials, feature articles and more, please go to Taiwan Today.

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Taiwan’s Flower Power

By Johnny C. Chiang, Minister, Government Information Office

Since November 2010, Taipei has played host to the Taipei International Flora Expo, an event sanctioned by one of the world’s leading horticultural bodies, the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH). More than 1,600 plant species and 3,300 cultivars are on show at the expo and some 30 million plants are expected to be used during the six-month-long event, including myriad indigenous and locally grown flora.

As visitors from Taiwan and the rest of the world are discovering, however, there are more than flowers on display. The beauty of Taiwanese culture is highlighted through thousands of scheduled cultural performances, and local achievements in horticulture, science and environmental protection can also be seen.

Each of the four exhibition areas and 14 individual exhibition pavilions, for example, is built on the green principle of “reduce, reuse and recycle.” Eight existing buildings were repurposed for the event, while new structures marry green building standards and innovative design. In the case of the EcoArk, or Pavilion of New Fashion, homegrown cutting-edge engineering has turned 1.5 million plastic bottles into the world’s first large-scale recycled-plastic building. The EcoArk also features the use of natural ventilation, daylight and LED lighting in order to cut electricity consumption, as well as solar and wind-power systems to generate its own electricity. National Geographic Channel has seen fit to feature the pioneering structure in a program due to premiere at the end of March.

On top of this, all 91.8 hectares of the expo’s grounds have been seamlessly integrated within one of the most densely populated cities in the history of the Flora Expo and the city government took the initiative to transform an additional 350 public and privately owned sites into green spaces throughout the city.

Subtle and Successful

The interiors of the pavilions are no less impressive. The wildly popular Pavilion of Dreams, for example, features more than two dozen of Taiwan’s pioneering technologies including paper-thin audio speakers, naked-eye 3-D displays and a 360-degree circular theater. The key to the pavilion’s success, however, is that the technology serves a breathtaking artistic vision.

Such displays are exciting, in part because they have so exceeded expectations. It is as if Taiwan’s designers have come of age “overnight,” although in fact, this “design revolution” has been quietly developing for years. All in all, local designers, planners, horticulturalists, engineers and researchers have contributed to perhaps the most advanced AIPH-sanctioned expo to date.

The public response to this effort speaks volumes. By early March, the event had seen some 5.4 million attendees and expo-fever is reaching well beyond the capital city. In fact, a number of pavilions are so popular that the Taipei City Government has decided to reopen several of them after the expo ends on April 25.

Cultural Development, Soft Power

This kind of success does not happen easily or by chance. It is the result of careful planning, skill and hard work by the event organizers, but it represents something even greater. It is a testament to the cultural development of Taiwanese society, long known for its high-tech sector and economic progress, but less so for its social and artistic attributes. Yet these are intrinsic to the success of high-profile events.

As such, the expo is a good example of Taiwan’s soft power in the international community because it also showcases the nation’s free and open society in which social progress, individual liberty and respect for the rule of law are valued. Artistic and cultural development flourish in an atmosphere of openness and tolerance, and amid economic prosperity, high levels of education and respect for human rights. All these are readily seen in today’s Republic of China, the world’s first Chinese democracy, and are ably shared with the world through such high-profile international events.

Little wonder that the city of Taipei has welcomed every opportunity to share its happiness in hosting the AIPH-expo, which is a first for Taiwan.

Taiwan in Full Bloom

All this innovation and success has not gone unnoticed. In mid-February, an Economist Intelligence Unit report ranked Taipei one of Asia’s greenest cities. AIPH president Doeke Faber also praised the expo as “truly unique” for its emphasis on environmental concerns, and noted the speed with which it took shape — Taipei City produced its world-class expo in four years when it usually takes host cities 10 years to do so.

The people of the Republic of China (Taiwan) should be proud of the nation’s accomplishment in carrying off yet another international-level event with expertise and aplomb. Along with a sea of spring flowers, it seems that artistry, technology and culture are blooming in Taiwan.

For Taiwan news, editorials, feature articles and more, please go to Taiwan Today.

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Taiwan Ushering in a Golden Decade

By Johnny C. Chiang, Minister, Government Information Office

The Republic of China (Taiwan) will celebrate its 99th birthday on October 10, 2010. Over the past six decades, Taiwan’s economic performance and democratic transformation have been strongly affirmed by the international community. And, in recent years, our effort in achieving cross-strait reconciliation and peace in the Asia-Pacific has borne fruit. These accomplishments have laid a firm foundation for robust development in the coming decade.

Since taking office in May 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou has promoted healthy interaction with mainland China, while also supporting international development and cooperation. These policies have been undertaken in line with the principles of “no unification with the mainland, no creation of an independent Taiwan republic, and no use of force to settle sovereignty issues” and “putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people.”

A new chapter is being written in cross-strait relations. In June 2010, Taiwan and mainland China signed the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), whose Early Harvest Program reduced tariffs on more than 800 products while opening up the service sector on both sides. On the same day the ECFA was signed, the two sides also separately inked an agreement on intellectual property rights protection. These significant breakthroughs followed on the heels of changes allowing mainland Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan directly and the launch of direct postal, transportation and trade links.

Over 1.5 million mainland tourists have come to Taiwan since we lifted related restrictions in July 2008. In August 2010, laws were revised to allow mainland students to pursue studies in Taiwan. And the fact that the ECFA took effect this September has been conducive to the normalization of economic and trade relations. These advances have further integrated Taiwan into Asia-Pacific markets and the global economy.

Mainland investment, tourists and students not only offer Taiwan sizeable economic opportunities and inject a new vitality into the economy, they also allow people of the two sides to get to know each other better. Moreover, these changes have relieved fears of war in the Taiwan Strait, a “peace dividend” the world is now enjoying thanks to President Ma’s cross-strait policies.

An important consequence of this new, peaceful overtone in cross-strait relations was our receipt of an invitation by the World Health Organization to attend the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer in 2009. We were also invited to send a delegation to attend the 2010 convention in May. At the WHA, we have shared our experiences in disease prevention and medical treatment with other countries.

At present, we are seeking to participate in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the International Civil Aviation Organization as well as other UN specialized agencies to help resolve climate change and flight safety issues. We desire to work with all nations to solve problems we collectively face, and we hope mainland China and other countries will support these efforts.

Peaceful progress in the cross-strait relationship — long hoped for by the international community — has opened up opportunities not only for cross-strait cooperation, but also for Taiwan to retake the initiative on economic development as we confront the challenge of “new regionalism.”

As a result of our efforts, Taiwan was ranked eighth in the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2010 by the Swiss-based International Institute for Management Development, up from 23rd in 2009. Since the ECFA’s signing, the international community has looked favorably upon Taiwan’s economic development prospects. Our GDP is expected to grow 8.24 percent in 2010. Even more encouraging was the September 2010 global investment report issued by US-based Business Environment Risk Intelligence, in which Taiwan was rated fourth worldwide in investment environment.

Looking ahead, Taiwan will work to maximize opportunities and minimize risks as we vigorously improve cross-strait relations further and sign trade agreements with other major trading partners. We are also encouraging global investment in Taiwan in 32 areas, including biotechnology, green energy, refined agriculture, tourism, healthcare, the cultural and creative industries, knowledge-based industries and key service industries. Such efforts will transform Taiwan into a hub for regional trade, investment and innovation.

Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately for 61 years. As such, there still remain many issues concerning the two sides’ different political and social systems that need to be ironed out. Nevertheless, we will continue our work to improve cross-strait relations and participate in international affairs to a greater extent. This will help foster a peaceful external environment and improve overall competitiveness for Taiwan. A “golden decade” can then commence for a strong Taiwan well connected to the Asia-Pacific and the world.

For Taiwan news, editorials, feature articles and more, please go to Taiwan Today.

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Toward a New Female Future


Gender Awareness Supports Taiwan's Competitiveness

By Pat Gao, Taiwan Review Staff Writer

Since the emergence of the movement toward a more liberal society at around the time when decades of martial law ended in Taiwan in 1987, the pursuit of women’s rights and gender equality has been an integral part of broader social movements. Now, with significant progress in lawmaking efforts and major amendments to the Civil Code and Criminal Code on women’s issues, Taiwan has one of the world’s more advanced legal frameworks for the protection and fair treatment of women. “In terms of a legal foundation, Taiwan ranks number one in Asia,” says Ho Bih-jen, secretary-general of the National Alliance of Taiwan Women’s Associations (NATWA), which works on coordinating information and resources among more than 70 groups devoted to gender issues. NATWA was established in 2001, the same year that revisions to the Criminal Code made rape cases subject to public prosecution instead of being handled only upon complaint by the victim.

In addition to lawmaking and enforcement efforts, public education is of the utmost importance, says World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) president Susan Brennan. “It helps shift the way people see issues,” Brennan said during a visit to Taipei on April 24 to attend a 2010 World YWCA Day event. Changing people’s attitudes through mass media campaigns, individual communication, or through schools and other means “can work to share the message that, for the wellbeing of the country as a whole, women’s equality and safety have to be secured,” she says. Brennan had previously visited Taiwan in 1997 to lead workshops focused on the elimination of violence against women as part of a World YWCA Asia Pacific regional meeting.


Reform has not always come about as a straightforward result of women’s activism, however. As Lee Ping—secretary-general of the YWCA of Taiwan and a member of the Committee of Women’s Rights Promotion under the Executive Yuan—pointed out in a speech to government staff on gender mainstreaming, several major laws concerning gender equality have been catalyzed by high-profile events.

Call to Action

Domestic violence, for example, was largely viewed as a private matter and legal penalties for such assaults did not receive much attention until 1993, when a long-abused wife murdered her husband. The case spurred calls for greater protection for women, with the Domestic Violence Prevention Act finally coming into effect in 1998. The woman’s defense lawyer, Wang Ju-hsuan, successfully helped reduce the defendant’s imprisonment term and now serves as the minister of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA).

Another example occurred in 1987, when scores of female employees were forced from their jobs at the National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei and the Kaohsiung City Cultural Center because they were more than 30 years old, got married or became pregnant. Growing social resistance to such restrictive regulations for women eventually led to the promulgation of the Gender Equality in Employment Act in 2002. Two years later, the Gender Equity Education Act came into effect. This piece of legislation, which was intended to develop gender awareness on school campuses, had sad origins in the death of a male student at a junior high school in southern Taiwan’s Pingtung County. Before receiving a fatal head injury sustained in a school toilet in April 2000, the unfortunate boy had frequently been laughed at and teased for being effeminate. The resulting lawsuit, assisted by gender activists and legal experts, found the school principal and two other school administrative staff members guilty of manslaughter for their failure to shape a gender-friendly environment.

Legal protections not only discourage harm from being committed against women in one way or another, but also play a more active role in promoting women’s rights. “A legal basis means a lot as a symbol. The passage of laws concerning domestic violence, for example, signaled a new intervention by the government sector into private family matters,” says Huang Ling-hsiang, vice director of the Foundation for Women’s Rights Promotion and Development. The foundation was set up in 1999 as a nonprofit group funded by the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) and is the operator of the Taiwan Women’s Center in Taipei. Since it began operating in March 2008, the center has worked as the “brain”—as Huang calls it—that conveys and directs financial resources and information to around 130 women’s service centers throughout Taiwan.

Legislation cannot solve all of Taiwan’s gender issues, though. In addition to certain inadequacies in punitive provisions, there are often budgetary and staff shortages for the support networks that are necessary for the laws to be carried out effectively. For one thing, central and local governments have to address the problems of frequently understaffed social welfare departments in dealing with cases of domestic violence.

At the same time, there has been some progress in making gender-related laws more practical and realistic, such as by offering incentives to encourage women to exercise their rights fully. For example, the Gender Equality in Employment Act gives employees the right to a combined eight weeks of paid maternity leave before and after childbirth, as well as up to two years of unpaid parental leave for those who have remained in service for more than one year and have children under the age of three.

Time to Take Leave 

Yet, despite the availability of parental leave, few employees took it until May last year, when a revision to the Employment Insurance Act added a childcare leave allowance of 60 percent of the insured’s salary for up to six months per child. According to figures from the CLA, the total number of applicants for childcare leave in 2008 was just 5,508, while the number jumped to 17,723 in 2009 after the allowance came into effect. In 2009, a total of NT$1.9 billion (US$57.5 million) was spent by the government on parental leave subsidies, with each applicant receiving an average of NT$16,000 (US$485) per month, according to the bureau.

Given that both a mother and father are eligible for up to six months of subsidized parental leave, the plan provides for a total of one year of care for each child. Mothers accounted for 84 percent of parental-leave applicants in 2009; however, the figure was lower than the average of around 95 percent in the previous seven years. “The childcare support system offers greater possibilities for working women to shake off regrets [about taking parental leave],” Huang Ling-hsiang says.

The figures also reflect the long established practice for females to be the first ones to get involved when family matters arise. The reason they do so might be a voluntary choice due to a preference for “maternal values,” which is in no way inferior to the inclination of many men to prioritize their careers, Huang says. On the other hand, Huang says that if women do exhibit less motivation for career advancement, the origins could stem from traditional conceptions of gender roles that lead to greater difficulties for women to get the training and experience necessary to improve their career prospects. “The problems arise less from women themselves than social structures. The point is that women must be given equal opportunities,” she says.

In fact, more often than not, caring for children and the elderly, as well as looking after household affairs, is work done by females. Ho Bih-jen says that women’s movements initially aimed to minimize women’s role as caregivers, but now the movements are readier to accept that aspect of the female experience, and instead call on the government to provide more support in order to ease the workload. The lack of such support could be behind Taiwan’s low birthrate, she says. “Far from being only a household matter, this has a lot to do with economic development and national competitiveness,” Ho says in reference to figures that show just slightly more than one child born to every woman of childbearing age in Taiwan. “Population problems are central to many major social issues,” she adds.

Ho says that if society does not offer sound, inexpensive nursery services and give women more choices in childrearing, many women will choose not to have children or if they do will have just one child, in which case sons are still customarily preferred in Taiwan. According to statistics from the MOI, in 2009 newborn boys outnumbered girls by the ratio of 108.4 baby boys per 100 baby girls, whereas such ratios usually fall from 103 to 107 in the United States and European countries. Although modern society has largely outgrown the need of traditional agricultural communities for manual labor, sons are still favored because they meet traditional mores better than daughters, such as by carrying on the family name. The NATWA secretary-general says there has been general progress in gender consciousness in Taiwan, but that women still receive more support from their extended family for male children, for example, which affects the gender picture significantly. Ho says she is worried about the possible emergence of “extreme sex ratios”—a trend of fewer baby girls—just like that of extreme weather.

Ho urges the government to strengthen its influence in the early childhood education sector given that Taiwan claims a very high penetration rate of early childhood education and care service providers. In 2009, private businesses accommodated around 60 percent of all attendees at kindergartens (for four- to six-year-old children) and roughly two-thirds of all children at nursery schools (for two- to six-year-old children). According to Ho, this stands in contrast with many of their more affordable counterparts in countries in the West that are operated as public or nonprofit organizations.

Need for Childcare 

“Our government allocation of educational resources has disproportionately prioritized the latter stage of higher education over the early childhood period,” Ho says. As a result, early childhood education imposes financial pressure on many young or less affluent parents. For Ho, a greater number of public childcare facilities would not only help individual women by reducing their workloads, but could also have the result of freeing up women to put their skills and abilities to use in the workforce and society at large.

Ho’s views on childcare policy are echoed by Wu Chia-li, a chemistry professor at Tamkang University in Taipei County and president of the Taiwanese Feminist Scholars Association, a group of mostly female university teachers formed in 1993. Wu notes that the government has allocated huge budgets for improving the world ranking of local universities, but suggests that an alternative might be to encourage more talented female teachers to stay at and contribute to their schools. This would require providing more choices and flexibility when it comes to personal and family leave, she says. In fact, Wu points out that there is considerable room for the development of women’s social roles across the board. In Taiwan, the female labor participation rate increased by 3.6 percent to 49.6 percent from 1999 to 2009, but still lagged behind that for men by 16.8 percent last year. Moreover, the female workforce tends to be undervalued in the labor market. “Females account for no less than half of the students at business colleges, but less than 15 percent of higher-level managerial staff in enterprises,” Wu says, “and the average female salary is just three-fourths of male earnings.” She also cites the imbalanced sex ratios of teachers in higher education. According to 2008 statistics from the Ministry of Education (MOE), the percentage of full-time female teachers at elementary schools was 68.5 percent, but dropped to 60 percent at senior high schools and fell further to 34.3 percent at the university level. “The percentages of female principals are comparatively low, too,” Wu says. For example, despite female teachers representing 60 percent of all teachers at senior high schools, women headed only 19.3 percent of those schools in 2008.,/p>

Greater educational attainment also sees student sex ratios tilt in favor of males. Student numbers are more or less evenly divided between the two sexes on entry to university, but males outnumber females in master’s programs and even more so in doctoral programs. Nevertheless, the sex imbalance has been decreasing in recent years. MOE figures for 1998 show that for every 100 female students there were 209.9 males in master’s programs and 394.5 males for doctoral programs. In 2008, those figures had changed to 140 males in master’s programs and 259.1 at the doctoral level per 100 females. Wu says that many female students withdraw from higher learning not because of their ability, but because they are discouraged by the expectations of parents or teachers. “In contrast, backed up by traditional gender conceptions, boys stick it out and show less hesitation about their academic or career choices,” she says. Wu also serves as the leader of a mentoring program funded by the government’s National Science Council for would-be and beginning female scientists and technologists.

Wu says a general rule for a country is that the greater the gender balance, the more economically competitive it will be. Prominent examples are northern European countries such as Sweden. “A female perspective is not just about the struggle for more rights,” she says, “but more significantly it’s also about breaking free from existing gender myths and taking a brand new look at established social systems.” From this angle, the pursuit of gender equality is little less than a systematic revolution that could help to release the power and ability of women everywhere to build a more creative future, not just for Taiwan, but for all of humanity.

All photos by Huang Chung-hsin.

This article was published in Taiwan Review on June 1, 2010. For Taiwan news, editorials, feature articles and more, please go to Taiwan Review.

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Taiwan Strives Toward Full Engagement


In the Global Health Network

By Johnny Chiang, Minister, Government Information Office

Among the most significant fruits of the” flexible diplomacy” policy of the Republic of China (Taiwan), implemented after Ma Ying-jeou assumed the ROC presidency in 2008, is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) first-ever invitation to Taiwan to attend the 2009 World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting as an official observer. This year, Taiwan has once again received an invitation to attend the WHA meeting. These developments not only demonstrate that détente between Taiwan and mainland China is conducive to expanding Taiwan’s international space, but signify a watershed in Taiwan’s progress toward rejoining the mainstream of the international community.

For many years, Taiwan’s participation in international affairs has been severely constrained. It is the hope of our people, therefore, as well as of supporters the world over, that Taiwan can be accepted as a full-fledged member of the global community through our involvement in international organizations. Our participation in the WHA may be regarded as a substantive indicator of mutual flexibility in relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and their future prospects. It is hoped that in the future, participation in the WHA will eventually afford us more opportunities for engagement in global affairs.

Taiwan’s presence at the 2009 WHA meeting, as well as our induction into the International Health Regulation (IHR) framework, have enhanced our involvement in the global health network. Communications between Taiwan and the WHO have become smooth, and our health experts have been invited to attend WHO meetings on the A(H1N1) novel influenza pandemic as well as other technical conferences and training programs. In addition, the WHO has assisted us in obtaining the A(H1N1) virus stock necessary to produce flu vaccine in Taiwan.

To date, however, Taiwan is still unable to participate in the full range of WHO activities. Realizing the goal will require further efforts in the realm of cross-strait and foreign relations, this year Taiwan will strive to take part in all levels of WHO meetings and mechanisms in hopes of enhancing the substantive quality of our cooperation in the field of health. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s participation in WHO activities over the past year has enabled the international community to appreciate Taiwan’s high professional standards and capabilities. Moreover, our contributions in the fields of humanitarian relief and promotion of international exchanges over the past several decades have won wide affirmation.

Major issues on this year’s WHA agenda include pandemic influenza preparedness, IHR implementation, food safety, curbing counterfeit medical products and provision of health care services – areas in which Taiwan has considerable experience and can make valuable contributions. Of greater overall significance for Taiwan, its participation in the WHA represents a major step forward into the mainstream of global health cooperation, toward full integration into the world health system.

For Taiwan news, editorials, feature articles and more, please go to Taiwan Today.

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International Cooperation for Climate Change Mitigation

Taiwan’s Proposals and Visions

By Stephen Shu-hung Shen, Minister, Taiwan EPA

Climate change caused by global warming that is induced by human activity is one of the toughest challenges the world is facing. Through more than two decades of international cooperation, Taiwan has been successfully introducing advanced policies and technologies into its environmental protection infrastructure. As a result, Taiwan’s environment has significantly improved, the public’s environmental awareness has been heightened, and in 2008 carbon dioxide emissions have decreased for the first time. In 2008, Taiwan’s total carbon dioxide emission from energy sectors was less than 257 million metric tons, which marked a 4.4% decrease compared to the previous year, while the per capita emission dropped 4.8% to 11.2 metric tons.

Taiwan’s environmental protection experience is now available to be shared with other nations. Taiwan intends to work with the international community to combat climate change through bilateral and multilateral cooperation in order to safeguard environmental and human health at the national, regional and global levels. The Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration (Taiwan EPA) therefore proposes two international cooperation schemes on climate change mitigation. They are the Overseas Carbon Reduction Cooperation Program and Taiwan’s Initiative: International Cooperation on Efficient Utilization of Global Fossil Fuels and Biomass Energy.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou considers climate change mitigation a top priority of his administration. In 2008, the Taiwan government announced voluntary carbon dioxide reduction targets: for the period between 2016 and 2020, the goal is to return to 2008 emission levels; and by 2050, to return to 50% of 2000 levels. Keeping Taiwan’s unique political situation in mind, the Taiwan EPA is actively seeking cooperation with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Annex I nations to help emitting entities in Taiwan meet their reduction requirements and to assist developing nations in cutting their carbon emissions via clean development. The Taiwan EPA will facilitate Taiwan’s emitting entities in establishing corporations in Annex I nations; through these overseas corporations, emitting entities will make investments in clean development projects in developing nations that cut carbon emissions under the UNFCCC guidelines. The carbon credits thus acquired will then be used to offset emissions in Taiwan. Via cooperation with Annex I and developing nations, Taiwan expects to reach the previously outlined reduction targets, as well as helping to reduce global carbon emissions.

To cut the global carbon emission efficiently, Taiwan proposes a global initiative so that the most efficient way of utilizing global fossil and biomass energy can be realized in 40 years through international cooperation. Considering that pure electric vehicles possess the highest energy efficiency at least four times that of conventional vehicles, and using low-temperature torrefaction to convert bio-fuel to eco-coal for cogeneration is the most efficient way of harnessing biomass energy, Taiwan would like to present a vision regarding international cooperation on efficient utilization of global fossil fuel and biomass energy for electricity generation and heat supply. The initiative involves the following: Power plants should be located in the most heat demanding temperate and frigid zones, while the tropical and subtropical zones are supplied by transmitted electricity. Such a design can produce the highest energy efficiency globally. Future fossil fuels and eco-coal produced in the tropical and subtropical zones are transported to the temperate and frigid zones for cogeneration to provide the world with electricity including powering electric vehicles. Through this proposed global cooperation, the most efficient way of energy utilization can be reached.

In the future, Taiwan’s international cooperation will focus on continuously introducing advanced environmental management and technology to improve local environmental quality; to continue the sharing of Taiwan’s experience and expertise in order to assist other nations in solving environmental problems; to participate in international organizations and conferences which set environmental guidelines; to continue to follow the international trends in protecting the Earth’s environment; and to promote the Overseas Carbon Reduction

Cooperation Project and Taiwan’s Initiative: International Cooperation on Efficient Utilization of Global Fossil and Biomass Energy in order to mitigate climate change. Taiwan expects that local, regional and global environmental protection tasks will be accelerated through bilateral and multilateral cooperation in safeguarding environmental quality, human health and sustainable development.

Stephen Shu-hung Shen, the Minister of the Environmental Protection Agency of Taiwan, is one of the most prominent scholars and policymakers of environmental protection and planning in Taiwan. For over 25 years he has held senior positions with the Environmental Protection Agency of Taiwan, the National Science Council of Taiwan. He received his doctorate in Chemical Engineering from the National Taiwan University in 1982.

For Taiwan news, editorials, feature articles and more, please go to Taiwan Today.

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Chinese Literature Creates a Garden of Meditation


By Amber Wu (Taiwan Today)

Imagine a quiet life of meditation, conversation, poetry, painting, calligraphy and music, all within a walled garden with rocks, water, trees, plants, sculptures and surrounding buildings.

In ancient times only the elite literati could dream of such a life, and to most people today it is no more than pictures from a book. Surprisingly, however, people in Taiwan can now get a taste of this refined lifestyle at Nan Yuan, a classical Chinese garden located in the lush mountains of Hsinchu.

Nan Yuan, or 'South Garden,' is a well-kept secret. Built between 1983 and 1985 and intended for private use, the garden was only opened to the public in the fall of 2008. The garden was mysterious from the start, with even locals knowing very little about it. We were very curious when helicopters flew into the mountains in 1983 and there seemed to be some construction going on.

There was even a rumor that the hundreds of workers there were building President Chiang Ching-kuo's tomb, a local inhabitant who declined to give his name said. Visitors to Nan Yuan have also been shrouded in mystery, but are said to include former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.

It was not politics or military secrets that led to the construction of Nan Yuan, however. °Originally, it was a gift for Wang Tih-wu, founder of the United Daily News and Economic Daily News, from his two sons,' said Carrent Wang, deputy manager of the Marketing Division of The One Images Ltd., the company now responsible for the management of Nan Yuan.

According to Wang, Nan Yuan is one of the best works of Han Pao-teh, the well-known Harvard-educated architect who established Tainan National University of the Arts and served as the director of the National Culture and Arts Foundation. After the Wang family commissioned him for the project, during a trip to the 27-hectare site Han was excited to find the landscape very suitable for building a classical Chinese garden. The family gave him free rein in designing the garden.

'I couldn't believe in this dream come true. I was so lucky to have the freedom to bring my imagination to reality in this project, while ancient predecessors such as Ji Cheng in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) or Li Yu in the Ching dynasty (1616-­1912) could only build according to the owner wishes, or just dream about an ideal garden on paper, Han wrote in his memoir. Ji was arguably the first landscape designer in Chinese history, while Li Yu was a playwright, novelist, and theater impresario, author of important work on garden architecture and philosophy.'

For the garden Han revived ancient design philosophy. First, he adapted the most representative plan of a classical garden: a series of wood pavilions surrounding a lake and an arched bridge in the center of the garden, with a main hall overlooking the whole thing. Traditional construction techniques were employed, with no nails used in the buildings.

Nan Yuan also preserves the traditional employment of symbols in Chinese gardens. A vase-shaped doorway, for instance, represents 'peace' because the words for 'vase' and °peace' in Chinese are homonyms. Carvings on the eaves and pillars display auspicious animals or patterns mentioned in folklore and legend.

By using red brick and roof tiles, Han infused a southern Fujian flavor in Nan Yuan, in contrast to the white walls and black roof tiles of Suzhou gardens.

Carrent Wang said when the UDN Group wanted more people to be able to share in the garden's beauty, they commissioned The One to manage Nan Yuan in 2008. The design company refers to Nan Yuan as 'the land of retreat and wellness'. It now provides guided tours of the garden, lodging, dining and a comprehensive exhibition of local designers works.

'A classical garden is more than just wooden houses, and artificial mountains and ponds. It embodies a refined and relaxing lifestyle, which modern people have little knowledge of but long to experience,' Wang said.

A limit on the number of visitors allows people to better appreciate the spatial design of the garden without being overwhelmed by crowds. 'If people just rushed through, they would not discover that the architecture itself is a treasure.'

To bring life to the architecture, it is important to revive the lifestyle. 'The aesthetics of the architecture depend on how people use it. 'Wang said, 'and that is why we invite calligraphers and handicraft artists to work in some of the pavilions and teach visitors about their art.

Instead of rushing from site to site and just passively listening to a guide, visitors enjoy themselves playing old-style games, making wooden toys, or learning about tea tasting in the waterfront pavilion.

A mother watching her daughter learning to make handicrafts said she never thought there would be a place they could experience the life of ancient intellectuals like in the famous Chinese novel 'Dream of the Red Chamber.'

This article and others of interest are available online at Taiwan Today.

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WHO Invites Taiwan Participation

“Become a Partner in Combating Swine Flu”

By Taiwan's Health Minister, Yeh Ching-chuan 

The Republic of China (Taiwan) has long sought to return to the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to directly and effectively contribute to the international health network and global disease prevention efforts. Recently, this goal was finally achieved when Taiwan accepted the invitation of Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO, to take part in the 2009 World Health Assembly, as an observer under the name “Chinese Taipei,” when the assembly convenes in Geneva on May 18.

With the continuing growth of global trade, tourism and business travel, national borders appear increasingly irrelevant when it comes to dealing with human health threats. Both information sharing between countries and international technical assistance are hugely important for global pandemic prevention and other concerns. Recent efforts to keep emerging influenza viruses under control and assure food safety offer concrete examples.

There is an urgent need for every country to cooperate and exchange information to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus. As a member of the international community, Taiwan will closely participate in the international prevention effort — exchanging information freely with all countries, striving to prevent transmission and the further spread of the disease, and working to develop and manufacture a vaccine and stockpile pertinent medical treatment materials to deal with a potential outbreak. When needed, Taiwan will also extend a helping hand to assist other countries with disease prevention and help provide the necessary medical treatment resources to resist the influenza virus.

Another area in which Taiwan is fully prepared to cooperate and contribute within the WHO framework is global food safety, an increasingly serious problem. Rapid transportation and advanced preservation techniques are allowing foodstuffs to travel great distances and be consumed around the world like never before. Finished food products enjoy wide circulation, and their ingredients can come from any corner of the globe. As the sourcing of ingredients grows ever more complex, food safety is becoming more and more difficult to control. Only the correspondingly swift circulation of accurate information — as well as enhanced cross-border cooperation when it comes to monitoring and controlling foodstuffs — can keep countries abreast of the safety of each type of food product and trace the source and destination of contaminated foods the moment a threat is uncovered. Modern food safety management differs from traditional approaches, and prevention nowadays requires concerted cooperation between countries.

Like all countries, Taiwan is confronted with these major public health issues. As a major global trading hub facing the challenges of a globalized world, it is more imperative than ever for Taiwan to be fully included in the international health network. Taiwan therefore looks forward to actively participating in and contributing to WHO activities in its new capacity as an observer — not only to better ensure the health safety of its 23 million people, but that of the global population as well.

Taiwan also has much to share with other countries in terms of its outstanding health system. The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Taiwan second worldwide in terms of health system performance. Taiwan has a long history of public health challenges and successes, such as eliminating domestic cases of smallpox, cholera, malaria and polio, providing comprehensive inoculations against hepatitis B, and launching one of the world’s premiere universal health insurance programs. Taiwan has demonstrated malaria-fighting results in São Tomé and Príncipe and has set up Taiwan Health Centers in both the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands to provide medical treatment and public health services. Taiwan is more than willing to help other countries solve various public health challenges, such as medical network planning, infectious disease prevention and treatment, health insurance, medical research, emergency relief and aid, as well as tobacco hazard prevention. The return of Taiwan to the international health mainstream will enable us to more effectively share our experience and resources with other countries.

The international community has positively affirmed Taiwan’s pragmatic and flexible attitude with Taiwan’s invitation to become an observer in the World Health Assembly this year. Taiwan’s participation in the WHO is a great step forward for global health-related human rights and seals the last remaining gap in the international health security network. Finally, Taiwan hopes to achieve even greater participation through appropriate means in future WHO-related events, mechanisms and meetings.

For updated reports regarding Taiwan, please go to Taiwan Today at www.taiwantoday.tw.

Taiwan Editorial Archive

Bringing Museums to Life


Children at the National Palace Museum

from the Taiwan Review

Richard Fortey, a renowned paleontologist of the Natural History Museum in London and an award-winning writer, is a passionate advocate of museums. 'I believe profoundly in the importance of museums; I would go as far as to say that you can judge a society by the quality of its museums,' he has written. If that idea is accurate, then Taiwan's society is progressing from strength to strength as the quality and number of its museums develop apace.

In fact, Fortey's fame is in large part due to his enthusiasm and skill in explaining complex knowledge to lay readers through his books. It is a role he shares with the best museums around the world, including those in Taiwan, of collecting and researching specimens and phenomena, and then finding ways to communicate that knowledge to the public through exhibitions and other events.

There were about 580 public and private museums in Taiwan at the end of 2007, up from approximately 400 in 2000. In particular, private museums have seen rapid growth in the past decade, with collections as diverse as those of the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines, the Miniatures Museum of Taiwan and the Chi Mei Museum of Western art and historical artifacts.

This development is not without its challenges, however. Private museums in particular, often created through the efforts of individual enthusiasts or single enterprises, need more than the support of one individual or business if they are to be sustainable in the long term.

A challenge to both public and private museums in Taiwan is the recruitment of professional museum staff. As Fortey puts it, 'the people who work out of sight are what keeps a museum alive.' There are several graduate-level museum studies programs here and many other schools that have related courses in arts management, but more expertise is needed, especially in developing scholarship around the assessment of Taiwan's museums in terms of visitor education and the long-term impact of an institution.

One museum that is devoting resources to visitor education is the renowned National Palace Museum (NPM). For example, up to 10 percent of staff at the NPM are involved with using multimedia and interactive displays to enhance exhibitions. In fact, finding ways to engage visitors will be key for the continued success of public and private institutions alike. 'Without an audience, a museum is merely a warehouse,' says Wang Chi-hsiang, an associate researcher and manager of the Volunteer Program at the National Science and Technology Museum in Kaohsiung City.

Reaching out to the local community is certainly a theme that has been taken up by the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts in Taichung. The museum works to improve accessibility such as by organizing tours for elderly people and students in remote regions, hosting a section for children and resources for teachers, and even maintaining an open sculpture park surrounding the museum.

At the same time, focusing on local-level communities reflects a general trend toward the decentralization of public museums in Taiwan over the last 20 years. Since 1987, the Council for Cultural Affairs, which oversees public museums in Taiwan, has worked toward establishing museums based on local traditions, crafts and cultures. This represents a major shift from both the colonial aims of Taiwan's first museums set up during the period of Japanese rule (1895-1945), as well as the focus on traditional Chinese culture that followed. There are also sound economic incentives in such a move. The establishment of the Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum, for example, has both capitalized on and boosted the local traditional ceramics industry based in Yingge Township.

Taiwan's museums mirror its culturally rich society, and the diversity and sheer number of institutions certainly reflect the wide-ranging interests, knowledge and understanding of its people. Museum enthusiast Richard Fortey has good reason to believe so strongly in the importance of these institutions to a society.

This above article appears in the online April edition of Taiwan Review at taiwanreview.nat.gov.tw.

Taiwan Editorial Archive

UN Bid: Determined and Pragmatic

From the Taiwan Review

After two referendums on United Nations membership failed to receive enough voter support to pass in March due to domestic party politics, the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou is assessing the Republic of China's (ROC) options for joining the world body. At the same time, the government is also ensuring that the nation continues to shoulder its responsibilities as a global citizen.

The ROC was a founding member of the UN, but lost its seat in 1971 when recognition was switched to mainland China. In 1993, the government began to promote the goal of joining the UN. Today, the Ma administration's white paper guiding the quest for membership in the UN and other international organizations specifically mentions the importance of becoming a member of the World Health Organization, as well as major economic organizations including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund.

President Ma remarked in July that because both referendums had failed in March, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was evaluating new approaches for promoting Taiwan's UN bid. The white paper also suggests pursuing observer status in world organizations before seeking full membership. As for the politically charged issue of which name Taiwan should use in its membership bids, the document emphasizes selecting a pragmatic name that also protects the nation's dignity.

The continued pursuit of membership in international organizations is critical because Taiwan cannot afford to become marginalized internationally, especially in light of the accelerating trend toward globalization. However, from the perspective of these world bodies, Taiwan's lack of membership should stand out as a glaring omission because of the nation's large economy, democratic government, vital geographic location and foreign aid programs.

To its credit, even though Taiwan has not been allowed to enter the UN, many government policies adhere to UN standards. As Ma said in his inaugural address, 'Taiwan has to be a respectable member of the global village... As a world citizen, the Republic of China will accept its responsibilities in promoting free trade, nonproliferation, anti-global warming measures, counter-terrorism, humanitarian aid, and other global commons.'

For example, in May Ma laid out a plan to reduce Taiwan's carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. The plan targets cutting greenhouse gases to the 2000 level by 2025 and reducing them to half of the 2000 level by 2050. This is a courageous step because the lack of UN membership prevents the nation's participation in the Kyoto Protocol.

Taiwan also upholds UN standards in the area of women's rights. The UN's annual Human Development Report measures women's participation in politics, the economy and decision-making in member nations. As Taiwan is not a UN member, the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) compiles its own statistics based on UN standards and then ranks Taiwan among other countries accordingly. For 2007, DGBAS figures showed that Taiwan ranked 19th in the world in terms of women's empowerment.

Despite its lack of UN membership, Taiwan has also played a major part in international relief efforts. To help survivors of May's huge earthquake in mainland China's Sichuan province, Taiwan has contributed more financial aid than any other nation.

Although the second passage of the Preamble to the UN Charter emphasizes 'the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small,' the UN's position on Taiwan effectively means that the rights of Taiwanese are 'less equal' than those of people in other nations. The government will do its part to prepare a membership bid that will secure widespread domestic and international acceptance. After that, it will be up to the UN to adhere to its own lofty ideals.

This editorial appears in the September 1, 2008 issue of Taiwan Review online.

Taiwan Editorial Archive

Global Disease Prevention Network Must Include Taiwan


WHO Secretariat and China Have a Secret Memorandum of Understanding

By Dr. Hou Sheng-mou, Minister of Taiwan's Dept. of Health

The World Health Report 2007 – A Safer Future: Global Public Health Security in the 21st Century, issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), elucidates the importance of cooperation and information sharing among countries in the fight against disease. It emphasizes that more resources are required to establish a seamless global disease prevention network. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan stresses in her message published in the report that “international public health security is both a collective aspiration and a mutual responsibility… The new watchwords are diplomacy, cooperation, transparency, and preparedness.”

We highly approve of the importance the WHO attaches to health security because as one of the main victims of the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic, Taiwan had to learn firsthand that once a gap appears in the health security system, epidemics can spread with alarming rapidity and seriously impact the global economy and trade. Given today’s high level of social mobility, maintaining international health security has become more urgent than ever and requires close cooperation between all countries. There is no space for loopholes or lack of transparency in the disease reporting system.

Situated in the West Pacific, Taiwan plays a vital role in disease prevention. Every winter, nearly 1.25 million migratory birds of 351 species fly from Siberia and China to Taiwan, either to stay for the winter or to continue on to the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, or Australia. In the event of an outbreak of a lethal strain of bird flu that is highly communicable between human beings, the exclusion of Taiwan’s 23 million people from the WHO could make it extremely difficult for the global health network to control the international spread of the disease.

Taiwan’s determination to participate in the global health network and the sincerity of its motives have been made abundantly clear to the international community. On its own initiative, it began implementing the revised International Health Regulations (2005) one year before they came into force in 2007, and has now completed all necessary preparations mandated by the regulations. Taiwan continues to be excluded from the IHR (2005) notifiable disease reporting system, however, and is thus unable to immediately access information on disease outbreaks in other parts of the world or report local outbreaks to the WHO.

Regrettably, the WHO Secretariat and China signed a secret memorandum of understanding in 2005, stipulating that the WHO must receive clearance from Beijing before engaging in any interaction with Taiwan. Undeniably, this agreement seriously hampers disease prevention efforts and violates the rights of Taiwan’s people. Following the shigellosis outbreak in Denmark associated with baby corn exports from Thailand in September 2007, for example, the WHO conveyed the news to China, but it took China ten days to notify Taiwan about this health threat. We were lucky this time round: Our Department of Health confirmed that none of the affected corn had been imported. Though infection by the Shigella bacterium is seldom life-threatening in adults, this example underlines the risk incurred by leaving Taiwan out of the global health network.

Since Taiwan is a sovereign and independent nation, its public health system differs entirely from that of China. If an epidemic broke out in Taiwan, China could not replace Taiwan in monitoring it and providing assessments and reports to the WHO.

Such events and considerations demonstrate that the dependence of Taiwan and the WHO on China as a go-between for the transmission of epidemiological information inevitably creates a serious gap in the global disease prevention network. They underscore the necessity and urgency of establishing a direct communication channel between Taiwan and the WHO.

The first Director-General of the WHO, Brock Chisholm, was right when he said, “We cannot afford to have gaps in the fence against diseases, and any country, no matter what its political attitudes or affiliations are, can be a serious detriment to the effectiveness of the WHO if it is left outside. It is important that health should be regarded as a worldwide question, quite independent of political attitudes in any country in the world.” In this era of globalization, the risk to human health and the consequences of the responses we make have long since expanded beyond the boundaries of individual sovereign countries and become issues that must be handled within the framework of a global governance regime. No country can be excluded.

Taiwan is doing everything in its power to engage in constructive cooperation and fulfill its responsibility so that global health security can be guaranteed. Can the same be said of the WHO?

Taiwan Editorial Archive

True Colors

Comments by the Minister, Taiwanese Government Information Office

By Shieh Jhy-wey

We live in a good world, with good people in it. The human race has shown time and again that a spirit of compassion and love can overcome adversity, fear, injustice, and aggression. Even when natural disasters, famines, disease, conflict, terrorism, and tyranny do their worst, this indomitable spirit marches on, manifesting itself every day around the globe.

Though we are just seven years into the new millennium, we have already seen humanity meet many tragedies with a great outpouring of support that has saved and transformed countless lives. Perhaps the most striking example of this came at the close of 2004, when an underwater earthquake caused a tsunami, killing people in nations from Indonesia to South Africa. In the wake of the devastation the world opened its heart, rushing supplies, medical personnel, and financial aid to the region to help people rebuild their lives. Nearly $7 billion has been pledged by people from every nation and all walks of life to help these nations rebuild.

Almost a year prior to that catastrophe, an earthquake in Iran leveled the city of Bam, causing nearly 80,000 casualties. Nations across the world—including states not on the best of terms with Iran—rushed supplies and search-and-rescue teams to the area, saving countless lives.

Relatively well-off nations have, in their turn, also been the recipients of humanitarian assistance and spiritual support. After Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans in 2005, challenging the ability of the world’s strongest nation to bounce back, charity on a global scale was again the order of the day.

In September of 1999, an earthquake devastated central Taiwan, killing over 2,000 and doing billions of dollars in damage. Rushing to the scene were rescue teams from all nations. Relief aid also flowed from around the world to quake victims, and the people of my home country Taiwan have not forgotten.

The government, organizations, and people of Taiwan are always among the first to respond to a disaster. Showing solidarity with the tsunami victims, Taiwan was the eighth-highest donor of cash and supplies, with over half of Taiwan’s 23 million people making a contribution. In response to the 2003 earthquake, volunteers from the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation rushed to Iran to help rebuild schools and distribute donated food, medicine, and supplies. Millions of dollars in cash and goods were donated in the wake of Katrina to people in the United States by the people of Taiwan, who remember clearly the aid provided to them just a generation ago by the American people.

Yet the human spirit knows more than just how to recover—it also knows how to build. The continued integration of the states of Europe testifies to this, as people divided by language, culture, and historical interpretation have joined together under the banner of the European Union, adopting a single currency and working to cooperate on all fronts.

Meanwhile, we have seen freedom spread in the past few years as oppressed people in the Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan have thrown off the shackles that bound them in the so-called color revolutions. As they moved to reify President Woodrow Wilson’s vision of self-determination, these people’s success depended a great deal on the support offered them by the community of democracies, as does that of all peoples determined to fight for freedom and human rights.

Not so very long ago, on September 12, 2001, a quiet recognition of our inseparability as human beings defined the spirit I am speaking of. As the rubble from the World Trade towers smoldered in the streets of New York City, the French newspaper Le Monde published an editorial entitled simply: Nous sommes tous Américains – “We Are All Americans.”

The world has the opportunity to collectively address a different problem today. Of the nearly 200 countries in the world, Taiwan is the only one denied a seat in the United Nations. China, which makes unfounded claims to our nation’s territory, has pressured the UN to ignore the tenets of its own Charter, which grants the unconditional right of membership to all peace-loving states.

In seeking UN membership, we are not asking the world for a favor. We are challenging the world to return to the spirit of unity embodied the aforementioned editorial—to stand behind the oft-quoted principle that we are all created equal and realize that we are all in this together. We all have the power to help make this happen. Show your true colors. The people of Taiwan are counting on you.