The year of 2022 marked the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Taipei Mission in the Republic of Latvia, and the 22nd anniversary of the launch of the Taiwan-Latvia-Lithuania Trilateral Scientific Cooperation Program. “Today, our warm and long-standing bilateral relations continue to grow. We share a desire for a positive relationship underpinned by our shared belief in freedom and democracy, mutual understanding and respect, and cooperation in various areas of common interest,” Mr. Andrew H.C. Lee, Representative of the Taipei Mission in the Republic of Latvia, told The Baltic Times Magazine.
As we’re talking amid the war in Ukraine, unlike many other Asian nations, Taiwan has been an outspoken supporter of Ukraine. Why? What is Taiwan’s support for Ukraine as of now?
Although Taiwan and Ukraine are far from each other in terms of geographic location, the two countries share the universal values of democracy, freedom, human rights and rule of law that also prevail among like-minded countries. Like Ukraine and the Baltic States, Taiwan has for decades been at the front line fighting against the authoritarian threat and aggression. In the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Taiwanese government’s stance is crystal clear: support to Ukraine, sanctions against Russia and a stronger Taiwan standing ready to defend itself, and it requires solidarity, collaboration, and a concerted effort of the international community to stop the brutal aggression and extend a helping hand to the Ukrainians.
By putting ourselves in Ukraine’s shoes, and echoing the humanitarian good deeds for universal values, Taiwan has been working closely with the international community to join such meaningful and righteous causes of helping the displaced Ukrainians in a timely manner. Immediately after the onset of the Ukrainian war, Taiwan proactively joined the international sanctions against Russia and offered humanitarian aid to Ukraine. These include banning the export of semiconductors to Russia, offering scholarships to Ukrainian scholars and students, and donating US$33 million in cash and 700 tons of humanitarian materials and medical items to Ukrainians to demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine and the neighboring countries hugely affected by the war.
Under the initiative, the government of Taiwan donated US$1 million respectively to the Latvian charity organization Ziedot.lv and the Estonian Refugee Council (ERC) early this year to help the displaced Ukrainians sheltered in both countries. Furthermore, Taiwan has also received some 200 Ukrainian students and scholars through scholarship programs and job opportunities. Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu announced a US$8 million donation on behalf of the people of Taiwan to Ukraine during a video conference with Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko in April, which is a sign of true friendship between two countries.
What are the main take-aways from the Ukraine war for Taiwan? Has Taiwan ramped up its defense during it?
Appeasement does not lead us to peace and turning a blind eye will only send a wrong message to the aggressors that they can do whatever they like without paying the consequences, without paying a price. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is one of the vivid examples and a hard-learned lesson for the international community.
China has threatened Taiwan militarily for years, and it continues to upgrade its aggressiveness. Taiwan is always on high alert of our national security and is greatly encouraged by more and more like-minded countries such as the US and EU countries expressing concern over and addressing the importance of peace and stability across Taiwan Strait. A vivid example is that the Biden administration has so far approved six weapons packages for Taiwan since he took office, demonstrating the US’s commitment to stand with its democratic alliance in Asia based on the Taiwan Relation Act (TRA).
In facing China’s continued military threat, Taiwan’s society, military and government have displayed resilience and confidence, and remained calm. Taiwan will continue to staunchly uphold its free and democratic way of life. Acting upon its beliefs with the same determination, Taiwan is continuing to improve defense capabilities, facilitate military reforms and engage in a recruitment reform program transforming a voluntary system to conscription, while enhancing civil defense and asymmetric warfare capabilities. One of the most noticeable measures was the establishment of the All-Out Defense Mobilization Agency (AODMA) under the Ministry of National Defense in January this year, with the aim of strengthening Taiwan’s defense resilience, bolstering military training capacity and refining reserve training programs, increasing the readiness of its reservists. However, it is equally important to have support from democratic allies and like-minded countries to stand together and work jointly against the PRC’s uncontrolled ambition and expansionism.
The war is rattling energy and financial markets and is likely to shape up new geopolitical contours. What do you believe they will be?
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has significantly changed the geopolitical landscape and has had a profound impact on global energy, food and financial markets. The implications of the war for the global economy and financial markets are mainly reflected in the area of economic sanctions, commodities prices, and supply chain disruptions. It has, therefore, brought higher energy and food prices, with knock-on effects for the cost-of-living crisis across the European continent, with financially vulnerable countries bearing the brunt of the negative consequences of the energy crisis.
As Russia intensifies its relations with China, the two countries are building up authoritarian forces that will potentially interrupt the market system, disrupt global supply chains and cause great turmoil to the world economy. Just like Russia’s increasing control of the East European region, China not only ramps up its aggression in the East China Sea, South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, and in the Indo-Pacific region, but also accelerates its aggressive approach to the Baltic and Arctic regions. These have unveiled its true nature of being a world hegemony that is highly likely to tilt the balance of power and bring about more risks to the regional stability and global market.
In order to build up robust and resilient energy supply chain and financial markets, like minded around the world should work together to make sure the supply chain is not subject to disruption caused by a specific authoritative country. Taiwan, as a trustworthy member of the international community, is willing to join the collective efforts to create a stable and resilient global supply chain in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
Taiwan was one of very few world economies whose GDP grew impressively in 2021, still marked by the pandemic, 6.3 percent, to be exact. What is behind the success?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across the globe in 2019, Taiwan has continued to work on its anti-pandemic efforts that have help safeguard its economic development in the turmoil of the pandemic. Taiwan has utilized digital technologies to combat the pandemic, and has leveraged smart technologies, such as apps, web-based tools, and other information technologies, and integrated them with the national database to develop innovative anti-pandemic policies and measures. Taiwan’s anti-pandemic efforts have made it possible to efficiently monitor and control domestic outbreaks and avoid potential disruption to the development of economy. It has also shown that Taiwan is willing and able to join global efforts to combat the pandemic and tackle numerous challenges in the post-pandemic era. As the world’s 16th largest economy and a major semiconductor and ICT manufacturer, Taiwan plays an indispensable role in building a resilient supply chain in a more interdependent and integrated global economy. Taiwan will continue to shoulder its responsibility along with other countries to shape a secure and robust trading framework.
What recent trends in Latvia-Taiwan trade do you see? Which statistical data is especially heart-warming and which needs to be improved?
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Taipei Mission in the Republic of Latvia, and the 22nd anniversary of the launch of the Taiwan-Latvia-Lithuania Trilateral Scientific Cooperation Program. Today, our warm and long-standing bilateral relations continue to grow. We share a desire for a positive relationship underpinned by our shared belief in freedom and democracy, mutual understanding and respect, and cooperation in various areas of common interest such as trade, economic cooperation, culture, education, people-to-people exchange, science and technology.
There are over 70 projects that were sponsored by the trilateral program since its establishment. As a result, understanding and collaboration between the three countries have been greatly promoted and enhanced, the research capacity has been hugely built up, and the sphere and scope of study continue to expand. We believe that through shared commitment and joint effort, we will be able to strengthen this collaboration even further in the most cutting-edge fields of science and technology, based on the comparative advantage and common interest among three parties.
In addition to Sister University relations established in 2009, Taiwan’s National Sun Yat-sen University and the Institute of Solid State Physics, University of Latvia, jointly set up the Taiwan and the Baltic States Research Center on Physics (TBRCP) in 2020. In the past two years, the Center has routinely organized bilateral academic workshops and succeeded in matching international research teams in physics, optoelectronics, materials science, environmental engineering and marine sciences.
Something especially encouraging is that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan is working with National Sun Yat-sen University and the other 18 universities in Taiwan to launch the “Taiwan-Europe Connectivity Scholarship Program” offering open-ended slots to bachelor, master and doctoral students from Latvia and Estonia to pursue degree, double-degree, and non-degree across fields of study, or a Chinese language program, in Taiwan by offering a generous scholarship package, covering miscellaneous fees and a monthly stipend (500-800 Euro). I would to like to take this opportunity to invite the students and scholars of Latvia and Estonia to choose Taiwan as a destination for pursuing further studies, as a hub for Taiwan research and Sinology, and a springboard to better understand China and Asia as a market.
Most recent examples of ongoing progress in the past few months include a dialogue mechanism between two sister capital cities, Taipei and Riga, established through a video conference between two Deputy Mayors discussing cooperation in the areas of smart city and net-zero emission. The Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and the Importers and Exporters Association of Taipei (IEAT), respectively, signed an agreement of mutual cooperation with the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). The agreements are expected to grant a wide range of business opportunities and deepen trade and commercial links between Taiwan and Latvia. As the 16th largest trading economy and the fourth holder of foreign exchange reserve in the world, Taiwan is ready and in a good position to further enhance substantial relations with Latvia and Estonia.
What do you make of the resolutions of China's Communist Party Congress that took place in October? Are you expecting China’s tougher policy on Taiwan now?
Over the past seven decades, China has employed diplomatic isolation, military intimidation, economic coercion, a disinformation campaign, and hybrid warfare against Taiwan, attempting to wipe out Taiwan from the world map. Under Xi Jing-ping, China has further ratcheted up political, economic, and military pressure on Taiwan. Its repeated and provocative military actions clearly violate the UN principle of the peaceful settlement of disputes and blatantly trample on the spirit of the UN Charter. The PRC’s heavy-handed acts are unacceptable to civilized countries that uphold peace, stability, and the rule of law, and have sparked grave concern among the international community.
For decades, Beijing has also forcefully imposed a One China policy as a prerequisite on its bilateral relations with other countries, and maliciously interpreted it in the UN system and the international community. Furthermore, in August Beijing released its first white paper in 22 years outlining China’s even more hostile and bellicose approach to Taiwan. The white paper maintains the “One Country, Two Systems” framework for a post-reunification Taiwan, reaffirms that no individual or force will be allowed to separate Taiwan from China and noted its readiness to respond with the use of force against external forces that obstruct China’s reunification. It is projected that the authoritarian China will keep threatening democratic Taiwan by all means in the future, especially under Xi’s 3rd term ruling after further consolidating his power at the Chinese Communist Party Congress.
While Taiwan is under tremendous military pressure from China on a daily basis, we will neither escalate conflict, nor will we succumb to any pressure imposed by China. Instead, we will continue to steadily promote international exchanges and linkages, and stand strong as a beacon of democracy, resolutely defend our security, independence and sovereignty, exercise restraint, and refrain from instigating disputes.