Current Developments

Security Commentaries #006

While we were away…

In the economy, Taiwan had a strong week that has the world buzzing. 


Annual GDP growth in 2020 outpaces that of China’s for the first time in three decades. As one of the only economies around the world to have recorded growth in their gross domestic product—major economies in the world largely showing trends of annual contractions during the year of a global pandemic—Taiwan’s GDP growth of 3.1% even passed China’s recorded 2.3%. According to the Statistics Department of Taiwan, it is forecasted that going into 2021, gross domestic product projections will likely expand to 4.64%.


Much of this is due to the unfettered growth of Taiwan’s industrial field in manufacturing and producing microchips and semiconductors throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The handling and management of the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with the constantly burgeoning semiconductor industry has once more put Taiwan on the map. What has been viewed as the most dire of situations, a U.S.-China trade war right on its doorstep, has proven to be an impetus for flexibility, adaptation and change for Taiwan’s industries. By repositioning itself in the global market and changing supply chains, Taiwan has elevated itself and its position on the global stage in a post-pandemic era.


TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited) , the nation’s biggest foundry and the world’s largest contract chipmaker, has plans to increase its production capacity and scale up its capital expenditure by 28 billion USD due to a global shortage in global automotive manufacturing. This decision came shortly after the U.S. National Economic Council Director, Brian Deese, appealed to Taiwan earlier this week to assist in resolving chip shortages in the automotive production industry worldwide.


In most recent defense news, cabinet-level reshuffles in defense and cross-strait affairs were announced and confirmed by the Tsai administration.


Last week, Taiwan’s top China policy officials of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), and defense/security heads of the NSC and NSB have been replaced with new heads. The appointment of Chiu Tai-san as a head of the MAC indicates that Tsai is looking forward to fostering more positive relations with China as Chiu is known as being “dovish” on issues related to China. Chiu’s main task will be to preserve cross-strait stability in a post-pandemic era. 


In his speech, during a swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, Chiu said that there are many expectations for the future of two sides of the strait and he will do his best to uphold these expectations. Chiu also mentioned that maintaining communication with Beijing amid current regional tensions would be difficult but he is eager to face those challenges.  


It seems that the Tsai administration’s efforts to send a conciliatory message to Beijing, in hopes of reestablishing ties and official channels of communication, is a step towards resetting relations. However, the past few years of incessant aggravation from both sides of the Taiwan Strait would take much more than simple pleasantries to undo.


Pineapples and Politics

On Friday last week, Beijing announced a ban on Taiwan-imported pineapples, which came into effect on Monday (March 1st). The announcement sparked backlash from not only the ruling DPP party, but also netizens online. Some even comparing the incident to China’s ban on Australian products when the relations between the two nations soured in 2020.


However, the issue has now become much more complex and multi-faced by mid-week, as the political Hegelian dialectic arc of the conversation has reared its head in the public discourse. This has become no longer simply a problem of pineapples and the cited pests Beijing alleges. Rather, the overall attitude of the continuously deteriorating cross-strait relationship is now tacitly part of this dialogue. 


TCSS will continue to monitor the situation and keep our readers up to date on the most recent developments.


In global news...


On Wednesday Ghana became the country first in the world to receive 600,000 doses of the UN-backed COVAX initiative that plans to deliver almost 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. Ghana will receive vaccines from the Oxford/AstraZeneca made by the Serum Institute of India. The country’s vaccination campaign will start on March 2nd and will be conducted in phases among prioritized groups such as health workers, elderly people, frontline executive, legislature, judiciary and their related staff.


In a joint statement, the country representatives of UNICEF and WHO described the arrival of COVAX vaccines as a “momentous occasion” critical to bringing the pandemic to an end. “After a year of disruption due to the pandemic… the path to recovery for the people of Ghana can finally begin.”


Ghana is among 92 low- and medium- income countries that have signed onto the COVAX program. The African Union has also secured hundreds of millions of doses through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, buying from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Astrazeneca as well as Sputnik V. 


It remains to be seen whether the program would receive much-needed contributions from other western countries, whose current export of their vaccines remains largely for profit. French president Emmanuel Macron has called on wealthy nations to donate 5% of their vaccine supply to the cause.