President Tsai's second term gets underway

WHA disappointment doesn't dampen the inauguration of President Tsai Ing-wen's second term while Taiwan continues to see zero coronavirus cases for the thirteenth straight day

President Tsai Ing-wen was inaugurated today, May 20, as her second term got underway. As expected, she gave a strong speech in which she stressed the need to continue revitalizing the economy, the priority of lowering the voting age to 18, and rejected China’s demand to agree to the “1992 Consensus.”

The new cabinet is almost unchanged from the previous, with the key posts of the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, health, interior and labour remaining the same.

Taiwan continues to be excluded from the WHO after it was not invited to the WHO’s World Health Assembly (WHA), which started on May 18, and decided not to request a member vote to regain its observer status. There was already heavy pressure from China on the WHO to exclude Taiwan.

Taiwan’s government said it made this decision so as not to take up vital time during the WHA, but it did issue an official letter of protest to the WHO. Taiwan will also donate 23.5 million masks, 770,000 protection and isolation-unit gowns, and respirators to other countries, having already donated 27.5 million masks, thermometers and body temperature detection systems.

Taiwan will be one of the few countries that will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic stronger than ever, not surprisingly due to its ability to contain the outbreak, remain functioning and donate millions of facemasks and other PPE to countries around the world.

Also backing this view is this Atlantic article, which says that Taiwan is winning friends with its coronavirus diplomacy.

Time magazine takes an in-depth look at how Taiwan handled the coronavirus outbreak, starting with how it raised concerns with the WHO, which promptly ignored Taiwan.

While it is disappointing Taiwan is still being excluded from the WHO, I argue this does not change the fact Taiwan deserves to participate in the international arena.

I’m glad to say that as of today, May 20, Taiwan’s coronavirus cases remain at 440 and deaths remain at seven, the same numbers as in last week’s newsletter. That’s because Taiwan has seen zero cases for 13 straight days, as well as no locally transmitted cases for 38 straight days.

Recently, there have been some worrying military drills and warning messages from China towards Taiwan. A Taiwanese expert believes as the messages have several purposes - internal propaganda intended for its own population as both inspiration and warning, and as intimidation for Taiwan. However, the recent actions of the PLA such as nighttime flights near Taiwan and large-scale drills indicate preparation for attacking and surrounding Taiwan. He ends with a message that the PLA will always be a threat to Taiwan.

Even the KMT is asking China to stop threatening Taiwan with force in the form of an appeal from the party’s chairman Chiang Chi-chen.

The New Southbound Policy (NSP), President Tsai’s flagship program to boost trade with 18 countries in the region, will continue to be carried out, even in face of challenges from the coronavirus pandemic. While trade has been impacted, further ties in health cooperation and educational exchanges are expected.

The New York Times and six other international news organizations have applied to open bureaus in Taiwan this year. This would bring the number of such outlets in Taiwan to 59 from 16 countries. This is a welcome move from the Times as Taiwan is a perfect spot to cover the region without worrying about being arrested for what you report on.

TSMC will build a US$12-billion chip factory in the southern US state of Arizona, driven by tensions between China and the US. TSMC will also stop accepting new orders from Chinese company Huawei in response to US moves to limit the supplying of chips to Huawei.

Renewable energy producers can now directly sell and transmit power to end-users. Previously, the producers were required to sell their power to state utility Taipower.

The number of furloughed workers has passed 21,000, the highest number since November 2009.

The government said it will give out coupons to the public in July to boost consumption. More details will be provided in June.

The maximum number of fans who can attend every Taiwan CPBL baseball game is now 2,000, up from 1,000. In addition, fans are able to buy boxed meals and families can sit together without being subject to social distancing restrictions.

Would you try a pineapple that smells like mango? Taiwanese scientists have developed such a specimen, which apparently will be better suited to Taiwan’s climate and taste better than regular pineapples.

The number of babies born in Taiwan fell to an 9-year low in 2019. The 175,074 newborns were the second-fewest since 1974, when authorities started keeping records.