As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the virus makes inroads into Taiwan, a shortage of vaccines has become the primary concern facing the nation. At this critical juncture, like the coming of plum rains after a long drought, timely assistance came — first from Tokyo and then from Washington.
Japan donated 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on June 4 and the US donated 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine on Saturday.
A friend in need is a friend indeed. The moral support and meticulous planning of Tokyo and Washington’s coordinated response have left many Taiwanese grateful beyond words.
Japan made its donation in the face of an all-out obstruction effort by China. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government overcame the obstacles and, with backing from former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, quickly pushed through with its plan.
The doses donated by Japan are not part of the COVAX program. They were prioritized for Taiwan and transported free of charge, arriving in Taipei to coincide with the 32nd anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.
The Taiwan-Japan Relations Association sent Taiwan a morale boost, invoking the Japanese folk hero Momotaro and Tanjiro Kamado, the main protagonist from the Japanese manga Demon Slayer. It called on Taiwan to “resist the lure of the demon,” hold firm and keep walking forward with its partners toward a brighter tomorrow filled with hope.
Suga, Abe and Japanese have come together to return the favor for Taiwan’s substantial aid following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
Japan’s generosity during a difficult time for Taiwan shows the value of Tokyo’s friendship.
Representative to Japan Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) welcomed the Japan Airlines plane carrying the vaccines, and in the pouring rain bowed deeply to thank Japan on behalf of all Taiwanese.
Taiwan expressed its heartfelt appreciation in other ways, too: Taipei 101 and the Grand Hotel in Taipei displayed illuminated messages of thanks on the facades of their buildings, the Internet filled with messages of gratitude and the association’s office was inundated with flower baskets.
The outbreak in Taiwan is still in a precarious phase, but Japan’s generous support shows that if the two nations stand together during times of need and move forward as one, their combined strength would allow them to weather the storm.
Taiwan has received similar compassion and support from the US.
On June 6, a cross-party delegation of US senators — Tammy Duckworth, Dan Sullivan and Chris Coons — arrived at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) aboard a US military transport aircraft for a three-hour visit.
They announced that Washington would donate 750,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan — the number was later raised to 2.5 million — and the nation would be prioritized in the first tranche of 25 million doses to be distributed globally by the US government this month.
The visit was a vivid expression of Washington and the US public’s concern for Taiwan, which gave Taiwanese a much-needed morale boost in their hour of need.
Duckworth is a legendary figure: a former US military helicopter pilot during the Iraq War, her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down over Iraq by a rocket-propelled grenade. She lost both legs, and her right arm was severely wounded, but she never gave up in the face of adversity.
Sullivan is a US Marine Corps veteran and serves on four US Senate committees, including the Armed Services Committee. When Taiwan was holding its first direct presidential election in 1996, Sullivan was serving in the Indo-Pacific region and was closely following the situation on the Taiwan Strait.
Coons, who represents the state of Delaware, was named as a candidate for secretary of state in US President Joe Biden’s administration, but eventually lost out to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The senators’ speeches during their stopover hit all the right notes. Duckworth told the story of her mother, who fled communist China on foot and resettled in Thailand.
She stressed the importance of supporting democracy, and said she and her family deeply understand the value of freedom, saying: “I’m here to tell you that the United States will not let you stand alone.”
Coons, who has previously submitted numerous motions in the US Senate in support of Taiwan, highlighted Taiwan’s unjust exclusion from the WHO, which has hampered the Taiwanese government’s ability to procure safe and effective vaccines, and said that US support for Taiwan is extremely important at this vital moment.
Sullivan recalled Taiwan’s donation of masks, bearing a “With love from Taiwan” design, during the early stages of the pandemic last year and said the vaccine donation is a way to repay Taiwan “with love from America.”
The US and Japan’s assistance during Taiwan’s hour of need highlights the best of human nature. Taiwan’s enthusiastic assistance to Japan after the 2011 earthquake, and its shipment of masks and other protective medical supplies to the US last year, were sincere acts of kindness and Taiwanese did not expect anything in return.
As with donations by Taiwanese companies and individuals to help medical workers in the battle to beat the virus, or donations to help survivors and bereaved families following a train crash in Hualien County in April, this benevolent spirit originates from Taiwanese’s ancestors, who had to help each other to overcome adversity during difficult times.
The assistance from Japan and the US is not only a manifestation of the basic values of human kindness, it also allows Taiwanese to distinguish who their real friends are.
In stark contrast, during this trying period, China has unquestionably showed its ugly side. Beijing has used “vaccine diplomacy” to further its own political interests, continued to block Taiwan from participating in the WHA, and repeatedly attempted to represent Taiwan and force international vaccine manufacturers to adhere to its “one China” principle.
Beijing also scuppered Taiwan’s negotiations to procure the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, and vehemently opposed Tokyo and Washington’s vaccine donations.
Beijing has exploited the pandemic to scheme and further its goal of annexing Taiwan. It has used the shortage of vaccines it had a hand in creating to spread fear and panic in Taiwan.
It is straight out of the cognitive warfare playbook — designed to polarize Taiwanese society and lure the nation into accepting Chinese vaccines.
Additionally, by starting multiple fires, Beijing aims to keep the government on the run and wear it into the ground.
However, most Taiwanese can see China’s cognitive warfare for what it is and understand that Japan repays assistance in kind, while China reciprocates by aiming even more missiles in Taiwan’s direction.
A minority of Taiwanese have seized on the nation’s lack of vaccines to spread rumors and launch vicious attacks; they criticize the government at the top of their lungs, yet when Beijing makes mischief, their silence is deafening.
Taiwan’s pro-China fifth column fills the airwaves with rage and venom on a daily basis, and prays for chaos and disaster to befall the nation. Their behavior is utterly abhorrent. They have reduced themselves to being running dogs for the Chinese Communist Party.
One such politician has one of the highest concentrations of confirmed cases of the virus within their constituency, while the vaccine uptake rate within their jurisdiction is at the lower end of the national average.
Yet this politician launches daily broadsides at the central government, and uses their online presence and fellow supporters to brag of their local administration’s “achievements” in combating the virus. This person is fast becoming a laughingstock without realizing it.
As for the main opposition party, it too has been unbearable during this period. As the domestic COVID-19 situation has worsened, this should have been an opportunity for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to step up to the plate through monitoring and supervising the government’s response.
Unfortunately, the KMT has failed to carry out its supervisory role in a responsible manner, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of many voters.
The party has engaged in meaningless stunts, such as chartering an empty bus emblazoned with a “Taiwan needs vaccines” slogan on the side to drive around the Presidential Office Building.
Five KMT county commissioners publicly pledged money to import vaccines at the county level, yet none of them sent off the paperwork. Instead of calmly asking for increased assistance from the central government, they have criticized it for being “too picky” about vaccine procurement and are agitating for Beijing’s “one China” vaccine.
Opposition parties, the KMT in particular, should take a leaf out of New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi’s (侯友宜) book.
Hou issued a statement thanking the US and Japan for their donations and said: “Everyone should pull together to find a way to import vaccines more quickly.” This is what a responsible opposition sounds like.
Adversity brings out both the best and the worst in people. This is a time for kindness, not hatred. The quicker the nation unites as one, the quicker it can defeat the virus.
Translated by Edward Jones
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