Russia’s senseless invasion of Ukraine has forced the world to take sides, exposing the convictions of everyone from nation states to individuals. Democratic countries and their citizens have been enthusiastic in their support for Ukraine and unequivocal in espousing their liberal convictions, while others, such as China, have been hedging their bets or defending the Kremlin’s actions.
As foot soldiers in the economic war against Russia, companies are also expected to step up. Asustek Computer Inc has learned this the hard way, as pressure grows on the firm to sever its ties with Russia.
In a letter addressed to Asustek chairman Jonney Shih (施崇棠) that was posted to Twitter on Thursday last week, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov formally requested that the Taipei-based firm stop doing business in Russia until “the Russian aggression in Ukraine is fully stopped and fair order is restored.”
“Russians have no moral right to use your brilliant technology! It’s for peace, not for war!” he said in an accompanying Twitter message, one of dozens the digital minister has been making to pressure multinationals into intensifying existing sanctions.
Asustek yesterday said that logistics and banking issues have brought its Russian shipments to a standstill, and that it would donate NT$30 million (US$1.05 million) to Ukrainian assistance, adding that it “would pay close attention to any new developments,” stopping short of severing ties with the market.
Those in the business world are finding that refusing to declare a position is now understood as taking a stance, especially in a situation with stakes this high. Dodging the question has also become impossible, as the public can now deluge a company with social media criticism when it refuses to engage.
Pressure on Asustek to pull out of Russia has only increased since Fedorov’s initial Twitter message.
Asked about the issue at a legislative hearing yesterday, Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) said it was her understanding that Asustek would “consider an evacuation” from the Russian market. She cited concern about its reputation, but declined to comment further.
The pressure is unlikely to dissipate soon, especially with so many people ready to call out companies trying to have it both ways.
Especially as a Taiwanese company, Asustek has a responsibility to stand up for the democratic values that have made its success possible. Pulling out of the Russian market would result in a loss of less than 5 percent of its notebook sales, according to an estimate from a local investment consultant, while the move could have a significant effect on the Russian economy, given that 29 percent of Russian respondents to a Statista survey last year said that their household uses an Asus laptop.
Taiwanese and the government were quick to show their support for Ukraine. Sanctions announced late last month shortly after the invasion began earned Taiwan a spot on Russia’s “unfriendly list,” while Taiwanese as of Friday had donated NT$521.98 million to assist Ukrainian refugees.
It is time for companies still on the sidelines to enthusiastically join this united front and show the world that all of Taiwan’s society is committed to the values that set it apart from its bellicose neighbor, even if it would hurt their bottom lines. After all, if Taiwan is one day at the epicenter of conflict, hopefully the world would decide to help rather than pinch pennies.
As Vice President William Lai (賴清德) said last week, if Taiwan is a bystander in Ukraine’s war, why would other countries support Taiwan?
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has a good reason to avoid a split vote against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in next month’s presidential election. It has been here before and last time things did not go well. Taiwan had its second direct presidential election in 2000 and the nation’s first ever transition of political power, with the KMT in opposition for the first time. Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was ushered in with less than 40 percent of the vote, only marginally ahead of James Soong (宋楚瑜), the candidate of the then-newly formed People First Party (PFP), who got almost 37
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) has called on his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) counterpart, William Lai (賴清德), to abandon his party’s Taiwanese independence platform. Hou’s remarks follow an article published in the Nov. 30 issue of Foreign Affairs by three US-China relations academics: Bonnie Glaser, Jessica Chen Weiss and Thomas Christensen. They suggested that the US emphasize opposition to any unilateral changes in the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait, and that if Lai wins the election, he should consider freezing the Taiwanese independence clause. The concept of de jure independence was first
Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on Thursday reiterated that he is “deep-green at heart” and that he would mostly continue President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) national defense and foreign policies if elected. However, he was still seriously considering forming a “blue-white” electoral alliance with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) less than a month ago, telling students he “hates the KMT, but loathes the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) even more,” while constantly criticizing Tsai’s foreign policy these past few years. Many critics have said that Ko’s latest remarks were aimed at attracting green-leaning swing voters, as recent polls
Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor and India’s Ministry of External Affairs have confirmed that the two countries plan to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) this month on recruiting Indians to work in Taiwan. While this marks another step in deepening ties between the two nations, it has also stirred debate, as misunderstandings and disinformation about the plan abound. Taiwan is grappling with a shortage of workers due to a low birthrate and a society that is projected to turn super-aged by 2025. Official statistics show that Taiwan has a labor shortfall of at least 60,000 to 80,000, which is expected