She can also do two paradoxical things at once: to come & not to come while being clothed yet not clothed and bringing a gift ungifted. Mission Impossible for others, she can manage with a spoonful of wit and a dash of creativity.
See the allegory? Taiwan isn’t a standalone country, but it’s not China either. It’s a paradoxical state, a mission possible thanks to its wit and creativity. A state version of Princess Scooter.
While the Czech Republic considers itself the heart of Europe, Taiwan proudly declares itself the heart of Asia. This shared organ-geography isn’t their only commonality; they also share economic ties. In 2005, during negotiations between Tesco and Carrefour to divide the Eurasian market, Carrefour offered its Czech (and four Slovak) supermarkets in exchange for those on the Taiwanese island. Both countries are in a similar phase of developing their startup markets, emphasizing innovation in their strategies.
Taiwan embraces everything new, from drone transportation to pet burials in the metaverse. Simultaneously, it’s strengthening its famous “Silicon Shield,” as it’s referred to, to maintain its indispensability in the global semiconductor market. Last year, Taiwan received up to 65% of its income from the worldwide semiconductor market, with the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) being the major player in the industry.
Semiconductors are the backbone of all smart devices and electronics; without them, we can’t code, take photos, or even write this article. Additionally, Taiwanese companies manufacture the majority of the most advanced chips that are crucial for the future of autonomous vehicles.
When the Czech consul in Taiwan introduces his diplomatic role, he uses the term “Grand Vizier,” but on his business card, it’s written as “Representative.” The title of “Ambassador” is reserved for sovereign states, while Taiwan is not recognized by the UN (not even by the Czech Republic). The island’s formal name is the Republic of China, and it’s officially a quasi-independent territory of the People’s Republic of China. Clothed yet not clothed, bringing a gift ungifted.
Taiwan has its own army, government, tax policies, space program, and even its own bear. However, Taiwan’s position doesn’t allow the “Grand Vizier” to be titled as an ambassador, as the Chinese big brother dislikes any reference to Taiwan as a “state.” In 2021, actor John Cena unintentionally made this “mistake” during an interview promoting the movie “Fast & Furious” and had to issue a public apology (in Chinese) shortly after.
Taiwan is not a fully independent country, but it’s not China either. It’s a state-non-state, an autonomous yet not independent, like the Princess Scooter, clothed yet not clothed. This princess recently launched one of the largest investment funds for Central and Eastern Europe; Taiwania Capital, funded by the National Development Fund, has prepared $200 million for the CEE investments.
China’s public statements about reuniting the wandering island territory with the mainland have become commonplace. Likewise, Chinese military exercises near the borders and frequent airspace incursions. However, conflicts have so far been confined to the realm of symbolism and so-called “soft power.” For example, Taiwan has consistently resisted China’s panda diplomacy and cuteness. Instead, it uses its endemic black bear as a semi-official national symbol.
Mainland China, on the other hand, emphasized its assumed sovereignty by featuring a famous Taiwanese lake on the main page of its passport in 2012. Do you remember the movie “World War Z”? The zombie virus, initially originating from China, shifted to Taiwan due to the immense size of the Chinese film market. A recent dispute involves Taiwan’s decision to ban the TikTok app on all state-owned devices.
Taiwan is often portrayed as David, boldly resisting the enormous Goliath. However, this analogy must be expanded to acknowledge that David is running a substantial business with Goliath and employing him to make slingshots. Most Taiwanese technology companies have their factories in China, which does not suffer from the “business disadvantages” of a democratic society. Thus, despite their occasional clashes, Taiwan vigorously utilizes cheap labor in China.
How Does It Work?
The average salary in Taiwan is around 1800 euros / month. They have labor unions, fixed working hours, and paid overtime. When it’s 5 PM, you leave. And if a meeting runs late, you might find yourself locked inside the building, regardless of whether you’re sitting with the company CEO. Additionally, Taiwanese public institutions are not allowed to use products or technologies of Chinese origin.
This often leads to paradoxical situations. For instance, the island manufacturer DronesVision can’t supply its military drones to its own state because they have Chinese-made propellers.
The Impact on the Bear:
In Taiwan, you will encounter a spectrum of opinions, ranging from calls for immediate independence to a return to the larger mainland “parent.” Some view Chinese threats as mere rhetoric, while others consider them a reason to join the active reserves. These reserves feature a bear with a submachine gun in their logo. And they recently received a gift of $33 million from billionaire Robert Tsao, the founder of the first Taiwanese semiconductor company, United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC).
Nevertheless the “Silicon Shield”, island companies realize that the sea-line border with mainland China is as thin as the political ice Taiwan is dancing on. “Even though we don’t believe there necessarily will be a conflict in Taiwan, we need to admit that this possibility exists and take repercussions. Few years ago, we didn’t think there could be a war in Europe. Similar to Israel just a little while back. So, we need to consider what could happen here,” says Monica Lee, founder of the drone manufacturing company Aiseed.
Even among staunch advocates of independence, economic pragmatism prevails. “I have many friends in China, and we have production facilities and several branches there. We need China,” says Ellen Lee, the business director of Adam Tech. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to become independent from them as soon as possible. And if they were to attack? I would immediately fight for my country,” she adds shining more light on the Princess Scooting Island.
“The smartest country in World War II was the Czech Republic, right next to the Nazi power, yet it survived with minimal losses, both financial and in lives,” explains Frank Lin from National Formosa University in the western Yün-lin district. According to him, Taiwanese companies can collaborate with the mainland, but universities cannot, which he sees as a mistake.
However, the numbers speak for themselves, and the truth is that the vast majority of Taiwanese support some version of the current status quo. According to the latest polls from the Center for Election Studies at National Chengchi University, only 1.3% of the population favors complete reunification with China. As for early full independence, 5.3% support it. The overwhelming majority of islanders prefer to maintain some form of the existing narrative. Autonomous and nonautonomous, coming & not coming and bringing a gift ungifted.