The White Paper That Almost Didn’t Happen

Publishing a White Paper during normal times is a massive task. It’s extremely challenging to get scores of busy business leaders working for competing companies in 25 different industries to find the time to meet and agree on what their top issues are. Then they need to work with the AmCham Taipei staff to draft their chapters, and get them edited, translated into Chinese, and sent off to the printer under inflexible deadlines.

Publishing a White Paper during bad times is a nearly impossible task. And times have been extremely bad lately. The COVID-19 crisis erupted just as we were starting this year’s Taiwan White Paper process, arranging meetings for our committees to start discussing what issues got solved and which ones they would raise this year. The virus added a few extra thick layers of complexity to an already ambitious project.

There were moments when doubt nearly overwhelmed me. I was deeply worried that we wouldn’t be able to publish a White Paper this year. Some members quietly suggested to me that we postpone or scuttle the project just to play it extra safe with COVID-19. 

Many of our members were facing corporate restrictions that prevented them from meeting in person. There was great uncertainty over whether we could properly present the White Paper in public or invite a senior official to receive it. Doubts lingered about whether we could arrange the last-minute meetings with the government that often lead to breakthroughs just before the deadline. Belt-tightening at our member companies raised concerns about whether we could sell enough advertisements to finance this expensive project.

Despite these challenges, we completed the White Paper. We even included a 20-page supplement about talent development. We also set a new record by getting all the drafts submitted by the end of April. Two main things made this possible: expertise and determination.

By expertise, I mean the stellar way that Taiwan’s government and people have contained the coronavirus threat. If Taiwan had lost the early battle with the virus (as I’m sorry to say the U.S. did) and had to shut down like so many other countries have, writing and publishing a White Paper would have been impossible. AmCham is deeply grateful to Taiwan for managing this crisis better than any other country in the world.

By determination, I’m referring to the never-give-up spirit that drove our members, staff, and officials. They used every possible tool and tactic – face masks, videoconferences, social distancing – to make sure they could hold meetings that were productive and safe. Although this was her first White Paper, our director of government and public affairs, Gwen Wang-Reeves, drove the process like she had been doing it for years. 

I was especially impressed by the dedication of government officials who welcomed our committees into their offices and meeting rooms during the final weeks of the White Paper process to try to resolve issues. This showed they truly cared about the document.

All of our White Papers are special. But this one is more than most. In so many ways, it’s a miracle.