Taiwan Government and International – April 2022

Taiwan's government and citizens have found several ways to show support for Ukraine since its invasion by Russian forces, including rallies, fundraising, and trade sanctions. Photo: CNA

By Dexter Murray

ROC Citizens, Officials Rally Behind Ukraine

The parallels between Ukraine’s and Taiwan’s precarious geopolitical situations – smaller economies facing threats from larger, authoritarian neighbors – have engendered sympathy from many Taiwanese people. On March 2, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) set up a designated fund to accept donations to help Ukrainian people displaced from their homes. The fund received NT$610 million (US$21.2 million) in less than two weeks and will continue accepting contributions until April 1.

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu announced that Taiwan would be donating more than US$11.5 million to multiple EU countries aiding Ukrainian refugees. The announcement came on the heels of a NT$100 million (US$3.53 million) donation from MOFA to Poland’s Governmental Strategic Reserves Agency, which will allocate the money to help Ukrainian refugees in the country. MOFA also announced that it would accept material donations such as sleeping bags, thermal clothing, milk powder, medicines, and medical accessories. The ministry had collected more than 800 boxes of donated supplies within two days of initiating the campaign.

Taiwan has also provided political support for Ukraine. Less than a week after Russia’s initial attack, President Tsai Ing-wen, Vice President William Lai, and Premier Su Tseng-chang all announced that they would donate one month’s salary to relief efforts in Ukraine. In addition, Taiwan’s government has announced that it will join Western nations in placing economic and trade sanctions on Russia. Trade between Taiwan and Russia is limited, accounting for less than 1% of Taiwan’s total trade, but Premier Su framed the decision to join the sanctions as a vital demonstration of Taiwan’s commitment to solidarity with democratic nations.

Marshall Islands Draw Closer to Taiwan

Marshall Islands President David Kabua visited Taiwan in March. The small Pacific Island nation is one of Taiwan’s outspoken diplomatic partners. Photo: CNA

President David Kabua of the Marshall Islands, one of Taiwan’s few official diplomatic partners, traveled to Taiwan on March 21 for a five-day visit.

The small Pacific Island nation is considered to be deep within the U.S. sphere of influence and has maintained an official relationship with Taiwan since 1998. During his visit, President Kabua offered his support to Taiwan and emphasized that he would continue to utilize his country’s seat in the United Nations to advocate for Taiwan’s participation in that organization. During last year’s UN General Assembly, President Kabua called for Taiwan to be included in the UN’s specialized agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO).

In a private meeting, Kabua and President Tsai discussed the creation of a joint fund to assist the Marshall Islands in combatting the effects of climate change and rising sea levels, which threaten the island nation’s future.

Biden, Xi Discuss Taiwan During Ukraine Call

Taiwan was among a number of issues discussed during the first call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war has raised fears that China might pursue a similar course of action to achieve its stated goal of unification with Taiwan. China has been sending warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone with increasing frequency, and sailed an aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait just a few hours before Biden’s call.

Such actions, combined with parallels drawn between the situations in Ukraine and Taiwan, have also alarmed investors. Foreign investors have sold more than US$16.9 billion (around NT$480 billion) worth of Taiwan-related shares since the invasion, according to Taipei-based investment firm Mega International Investment Services. Major banks estimate that more capital has left Taiwan in the past month than in all of 2021.

President Biden expressed concern regarding China’s threatening actions in the Taiwan Strait and reaffirmed the U.S.’ commitment to maintaining the status quo. President Xi responded by warning of consequences if the U.S. does not “properly” handle the Taiwan issue and said that “some people” in the U.S. are “sending the wrong signals to Taiwan’s independence forces.” The two leaders’ discussion has not quelled fears of a possible military conflict between China and Taiwan in the future. For example, nine out of 10 people in Japan expressed some degree of concern about a possible invasion of Taiwan, according to a recent poll by Mainichi Shimbun and Saitama University’s Social Survey Research Center. Some U.S. analysts speculate that the outcome of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will influence China’s future decisions regarding Taiwan and have called for greater pushback against China’s efforts to isolate the island diplomatically. In Taiwan, Vice President William Lai said it was best to “prepare for the worst” and noted that there have been growing calls to extend the length of mandatory military service for Taiwanese men.