In the past, foreign aid in Taiwan was often labeled as “money diplomacy” and “cash-for-friendship diplomacy,” with some critics claiming that Taiwan was helping other countries instead of prioritizing local needs. These criticisms evolve from a lack of thorough understanding of foreign aid and have frustrated international development workers. This also highlights the false stereotypes that have been deeply rooted in people’s minds as a result of exposure to misleading information on foreign aid over the years.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic at the end of 2019, Taiwan has provided assistance and shared our pandemic prevention experience internationally in various ways. In addition to making specific contributions to other countries to prevent the spread of the global pandemic, Taiwan has demonstrated its public health soft power and pandemic containment successes through transparent information and advanced deployment measures, bringing global support for Taiwan to play a more important role in the international public health field.
The spread of the disease is borderless and poses an immense threat to the world. In helping other countries fight the pandemic, Taiwan is also reducing the risk of the pandemic from outside Taiwan. Hence, foreign aid also becomes domestic aid.
The international economy, which has become increasingly interconnected from globalization, has completely shut down due to the pandemic, as if the world has been paused. The economies of most countries have suffered, and developing countries have been hardest hit and urgently need development assistance from the international community. At the same time however, many donor countries have also been impacted and have had to review the allocation of foreign aid resources, posing a dilemma for global development assistance.
With Taiwan’s achievements in containing the pandemic, our resources and experience could be used to carry out “coronavirus diplomacy,” and turn the “Taiwan Can Help” slogan into action. Assisting allied and friendly countries to reduce the threat posed by the pandemic has greatly enhanced Taiwan’s international image, and won more support for its international participation. Coronavirus diplomacy exemplifies a successful case of Taiwan’s transformation of effective international assistance into diplomatic power.
This issue is themed “International Assistance under COVID-19,” and the first article titled “Taiwan’s Coronavirus Diplomacy under COVID-19: Taking TaiwanICDF as an Example” is written by TaiwanICDF Deputy Secretary General Alex L. J. Shyy. Through his long-term observation of international assistance and the TaiwanICDF’s experience in assisting friendly countries fight the pandemic, he discusses Taiwan’s coronavirus diplomacy actions, and shares how the TaiwanICDF has used our foreign aid experience and resources to help allied countries fight COVID-19, and to strengthen bilateral relations.
The pandemic has severely impacted the international economy, and has also affected global international development assistance. In the article “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Global Economy
and International Assistance and its Inspiration to Taiwan,” by Kristy Tsun-Tzu Hsu, program director of Taiwan ASEAN Studies Center at Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, she states that COVID-19 is changing the needs and patterns of international assistance programs. Therefore, donor countries must establish new approaches to assist developing countries and least developed countries hit by the pandemic. Director Hsu concludes the article by emphasizing Taiwan should consider strengthening the use of Taiwan’s foreign aid resources and industrial advantages to identify the best strategy for Taiwan’s foreign aid, as the pandemic has had a significant impact on global foreign aid programs.
COVID-19 is currently the most pressing public health issue, and how countries implement international medical assistance will affect the follow-up development of the pandemic. Dr. Ya- Wen Chiu, professor in the Master Programs in Global Health and Development at Taipei Medical University; Wei-Ting Chien, master ’s student in the Master Programs in Global Health and Development; and Yu-Hsiang Chiu, research assistant in the Master Programs in Global Health and Development, co-author the article “International Medical Health Assistance under COVID-19: the Impact on SDGs” to discuss how COVID-19 has affected the global achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. They advocate that with the pandemic overwhelming global medical health services, Taiwan, as one of the leading models for COVID-19 prevention and control, should gradually increase the proportion of official development assistance, strengthen cooperation with other non- governmental organizations and integrate private sector resources, to expand the influence of Taiwan’s public health and medical advantages.
Facing the challenge of COVID-19, major international development assistance agencies have proposed emergency response plans. Wei-Sheng Chiu, Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) board director for Taiwan, writes the article “The Impact and Recommendations of the Joint Cooperation between Taiwan and CABEI to Fight COVID-19,” based on his experience in CABEI and long-term observation on multilateral development banks. In the article, he summarizes countermeasures that global development banks have developed for COVID-19 recovery, and shares CABEI’s experience executing a COVID-19 relief plan, aiming to identify opportunities for Taiwan to cooperate with CABEI or other regional development banks in the future.
In the special report titled “Taiwan’s Digital Social Innovation under the Pandemic,” we interview Digital Minister Audrey Tang. In the interview, she shares her three digital innovations used during the pandemic: digital fence, mask-rationing plan and transparent information. She states that Taiwan can share our innovation experience with developed countries and also be used as a reference for fighting the pandemic in developing countries. She also suggests that the TaiwanICDF as a professional foreign aid agency could become a platform based on Taiwan’s experience to export Taiwan’s innovation experience and help our allied countries according to their needs.
Implementation of international development assistance is not easy. This year, the outbreak of COVID-19 has hit the world economy hard and posed additional challenges. While the pandemic has made foreign aid resources even more scarce, it has provided an opportunity to innovate and reimagine methods to implement foreign aid. We hope the articles in this issue will bring new inspiration to Taiwan’s foreign aid.