Taiwan’s meteoric rise from a developing country to a first-world country is nothing short of phenomenal.  It has gone from being a recipient of development aid to a contributor of development assistance to many of the small island states but also to countries larger than itself.

Furthermore, it has excelled in technology and medicine to become a world leader in these fields.  Pacific island countries have much to learn from our northern Pacific brethren’s success stories. 

Not too long ago, I traveled to Taiwan, and since then, I have been traveling at least once every few years, and the change has been phenomenal.

For example, 15 years ago, on my first trip to Taiwan, it looked like any developing Asian country.  Products were mostly cheap disposable plastic products and mostly made to accommodate their citizens.  Travel around the country was difficult due to the language barrier, and services were not designed for foreign visitors.  Medical services were not the reason for people to travel to Taiwan; at least, that was my impression of the country.

With each successive travel to Taiwan, the change was evident.  Roads expanded, buildings went up, services became more and more cosmopolitan, and products changed in quality and variety.  Where we needed a translator nearly everywhere we went, now around Taipei and other major cities, none was needed as more people were multilingual.

While the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the rest of the world, it showcased Taiwan’s impressive growth and strength.   In medicine, Taiwan became an example worldwide of how to successfully manage a debilitating pandemic, controlling the virus’s spread and developing a vaccine with a high efficacy rate. Medigen, the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Taiwan, has been accepted by many countries and was also accepted by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of its Solitary Trials Vaccines.

The pandemic did not only showcase Taiwan’s impressive progress in the field of medicine, but it also highlighted its economic prowess.  While many countries around the world were posting financial status in the negatives, Taiwan stood out with positive economic growth in 2020, surpassing China’s economic growth. 

Again, Taiwan’s economic growth, particularly during the worldwide pandemic, highlighted one of Taiwan’s major successes, the field of high technology.  In fact, the economic growth enjoyed by Taiwan during the pandemic is attributed to its technology sector, particularly its computer chips industry.  Taiwan is a key hub of technology supply chains for some of the largest technology companies in the world, such as Apple, NVidia, and others.  Taiwan’s semiconductor industry represents over 60% of the global share of the semiconductor business, making Taiwan a major player in the world of technology. Everything electronic runs using chips, from computers to cars to literally anything computerized.  Taiwan represents 60% of the chip producers that supply that market.

Traveling to Taiwan recently, other remarkable changes can be seen that show how much the country has propelled to the top. 

Taiwan has become one of the most democratic countries in the world, 3rd in Asia, and 32nd among 167 countries and territories, according to the Democracy Index.  In 2019, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriages and is also considered the most progressive in Asia regarding LGBT rights.

Facing many challenges that many island countries face, Taiwan also faces a huge challenge posed by the People’s Republic of China, which seeks to unite Taiwan under its rule.  Under threats of forcible annexation, Taiwan has remained staunch in its fight to remain a self-governing nation, giving its 23 million citizens the right to determine their destinies.  As such, Taiwan has invested in its military, building its capacity to protect itself.  The United States of America has pledged to come to Taiwan’s aid in case of aggression and has helped furnish Taiwan with technology and armaments for Taiwan’s protection.

Taiwan has come a long way from its humble beginnings to become a world leader in so many areas despite its size, population, and intimidation.  Taiwan provides a blueprint of success that many Pacific island countries, including Palau, can learn from to rise and become self-sufficient countries. (By: Phillip Reklai)

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