When a million surgical masks arrived as a gift from Taiwan in Berlin in the second half of April, the Federal Government spokesman did not say a word of thanks. The small ceremony that was originally planned did not take place. A typical process in the relations between Germany and Taiwan – which officially does not exist. The People’s Republic of China insists that the island, with its 24 million inhabitants, is part of its territory. And the leadership in Beijing blackmails the Germans into an unworthy egg dance whenever it comes to contacts with the democratically elected government of the Republic of Taiwan.
The island republic has once again proven itself to be the better China in the Corona crisis. No other government warned of the spread of the virus as early as those responsible in the capital, Taipei. And hardly any other country has been as successful in fighting the pandemic as Taiwan. When Beijing was still covering up, Taiwan was already acting consistently and very successfully. With this discipline and assertiveness, the island has also become an economic wonderland in recent decades.
When I first visited Taiwan in 1986 for the national holiday on October 10, the elder son of the former dictator Chiang Kai-shek still ruled with an iron hand. Fighter jets thundered over our heads at the big military parade. And the banner “Death to the Red Bandits in Beijing!” Was on banners. Taiwan itself claimed to represent all of China at that time and remained in the 1940s spirit when Chiang clung vainly to mainland power in the civil war with Mao.
Taiwan is an important trading partner
When I spoke to Stan Shih, the legendary boss of computer manufacturer Acer in Taipei ten years later, he said the country was “in the middle of the greatest awakening in its history”. The “four little dragons” Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea developed economically at a record pace. In 1996, the island also had a political rebirth: its first democratic presidential election. Only four years later, the opposition came to power, which continues to support Taiwan’s independence. After the financial crisis in 2008, the export economy recovered faster than the rest of Asia. At $ 25,000, per capita income is about three times higher than in China.
Taiwan is now Germany’s fifth most important trading partner in Asia, and 250 of our companies work there. But politically, we still treat the island as an annoying appendage to the PRC. And for one reason only: not to upset the leadership in Beijing. It has managed to enforce its rules of conduct throughout Europe – but does not behave like an honest partner of the global community, as the cover-ups in Wuhan have shown.
It is time to no longer forbid closer relations with Taiwan. Even below the threshold of formal diplomatic recognition, there are many opportunities to work together more closely.
Bernd Ziesemer was editor-in-chief of the “Handelsblatt”. In the column “Déjà-vu” he takes up strategies, problems and political aspects of companies every month – and examines them into the past.