Taiwan’s Secret Weapon: Friendship | The Times in Plain English

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Taiwan is an island off the coast of China. It is a prosperous, democratic country. Most of the world’s computer semiconductor chips come from there. But there is a problem. The much more giant neighbor says it belongs to them. The “reunification” of Taiwan with China has been a goal of China for decades.

China is in the United Nations, and Taiwan is not. China has kept Taiwan from other world agencies, such as the World Health Organization.

Xi Ping is the president of China. His intentions to bring Taiwan into China became clear at a recent party conference. How can the much smaller Taiwan work stay independent? The answer is simple: make friends.

Some call it the “charm offensive.” Formal diplomatic relations with other nations are lessening, and trade relations are increasing. The United States is helping. Countries like Japan and Australia see that friendship with Taiwan bolsters the country’s place in the world order.

Taiwan is working to make friends.

Lithuania is an example. In an expo center, a government-sponsored trade group has set up a showroom of Lithuanian products.

About a year ago, Lithuania rejected a popular Chinese cellphone with a censorship registry of 449 terms banned by the Chinese government. Beijing made it hard for many Lithuanian companies to sell their wares in China. Taiwan entered. It announced that it was setting up a $200 million fund to invest in Lithuania. It added a $1 billion program to finance joint projects, including semiconductors.

Taiwan’s government and people rallied around Lithuania. Stores have sold out of Lithuanian products. Some Lithuanians in Taiwan report that taxi drivers refused to let them pay.

It is the little things that count. The ambassador of St. Vincent and the Grenadines said that when she arrived in Taiwan in 2019, the foreign minister greeted her at the airport to accept her credentials — at 5 a.m.

“We have a friendship,” she said. “Diplomatic allies tend to speak of interests, but Taiwan has been with us since 1981.”

A nonprofit helping Taiwan said the Taiwanese people are eager to build international friendships. To do that, a team produces social media content for countries where Taiwan is active. It is also training hundreds of volunteers in social media messaging, and it will help keep Taiwan front of mind.

The position of Taiwan in the world is better. Diplomacy and more informal approaches work.

China has more money to offer. Taiwan must find other ways to build loyalty.

“We have to be more creative and, like, more adorable; we are trying to make friends, to make more friends,” an observer said.

Source: The New York Times October 20, 2022


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