Just hours after CECC head Chen Shih-chung said the government will not implement lockdowns to tamp down increasing case numbers, Taiwan’s president Tsai Ying-wen has announced that the government is not willing to interfere with people living “normal lives.”
This is despite polling which suggests that the vast majority (64%) of Taiwanese disagree with opening and the direction the government is turning, and instead want to the government to increase regulations on public venues to stem the flow of the infection.
It also flies in the face of mounting evidence that even mild COVID infection can lead to permanent disability, including two brand new studies that link COVID to diabetes, published in just the last three weeks.
Her decision and those of DPP elites, which Storm suggests is what has led the inaction of Chen Shih-chung, mean that Taiwan will allow fringe economic interests to dictate public policy, even against public will. Based on party support polling, the DPP is likely confident that opposition parties can not mount an effective challenge in the upcoming elections.
Still, such a move will inevitably lead to Taiwan facing a massive increase in infections and deaths, despite more than two years of effective handling of the virus. With the inevitability of daily news of hundreds of deaths, and the fear and devastation that will stress the public and the healthcare system, many of the DPP base may be alienated by policies that appear to be more in the interest of a small cadre of elites than the aging and vulnerable Taiwanese electorate, and even if they don’t vote for the opposition may sit out the next two elections as retribution.
With capitulation at such an early stage for economic reasons, despite more than 6% growth rates, such a move will also signal to the Chinese Communist Party that both Tsai Ying-wen and her administration are not willing to face sustained costs to preserve social stability, or human life for that matter, and are mostly driven by elite opinion. This alarming show of weakness has the potential, too, to affect the Chinese calculus over whether to invade Taiwan, especially if it is expected that a weak-willed DPP leadership would simply surrender without putting up a fight.
The PRC has clearly watched Zelenskyy’s perseverance and resistance during the Russian invasion, despite Western efforts to convince him and his administration to leave the country and form a government in exile. The stability of his leadership and his cabinet in refusing to abandon Kiev, and willingness to make stark personal and national sacrifices despite enormous costs are what caught Putin by surprise, and led to such stark Russian losses. If the PRC, though, believes that after such mild costs, that Tsai lacks the will to fight when faced with even weak economic pressure, then it may encourage the PRC to push Taiwan and potentially launch military action, believing that the state is irresolute and primarily materially focused, and the will to endure will quickly dissolve.
In either case, it marks a face change in Taiwan from one of the strongest, most resolute defenders of human life and social order, to a country whose leaders defied public will and sacrificed the lives of thousands of their own citizens for the benefit of elites.