Taiwan Tech Companies Buy Vaccines, Government Takes Credit
Foxconn and TSMC finally succeeded procuring BioNTech vaccines after they were obstructed by the government for nearly two months. But the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen has ironically harvested the accomplishment, claiming that the procurement was made possible due to government assistance.
Executive Yuan Thanks Public-Private Partnership in Procuring BioNTech Vaccines, Stresses Government Did Not Block Procurement Efforts
United Daily News and the Storm Media, July 12, 2021
The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Hon Hai Technology Group (Foxconn) announced that they will each donate 5 million doses of BioNTech vaccines. At a press conference today, Spokesman Lo Ping-cheng of the Executive Yuan thanked the two companies for their contributions in money and efforts to build a cooperative model between the government and the private sector to reach this important development in a short period of half a month. Lo also demanded that untrue rumors by the public that the government has been blocking the procurement of BioNTech vaccines should cease.
The public has been saying that the process of signing the contracts for procuring the BioNTech vaccines has been blocked by the government. Spokesman Lo said that this statement was neither true nor fair. He argued that if the government wanted to block, obstruct, or delay the procurement of BioNTech vaccines, why did Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung, who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), allow companies to buy vaccines? If the government did not support the procurement of international vaccines, then why did the government establish a special project to help TSMC and Foxconn to buy 5 million doses of vaccines each?
According to a commentator, the process of vaccine procurement has taken nearly a year. The government had no feasible strategy, shirked responsibility from the beginning, and took credit at the end. The ineptitude of decision-makers is rather disappointing.
Blocked Vaccines But Now Eager to Take Credit
By Chen Chao-ping
China Times, July 13, 2021
Hon Hai Precision Industry (Foxconn) and the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) announced that they have signed contracts with Shanghai Fosun Pharma and have completed the purchase of 5 million doses of BioNTech vaccines, which will be donated to the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW). The Executive Yuan held a press conference at the same time, where Spokesman Lo Ping-cheng thanked the two donors for their free donations, and establishing a cooperation model for the government and private enterprises. At the same time, he denied that the government has been trying to block vaccines. Looking back at the BioNTech vaccine procurement process which has taken nearly a year, the government was not able to get any. Government officials first tried to shirk responsibility but are now eager to take credit for something that they did not do. How boring and shameless.
After failing to procureBioNTechBioNTech vaccines, the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen has been blaming mainland China for their interruption in the process. First, it alleged that the general agent of the BioNTech vaccines that TTY Biopharm applied for import was mainland-funded Fosun Pharma, and did not approve. Afterwards, a legislator of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) stepped in and referred to the media of Shanghai Fosun's Hong Kong subsidiary. There were rumors that it failed because of China’s strict investigation of corruption kickbacks and that the intermediary was not able to make profit, so the process failed. In the middle of December last year, after the MOHW announced that it had purchased 10 million doses of BioNTech, there was no follow up information of what happened to those vaccines. Until the middle of June of this year, after Foxconn officially delivered the documents to the government, rumors recurred saying that BioNTech did not want to sell to founder Terry Gou, and that the government procurement of BioNTech failed because of the word “our country" was in the press release. All of this was to avoid responsibility. Purchasing vaccines is what the government should do and must do. If the Tsai administration could not buyBioNTech vaccines, why not purchase Moderna vaccines from the United States, with which President Tsai supposedly has a great relationship? Obviously, the government is incapable and incompetent in the purchasing of vaccines, and non-governmental organizations have had to step forward and donate for free. Yet the government can talk about a supposed public-private cooperation model with a shame? TSMC and Foxconn had to thank the government including the Office of the President, Executive Yuan, MOHW, and Centers for Disease Control for their authorization and assistance. Following the same logic, shouldn’t the United States and Japan also write to thank Taiwan for accepting their donation?
President Tsai stressed that the government should take credit for private vaccine procurement complying with the principles of original manufacture, original labeling, and direct delivery to Taiwan. However, critics point out that this is only propaganda meant to conceal the government's inability to procure vaccines due to its own ideological obstacles.
(Photo from: The Storm Media)
Piercing the False Veil of the Tsai Administration’s Three Principles on Vaccine Procurement
By Shih Wei-chuan
China Times, July 15, 2021
The procurement of German BioNTech vaccines through its agent Fosun Pharmaceutical based in Shanghai by two major Taiwanese high-tech companies has finally been completed. Previously, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) had politicized the Fosun Pharma’s role as "an agent for BioNTech" in the Greater China region, including Taiwan as an excuse to block the procurement. Now, President Tsai Ing-wen is seeking credit for her achievements by emphasizing through Facebook that the procurement was in line with her three principles of "original manufacture," "original manufacture labeling," and "direct delivery to Taiwan," which had displayed her administration's strong insistence on protecting people's health.
The three principles actually had nothing to do with health. Being a confusing concept of propaganda slogans, they were used to excuse some missteps. The original manufacture labeling was a false issue. There are 14 laws in Taiwan that govern the labeling of imported goods, and vaccines are also regulated. For example, the Pasteur Cellular Japanese Encephalitis Active Attenuated Vaccine commonly used in hospitals across Taiwan is a product of the Mérieux Group, whose holding company is based in Lyon, France, while the vaccine administered to Taiwanese comes from a pharmaceutical in Thailand and is imported by Sanofi Taiwan, with a mainland Chinese label affixed by the Zuellig Pharma in Taoyuan, Taiwan. All in all, the government has not required so-called "original manufacturer labeling".
According to a commentator, Japan's newly released defense white paper for the first time moved Taiwan's military from the chapter on China to another discussing U.S.-China relations. In other words, Taiwan has become associated with the Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States, representing a subtle shift in the U.S.-Japan alliance.
Is the Taiwan Strait Becoming A Proxy War Battleground?
By Philip Yang
China Times, July 18, 2021
In its Defense annual white paper released on July 23, Japan has, for the first time, delinked Taiwan from the chapter of China and put it in the new added chapter on "U.S.-China Relationship." For the first time, the report also emphasized that stabilizing the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for Japan's security and international stability. The move has drawn the attention of all the stakeholders concerned.
Since the U.S.-Japan “two-plus-two” meeting on March 16 this year, the administration of President Joe Biden has started to "internationalize” the Taiwan issue and has reiterated "the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait" in its bilateral and multilateral meetings and statements with Japan, South Korea, and Group of 7 countries. The Biden administration has asked its allies to make public their stance on the stability in Taiwan Strait and to support its Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy. Apparently, President Biden has made Taiwan's security as a test point for its FOIP.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently passed a bill to ensure the global leadership and participation of the United States, including advocating that United Nations recognition of China does not involve Taiwan and requested that the Department of State rename the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office to the Taiwan Representative Office in the United States.
(Photo from: United Daily News)
July 13: The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced without warning that the third round of vaccination preference registration will open to individuals from ages 18 to 49, including migrant workers and foreign nationals holding residence permits. As of 10:30 PM, the number of registrations reached 12 million, which is quite impressive. However, because launching the online registration was rushed, the system was out of order for several hours, causing public discontent.
July 14: In order to expand domestic vaccination coverage, the CECC announced that the "dose-to-population ratio" would replace the metric of first-dose vaccination coverage. Experts questioned that no country in the world would add two-dose vaccines to the total coverage rate and criticized that this is only an attempt to beautify the numbers in order to reach President Tsai Ing-wen's objective of reaching 25-percent vaccination coverage by the end of July. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung stated that the use of population ratio is what President Tsai intended, but CECC is taking this measure not at the request of the president but to make the data more intelligible internationally.
July 14: The Japanese book "That Island of Blossoming Flowers" (unofficial translation) by 31-year-old Taiwanese author Li Kotomi was awarded the Akutagara Prize, a prestigious Japanese literary award.
Li started to study Japanese by himself while in junior high school. After graduating from university in 2013 at the age of 22, she went to Japan to pursue further studies. Her two novels written in Japanese, her second language, successively won "rookie" awards in Japan. In 2019, her novel Count to Five and the Crescent Moon was shortlisted for the Akutagawa Prize.
That Island of Blossoming Flowers is an aerial island between Japan and Taiwan. The island's culture and language blend those of Taiwan and Japan. On the island, women are responsible for religious rituals and political affairs, and there is a language that only women can learn. This is a pure literary novel of a micro-science-fiction nature.
The judges praised the work for shining a new light on Japanese language and literature.
July 15: Sandra Oudkirk, the new director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), officially took office and expressed her hopes to bring U.S.-Taiwan relations to the next level. The United States dispatched a C-146A military administrative plane which landed at the Songshan base in Taipei to deliver "diplomatic mail," staying aground for a short 34 minutes before departing Taiwan. This is the first instance that the United States used a special military plane to transport items needed for the handover from the departing and incoming directors of the AIT. The AIT had no comment.
Oudkirk is the first female director of the AIT since the mission's establishment. When she arrived in Taiwan on the evening of July 12, text of "Hello Taiwan" was printed on Oudkirk's face mask. She praised the beautify of Taiwan on the AIT's Facebook page and expressed her continued excitement about being stationed in such a vibrant democracy.
July 16: The Taiwanese pharmaceutical company Medigen Vaccine Biologics claimed that the results of the second phase of vaccine trials would be announced at the end of October, but former Vice President Chen Chien-jen revealed on Facebook on the evening of July 15 that he received notice from National Taiwan University Hospital that he was given a placebo. The incident has triggered a public discussion on whether Chen enjoyed a privilege to early unblinding.
Medigen responded that it asked experimental subjects beginning in July whether he would be willing to participate in extended trials. Otherwise, participants may unblind early. The Food and Drug Administration, Ministry of Health and Welfare, also confirmed that Medigen already applied for extended trials to supplement vaccines for subjects and was approved.
Taipei City Councilor Wang Hung-wei of the Kuomintang (KMT) stated that the government has opened the registration for foreign vaccines to individuals aged 18 and older, but some 7,600 subjects who participated in phase two trials of the two Taiwanese vaccine manufacturers still do not know whether they were inoculated with a vaccine or a placebo and are unable to decide whether they need to be vaccinated. According to Wang, probably only Chen knows that he received a vaccine. Chen exposed that he was given a placebo, and Wang countered by asking why Chen was able to guarantee the safety of Medigen vaccines at the end of May? Why can he enjoy early unblinding?
July 16: The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a bill on ensuring the global leadership and participation of the United States. The bill contained content contending that United Nations recognition of Taiwan should not pertain to Taiwan, and that the Department of State should negotiate with Taiwan and allow the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office to be renamed the Taiwan Representative Office. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its gratitude.
Some scholars worry that the move might cross Beijing's red line and urged President Tsai to consider the proposal carefully.
Legislator Fei Hung-tai, who serves as the KMT's party whip, stated that the United States should not use Taiwan as a pawn in its rivalry with mainland China. If the United States were to recognize the Republic of China, then Taiwan's representative office in Washington should be renamed the Representative Office of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the United States.
July 16: Deputy Minister of Economy Karol Galek of the Slovak Republic stated that Taiwan had donated masks to Slovakia during the most difficult time. For this reason, Slovakia will donate 10,000 coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines to Taiwan. President Tsai expressed her deepest thanks to Slovakia, and stressed that democracies support one another to create together an international positive cycle of good. According to reports, Slovakia is scheduled to send a delegation of double-digit members in September by an official government plane. The level and scale of the delegation is expected to open a new page in bilateral relations.
July 16: Due to the pandemic, the Ministry of Labor announced the latest statistics on unpaid leave. The number of institutions reached 2,704, a record high, and the number of people was 30,980, an increase of 10,847 from the previous week, also a record high in 11 years. The most common means of implementation is nine to 12 days off per month, and the hospitality and dining industry has been hardest hit.