On Monday Last week, Taiwan received a donation of 400,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from Poland, which touched the hearts of Taiwanese. Anyone who knows Poles would not have been at all surprised by the gesture: They are a naturally warmhearted people. I often tell my students that Poles and Taiwanese share many of the same character traits: Both have a history of courageously standing up to powerful forces, are kind and hospitable, tenacious, hardworking and they firmly believe in the benefits of democracy. No wonder, then, that the friendship between the two nations is deep and lasting.
During the 1990s, having only recently thrown off the shackles of a communist regime, Poland’s economy was in a fragile state.
The government developed the Balcerowicz Plan, more commonly known as “shock therapy,” to rapidly reform the Polish economy and transition from state ownership and central planning to capitalism and a market economy. The plan turned Poland into a model of reform.
Poland is blessed with many advantages, including an excellent geographic location, market potential, a highly skilled workforce, and abundant agricultural and mineral resources. This has made the country a magnet for foreign investment, while it continues to receive large amounts of EU subsidies: It is the largest beneficiary of any EU member state.
From Taiwan’s perspective, Poland is an extremely attractive market and investment opportunity, in addition to being the best gateway into Europe.
One elderly Pole once proudly told me that although Poland was once governed by a communist regime, Poles are libertarian to the core: Even communism could not snuff out the flame of liberty.
The Solidarity trade union, founded in 1980, led a nine-year resistance movement against Poland’s then-communist government. By 1989, Poland had become increasingly ungovernable and the regime finally acquiesced to a round-table meeting with the opposition. Solidarity won a landslide victory at the next legislative election and established the first “decommunization” government in Central and Eastern Europe, in so doing accelerating the democratization process within the region.
In 1990, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa became Poland’s first democratically elected president. Walesa has visited Taiwan five times and has praised the nation for its democratic achievements. During his first visit in 1996, Walesa delivered a speech at the Legislative Yuan in which he said: “I believe that good will prevail.” This is what Taiwan hopes for in terms of its interaction with the outside world.
Two decades ago, there were very few Taiwanese expatriates in Poland, but the two countries have made steady progress toward establishing relations. As early as 1992, Taiwan established the Taipei Representative Office in the Polish capital, Warsaw.
While studying in Poland, I experienced first-hand the difficult situation that Taiwan faces on the international stage, but still Taiwan’s frontline diplomatic staff continued to forge on ahead, striving to obtain opportunities for international cooperation. While in Poland, I received a scholarship from the Polish government — a tangible benefit of the two nations’ close cooperation.
As Poland continues to evolve and progress, it has shown itself to be a standout success of democratic government, both in Europe and the wider world. The close relationship between Taiwan and Poland has been forged through a shared appreciation for democracy, liberty and human rights: Long may it continue.
Emilia Chen is a teacher of Polish at National Taiwan University’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.
Translated by Edward Jones
Almost as soon as the plane carrying a US delegation led by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi took off from Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) on Thursday, Beijing announced four days of live-fire military drills around Taiwan. China unilaterally cordoned off six maritime exclusion zones around Taiwan proper to simulate a blockade of the nation, fired 11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles and conducted coordinated maneuvers using naval vessels and aircraft. Although the drills were originally to end on Sunday, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theater Command issued a statement through Chinese state media that the exercises would continue,
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week represented a milestone in Taiwan-US relations, but also pricked the bubble of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) big lie that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China. During a speech delivered at the Presidential Office in Taipei on Wednesday, Pelosi said: “Forty-two years ago, America made a bedrock promise to always stand with Taiwan,” referring to the US’ Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. On the eve of her visit to Taiwan, Pelosi published an article in the Washington Post in which she stated that “America must stand by Taiwan.” With China
Despite political pressure at home to keep her from doing so, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally visited Taiwan last week, causing quite a stir. As Pelosi stuck to her guns, her visit was of considerable significance. Pelosi was born into the D’Alesandro political family. Her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr, was a US Representative and later mayor of Baltimore for 12 years. Pelosi was elected to the US House of Representatives at the age of 47 after her children were grown, and became the US’ first female House speaker in 2007 after the Democratic Party won the House majority.
United Microelectronics Corp (UMC) founder and former chairman Robert Tsao (曹興誠) on Friday last week pledged to donate NT$3 billion (US$100 million) to help Taiwan protect itself from the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) aggression. While still UMC chairman, Tsao gained a reputation for supporting unification with China and backing parties such as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the New Party and the People First Party, which have similar leanings. During a TV show on Monday, host Clara Chou (周玉蔻) asked Tsao which politicians he now supported. Tsao said he had supported the New Party when it formed, had become disappointed by People First