Japan’s donation of 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca New Crown vaccine (known in Taiwan as the Oxford AZ vaccine) to Taiwan is said to be a “timely gift” to Taiwan. Analysts say that Japan’s vaccine donation has broken the game of the Chinese Communist Party’s vaccine offensive against Taiwan.
In late May, Japan decided to donate a batch of vaccines to Taiwan on the pretext of “repaying the 311 earthquake aid”, and the vaccines arrived in Taiwan soon afterwards on June 4. In appreciation of Japan’s real-time assistance under pressure from China, Taiwan’s private sector initiated a full-page advertisement in the Japanese media, offering a high-profile thank you to Japan.
Prior to this, Japan’s Sankei Shimbun revealed that Japan was considering donating a batch of AstraZeneca New Crown vaccine to Taiwan, a news that was confirmed by Japanese Foreign Minister Toshichika Mogi. Subsequently, Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare made a contract amendment with AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals for emergency assistance to Taiwan. In an interview with the Taiwanese program “Koukou Breakfast” on June 3, Sankei Shimbun Taipei Branch Director Akio Yaban revealed that when the contract was revised, it was said that there was also some pressure from China on the part of AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals.
After Taiwan rejected the vaccine from mainland China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) criticized Taiwan for “sacrificing the well-being of its people for political interests,” causing further anxiety in Taiwan’s already panicked society due to the vaccine shortage.
Humanitarian considerations trump Chinese pressure
On the same day that Japanese officials confirmed plans to donate vaccines to Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian publicly stated that “Taiwan authorities will not succeed in ‘seeking independence’ through vaccines” and that “Taiwan’s access to vaccines from the mainland is free. The channels for Taiwan to obtain vaccines from the mainland are open”. At a press conference on May 31, Wang Wenbin accused Japan and Taiwan of using the vaccine for political gains, saying that he was “firmly opposed to making political show of the epidemic and even interfering in China’s internal affairs.
In the face of pressure from China, why did Japan decide to donate the vaccine?
Japanese Senator Masahisa Sato explained to Voice of America, “Japan’s consideration was that since China itself offered to donate vaccines to Taiwan, there should be no reason to complain about Japan donating vaccines to Taiwan as well. The donation of vaccines is based on humanitarian considerations, which is common sense in the international community, and should not be obstructed on a political level. The Japanese people’s support for this program has become a force to support the government’s decision.”
Senator Kentaro Asahi (D-CA) also told the Voice of America that Japan-Taiwan relations have always been quite close, and Japan has even received enthusiastic assistance from Taiwan in the past, including during the 311 earthquake, and it is more important to support Taiwan as soon as possible this time than any concerns. He said: “Japan is more anxious to get the AstraZeneca New Crown vaccine to Taiwan as soon as possible to temporarily relieve the people of Taiwan from the epidemic crisis than to consider the idea of opposition or backlash from China. So when the foreign minister announced the decision to donate the vaccine to Taiwan, the Diet was unanimous in its approval.”
Japan supports Taiwan’s participation in the WHO
On June 11, the Japanese Senate resolved unanimously across party lines to support Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly. In response to this move, Masahisa Sato also said that the members of the Diet understood that this was a consensus that transcended national boundaries, and therefore included pro-China lawmakers who also agreed.
The company’s success in preventing epidemics in Taiwan is worth learning from the rest of the world,” Sato said. And these performances have made the Japanese public quite sure, so any political party will give priority to supporting the intentions of the people.”
Speaking to Voice of America, Sankei Shimbun Taipei Branch Director Akio Yaban said that China’s maritime police law has created fear of China in Japan, so he believes the public naturally has no good feelings toward China after a recent poll showed that 80% of respondents feel China poses a threat to Japan’s security and safety.
He said, “Another one is that Japan is about to have an election, and now the world’s attitude toward China has become more and more unacceptable since the new crown pneumonia started last year. In particular, the People’s Daily has published an article saying that the world owes China a ‘thank you’. This brazen approach is indeed provoking a general backlash from public opinion. With this kind of public opinion backlash, any political figure who dares to speak for China should not be elected in the next election.”
Kentaro Asahi believes that Taiwan’s demonstration of adhering to universal values despite China’s intimidation is an important reason for gaining the full support of the Japanese Senate. He said, “Taiwan is a friendly country to Japan, and we understand that Taiwan has long upheld the principles of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and has not compromised even in the face of long-standing threats from Beijing. Japan is also increasingly subject to Chinese military intimidation in the East China Sea and South China Sea, and its sense of commonality with Taiwan has grown stronger. Supporting Taiwan’s participation in international organizations is also a way for Japan to send a message of democratic solidarity to the international community.”
Full page thanks for raising funds in one day to reach the target
A wave of “thank yous to Japan” has recently emerged among Taiwanese citizens. Japanese people in Taiwan and Taiwanese people in Japan have joined hands to raise funds to erect physical thank-you walls at Tokyo and Osaka stations.
In addition, on June 13, a joint advertisement for Taiwan’s fundraising efforts appeared in the Sankei Shimbun. The ad, sponsored by the Taiwan Heritage Foundation and others, immediately received responses from 130 companies and organizations, and reached its donation goal in just one day.
The two full-page ads, which read “In Need” and “Thank You,” were funded solely by the Free Times System, a Taiwan-based federal affiliate.
In an interview with the Voice of America, the head of the company, Lin Honglian, said, “When Taiwanese people donated to 311 (earthquake), it was really based on the spirit of hunger and starvation. Today, when the Japanese come to do this (donate vaccines), Taiwanese people will never take it for granted that they are here to repay a debt or to pay a debt. Therefore, we should let people know that we are grateful and let them know that ‘if you are not alone, you will have a neighbor’. Because we thank people to be instant, that their side is still fundraising, I said ‘no matter, this part (piece) I will be responsible for'”.
Lin Honglian reminded that in the lower left corner of the full version of the “Seeing Truth in Times of Trouble” there is a circular logo that reads “Taiwan National”. He hopes that this logo will become a badge of recognition for Taiwanese people in Japan and around the world, so that the world will recognize Taiwan as a place that upholds the values of freedom and democracy and values international friendship.
After receiving the news of the fundraising, Dr. Guo Zhihui, founder of Taiwan-based Ernst & Young Fresh, who has long had business relations with Japan, informed his group of friends and quickly received an enthusiastic response.
He told Voice of America, “Because Japan is in such a critical time, they only have 1.24 million doses left, but they gave it all to us. Because we had donated to Japan during the 311 earthquake in the past, they published a newspaper in Taiwan for several days to thank the people of Taiwan, so this is also a practice in line with the Japanese style. Because I have 46 years of experience doing business with Japan, I understand Japanese habits better.”
The federal relations companies span major items in the business sector such as finance, media and construction, while Ernst & Young Fresh Things is a relations company in the science and technology sector, with additional advertising sponsors in the manufacturing, cultural and religious sectors, etc. It can be called a public tribute from the entire Taiwanese society to the Japanese vaccine aid to Taiwan.
Values trump economic interests
Guo Zhihui said, “There are no political considerations in this matter at all, and I don’t think any of the more than 100 companies should have political considerations. All of them, any place that is willing to donate vaccines to us, we will be grateful.”
When asked if he was worried that business activities with China would be blacklisted in the future, Lin Honglian argued that mutual assistance between Japan and Taiwan is a manifestation of the international practice of universal values and his ideal. He said, “If I am listed as this by others because I stick to my ideals, what more does a person need without ideals?”
Many Japanese lawmakers said that it has become a pattern for Japan and Taiwan to support each other in case of disasters, so there is no need to be polite. However, they saw Taiwan’s private sector and enterprises to thank the donation of vaccines and newspaper thanks very moved.
China sulks at the lack of sanctions
From the success of Japan’s vaccine aid to Taiwan, to the support of the entire Japanese Senate for Taiwan’s membership in the WHO, to the press thanking the Taiwanese community, there was no strong backlash from the Chinese Communist authorities as expected.
Speaking to the Voice of America, Akio Yaban said, “If you have observed Chinese diplomacy for a long time, you know it has always been like this. Once the log is set, they (China) immediately pretend they don’t know. China just makes a lot of moves before things are decided. The most obvious example was the Japan-U.S. 2+2 meeting in March, when the Chinese Foreign Ministry reacted with such vehemence that it was scolded as harshly as possible. But when Kan went to the U.S. and signed a statement with Biden, China immediately stopped talking, because the log was already in place. It is useless to say anything. This time, too, whether it is the Japanese Senate or the vaccine, China can no longer change anything. If it reacts strongly on its own it is slapping itself in the face, so it immediately pretends not to know, which is China’s usual practice.”
Yaban Akio pointed out that after Japan nationalized the Senkaku Islands in 2012, China exhausted all means available to sanction Japan, but it lacked a deterrent effect on Japan, and now there are no other sanctionable items. He mentioned that currently Japan is most concerned about China’s boycott of the Tokyo Olympics, but six months later Beijing also has the Winter Olympics, considering that it may lead to a joint boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics by democratic countries, the upcoming 20th National Congress of Xi Jinping must not dare to act rashly.
Experts in Japan and Taiwan agree that the interaction between Japan and Taiwan on vaccine donations proves that democratic societies are capable of resisting China’s coercion and jointly contributing to humanitarian relief, as well as showing the international community the embodiment of common values. China’s silence also proves that totalitarianism is never a match for democracy.