How Taiwan Won 2020: By Trusting Its Citizens, and Distrusting the Chinese Communist Party

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Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen arrives at the launch of the first of a new generation of coast guard patrol ships in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, December 11, 2020.
(Ann Wang/Reuters)

As 2020, a year defined by a coronavirus pandemic that originated in Wuhan, China, and was able to spread worldwide because the Chinese Communist Party suppressed evidence about it, comes to a close, you might think Western media would be a bit more wary of the regime. You’d be wrong. Because the same totalitarian government that caused the outbreak in the first place managed to brute-force its population back to something of a warped status quo, Axios sees fit to explain to us “How China Won 2020.” And that it does so in the same breathless, bullet-point, who’s-up-who’s-down manner that many political media prefer using to cover domestic politics suggests a casual refusal to reckon with the depravity of its regime, as well as the threat it poses.

Axios’s year-end paean is sadly only one of the last entries of many in the genre this year. 2020 saw many sufficiently consumed by a strange combination of America- (or self-) loathing as to be willing to gaze enviously upon the CCP. Often, as here, these efforts take on the appearance of propaganda, which is surely how the CCP views them, at any rate. Such pieces seem, at times, to be little more than power worship, a disturbing tendency that preexisted 2020 but has surely been exacerbated by it.

That might help to explain why media coverage on coronavirus recovery worldwide tends to focus on China’s supposed successes while ignoring the far freer nation of Taiwan. The Axios report homes in on China’s apparent return to economic growth during the year. Well, Taiwan managed that too. Axios praises China for reportedly handling its coronavirus outbreak. Guess what: Taiwan did that, too. And it did so without resorting to the outright tyranny that the CCP prefers. In fact, it did so precisely because that regime’s past behavior, particularly its designs on Taiwan, had given Taiwan’s government reason to distrust it. Because of Chinese influence, the World Health Organization simultaneously shut out Taiwan and promulgated Chinese deceptions about the virus and its spread, deceptions that Taiwan ignored. If the rest of the world had acted similarly, the toll of the coronavirus pandemic would have lightened considerably.

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You could say that China and Taiwan are different counties (though this is precisely what the CCP says when arguing that democracy would never work there, despite the two nations’ drawing from the same population), or that I am merely engaging in a kind of international whataboutism. But the differences here matter. As we move into 2021, much of which will be spent cleaning up the CCP-inflicted damage of 2020, it’s worth keeping them in mind. Whatever successes the Chinese government claims, fault for the emergence of coronavirus itself ought to remain a gigantic blot over it. Taiwan has no such blot. So why isn’t anybody asking how Taiwan won 2020?

Jack Butler is an associate editor at National Review Online.

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