Elliot Wang, Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Atlanta, discusses scenery, trade and "stinky tofu".
Taiwan is well-known for beautiful scenery and popular tourism spots. According to Agoda, Taiwan was the number one most searched travel destination in 2020. Taiwan has something for everybody. You could catch some waves in Taitung, soak in hot springs in Yilan, hike in Hualien, or browse night markets in the capital, Taipei (or almost any other city!), just to name a few options!
Taiwan has a rich history with diverse sources influencing our cultural makeup, languages, food, and customs. Taiwan is the birthplace of one of the most popular treats around the world, Bubble Milk Tea (boba)! If you want to try a popular food that sounds less appealing, check out Taiwanese stinky tofu. This pungent but delicious snack can be found in Taiwan’s many night markets.
We have just entered our season of celebration for the most important holiday in Taiwan, Lunar New Year. Lunar New Year celebrates the oncoming of the new Spring season. It is a wonderful time to come together with family across generations to eat good food, celebrate togetherness, and hope for blessings for the coming year. There are many fascinating traditions associated with the Lunar New Year, including hanging spring couplets upside down, eating fish and dumplings, giving and receiving red envelopes, and the Zodiac animals. This year is the year of the Ox, representing strength, resiliency, and honesty. If you would like to know more about the Lunar New Year, check out this fun video!
Despite our small size, Taiwan has accomplished a lot. Taiwan is lauded for its strong rule of law, political rights, and civil liberties. In 2019, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to enact legislation allowing same-sex marriages. We have strong institutions in place to promote freedom of information and end misinformation campaigns. Recently, the Economic Intelligence Unit ranked Taiwan number one in Asia in its yearly Democracy Index rankings.
Taiwan is the world’s 21st largest economy. Taiwan is the US’s 9th largest trading partner. Taiwan has become a leader in high-tech. Taiwan produces around 70% of the world’s integrated circuits and 90% of the world’s laptop computers. Taiwan’s tech industry continues to innovate in emerging technologies, such as IoT, 5G, and AI. A fourth of all college degrees in Taiwan are in engineering. As high-tech becomes more and more integrated into our daily lives, expect to see Taiwanese companies, like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Foxconn, in the headlines!
We are also very proud of our healthcare system and workers, particularly this year. The Health Care Index has ranked Taiwan number one in the world for three years in a row. This index includes healthcare system, healthcare professionals, equipment, staff, doctors, cost, etc. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan successfully combatted the virus by putting travel restrictions in place early, utilizing new technologies to track transmission, and ramping up mask production. Thanks to the hard work of our medical professionals, Taiwan has been able to have a largely normal 2020, with relatively few COVID-related cases and deaths and the strongest economic growth of any developed country at 2.98%, in spite of being so geographically close to China, where the virus originated.
Taiwan has also been extending help to our friends around the world during this time. Taiwan has donated over 150,000 surgical masks and 10,000 N95 masks to the State of Georgia, with hundreds of thousands more going to the rest of the Southeast. The inventor of the N95 mask material is actually a Taiwanese American retired professor from the University of Tennessee, Dr. Peter Tsai.
Mask donations are not all we do in the Southeast US. We have been working fervently to promote agreements on various areas of cooperation, such as reciprocal driver’s license, language exchanges, and free trade agreements. Lately, Taiwan has taken steps to drastically increase our pork and beef imports from the US. Already, Taiwanese citizens are huge fans of Georgia pecans, which Taiwan first imported 51,000 pounds of in December 2019. Speaking to ACIR in September, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said, “You can find Georgia pecans in almost every local supermarket in Taiwan.”
We also participate in social and cultural activities around Atlanta, where I love being based. Our annual national day celebration is a highlight of the year, as we invite many of our friends in the Southeast US to join us. Two years ago, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Atlanta and Taipei’s sister-city relationship. Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je visited Atlanta with a trade delegation to mark the occasion. Recently, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has designated a representative from Atlanta to attend the Taipei Smart City Summit and Expo (SCSE) in March 2021. There are also three other cities in Georgia that have sister-city relationships with cities in Taiwan. These are Brunswick with Yilan, Columbus with Taichung, and Macon with Kaohsiung City. These sister-city relationships have been incredibly fruitful for Georgia and Taiwan, supporting the vast expansion of economic, cultural, and educational ties.
In 2006, the newly opened Georgia Aquarium was searching for mates for their two male whale sharks, Ralph and Norton. When our office heard about this through the AJC, we arranged for their mates, Alice and Trixie, to come all the way from the coasts of Taiwan. On June 4th, 2006, Alice and Trixie received an Atlanta Police Department escort from Hartsfield-Jackson to the Aquarium, where they were welcomed with a big party! Whale sharks are an endangered species, and the Georgia Aquarium has studied these beautiful creatures to try to help their future preservation.
I am joyful to know that you readers have taken an interest in Taiwan and now know more about who we are. I would also encourage all of you to follow along with my office’s activities and fun posts on Facebook, Twitter, and our website! And please never hesitate to reach out to my office if we can be of service to you.
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