The relationship between North Carolina and Taiwan has been mutually beneficial, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through its massive donations of 100,000 surgical masks to North Carolina, which greatly assisted frontline healthcare workers, and its commitment to humanitarian efforts in support of the United States, Taiwan has demonstrated its dedication to the welfare of the people of North Carolina.
This partnership has remained strong because of the shared values of democracy, freedom and human rights North Carolinians share with the people of Taiwan.
These tenets differentiate Taiwan from China, who has been steadily eroding the rights and liberties of its people and others in the region. The reality of China’s aggressive actions is that it currently poses a large threat to Taiwan, the model of democracy in the Asia-Pacific. Such an impact will damage the ability of Taiwan and North Carolina to remain friendly allies to one another, specifically in the economic sector.
The threat of the increase of China’s influence in the world is an issue that has negatively impacted Taiwan’s ability to operate as a sovereign state and has reduced the effectiveness of its international partnerships. The economic relations between North Carolina and Taiwan have flourished as Taiwan has created over 4,000 jobs in North Carolina and is the 7th largest market for North Carolina in Asia. However, investments and trade between the two entities are also threatened by China’s aggression, and it is in the best interest of North Carolina and its people to oppose the military exercises designed to intimidate Taiwan and harm its partnerships.
Taiwan has received an increasing number of threats from China recently, including flying in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone at a disturbing rate. In addition, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has systematically blocked Taiwan from international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), de-legitimizing its existence.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reinforced the United States’ support of Taiwan by expressing his support for Taiwan’s autonomy and democratic practices, following the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs statement of “rock-solid” commitment to the threatened country. These efforts take into account that American jobs, like the ones in Everlight Chemical, a Taiwanese company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, are under attack. Without the ensured safety of Taiwan, the investments and companies in North Carolina will suffer, further harming the positive relations between the two sides.
This support is also necessary to protect Hong Kong citizens and western journalists, as well as those who are pro-democracy, who have fled China after continued harassment from the Chinese government. In such instances, Taiwan has protected those who have sought refuge from the authoritarian state of China because of Taiwanese fierce support for the freedom of media and speech. Taiwan needs the support of elected officials and the people of North Carolina to remain a reliable source of information on China’s actions and endeavors.
Despite growing trade between North Carolina and China, North Carolinians need to remember Taiwan is a key component in the global supply chain. Taiwanese businesses invest over $175 million into North Carolina every year while on the lookout for more opportunities to participate in this state’s economy and growth.
In light of the human rights violations that are evident in China’s business practices, which has been shown with Huawei, TikTok and Xinjiang cotton, it is clear that China does not believe in the same values of peace and justice as do North Carolinians. Fortunately, Taiwan has proven itself to be a trustworthy alternative, as it champions intellectual property rights and human rights in all of its economic collaborations. It is important for all Americans to support efforts to protect Taiwan from China’s advances.
The increasing Chinese assertions are alarming, and without advocacy efforts from its allies, the people of Taiwan and those who value civil liberties and human rights will be under the very same threat now evident in Hong Kong. Now is the time to support a longstanding American ally in the face of an authoritative obstacle that seeks to destabilize democratic nations such as the U.S. and Taiwan.
Elliot Wang is Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Atlanta.