US’ vaccine donation to Taiwan ‘no free lunch’, aimed at political and economic gains: business reps
Published: Jun 20, 2021 09:24 PM
File photo: VCG

File photo: VCG

While local Taiwan media and authorities are hyping up the “rock-solid friendship” after the US shipped 2.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the island on Sunday, local Taiwan business representatives and netizens questioned the US’ sincerity in helping out amid the epidemic crisis, saying that the US would never offer “a free lunch” without political and economic aims.

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) confirmed the donation of the 2.5 million Moderna vaccines on Saturday, including the 750,000 doses that had been initially promised on June 6 and an additional 1.75 million. In its tweet, AIT added that the donation “reflects our commitment to Taiwan as a trusted friend.”

US State Department spokesman Ned Price also tweeted that the action “does not come with strings attached,” and the allocation of doses was not based on political or economic conditions, but simply “with the singular objective of saving lives.”

The donation was soon met with a warm welcome by local political figures, including the island's regional leader Tsai Ing-wen and head of Taiwan's health authorities Chen Shih-chung, who expressed gratitude to Washington and regarded the assistance as a confirmation of the “rock-solid friendship” between the two sides.

However, in a Reuters report on Saturday, the shipment of the vaccines came at a time when the US is negotiating with the island on securing supply chains for strategic items such as computer chips, of which Taiwan has been a major supplier, and which are vital to the US’ automobile and other industries. 

Xu Zhengwen, head of the Taiwan Chamber of Commerce, told the Global Times on Sunday that he believed Washington’s kindness came at a “delicate time,” as a bipartisan group of senators in the US had just proposed a 25 percent tax credit for investments in semiconductor manufacturing in a bid to increase the country’s chip production. 

“The US has always been a benefit-seeking country that would not give its resources and properties away for nothing,” Xu said. “And the donation of doses could be aimed as an exchange for Taiwan’s largest semiconductor manufacturer TSMC’s investment in the US.”

Cheng Po-yu, executive director of the cross-Straits Youth Exchange Association, who took the vaccine in Beijing in late May, held similar views. 

“The fact is, even with the 2.5 million doses, the vast majority of Taiwan people still have no chance of getting them, as the DPP authorities have prioritized those related to key industries such as semiconductors, which the US also prefers, to ensure their own supply chains won’t be affected,” Cheng told the Global Times on Sunday.

So far, only 6 percent of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people has received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccines, Cheng said, with more than 40 million doses needed for the island to achieve herd immunity.

Some Taiwan netizens left comments on Facebook that said the US’ “saving of lives” is not only targeting the island’s chip businesses, but has also put it under Washington’s political manipulation as a chess piece to counter the Chinese mainland.

Some also noted that the donation was made at the cost of “a huge sum of overpriced military expenses that Taiwan has given away to the US.” 

Taiwan reported another 107 new coronavirus cases and 11 deaths on Sunday, local media reported, the 37th consecutive day that infections exceed 100 during the recent epidemic exacerbated by critical vaccine shortages.