In March 2022, a large shipment of medical supplies donated by the Taiwanese Cao Zhong Zhi Foundation and the Pu Hsien Foundation arrived in Seattle, after a six-month delay due to COVID-19. On May 26th, the Seattle-based Bridge Disability Ministries, a Christian organization that also specializes in donations of medical equipment, held a ceremony celebrating the donation, which included 82 wheelchairs, 100 canes, 32 commodes, and 60 pairs of crutches. Daniel Chen, Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Seattle, attended the ceremony, as did several Washington State Senators and State Representatives, and other local leaders. Taiwanese officials expressed assurance that the wheelchairs and other supplies would have a positive impact on the region and bring the people of the United States and Taiwan closer together.
This is the latest in a series of medical donations from Taiwan to the people of Washington State. In 2021, the Seattle TECO office coordinated the delivery of 5,000 Taiwan-made surgical masks to Greater Seattle Partners, a local trade and investment organization. This, too, provided Taiwanese and Washingtonian leaders an opportunity to come together; representatives of both sides stated that they expected trade between Taiwan and Washington to grow in the future.
This optimism is grounded in a rich history of economic and personal ties between Taiwan and Washington. As of 2022, there are four sister city partnerships between Taiwan and Washington. Bellevue, Washington and Hualien, Taiwan became the first Taiwan-Washington sister cities, in 1984, and in 2013, a group of 85 Taiwanese musicians and performers performed at a festival in Bellevue to celebrate the partnership. Washington is also home to a number of major Taiwanese companies, such as WaferTech (a semiconductor producer) and EVA Air, Taiwan’s second-largest airline. Several Washington-based companies, such as Microsoft, also have a strong presence in Taiwan. In 2016, Washington State exported $ 3.1 billion of goods to Taiwan each year. These exports directly support a total of 7,200 Washington-based jobs.
Regardless of the unofficial status of the bilateral relationship, opportunities abound for the people of Taiwan and the United States to form closer ties, on both a personal and business level. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, American-Taiwanese medical diplomacy is becoming particularly important to strengthening these ties. In another instance, Taiwan donated 100,000 surgical masks to the state of Wisconsin, in May 2020. Such medical donations are but one example of how these ties can be formed at the local level.
Devin Woods is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington. He is an M.A. Candidate at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), studying International Relations with a functional concentration in Security, Strategy, and Statecraft, and a regional concentration in Asia.