TAIPEI, Taiwan – As coronoviruses have developed lives and economies around the world, Taiwan has been an oasis.
Every day, restaurants, bars and cafes are packed. The office buildings hum and school masked with the screams and laughter of the masked children. In October, the Pride Parade drew an estimated 130,000 people onto the streets of the capital Taipei. Rainbow masks were abundant; Social differences, not so much.
This 24 million island, which has seen only 10 Kovid-19 deaths and fewer than 1,000 cases Its success To sell something in short supply: living without fear of coronavirus. Relatively few people who are allowed to enter Taiwan are coming in droves, and they have helped bring about an economic boom.
“For a while, Taiwan felt a bit empty. A lot of people have gone abroad and only come back once, ”said Justin Lee, the head chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant Fluor de Sail in Taichung City, which he said was booked for a month of the fall. Advance since. “Now, some of those once guests have gone back.”
These Kovid migrants are largely foreign Taiwanese and dual citizens. They have included businessmen, students, retirees and celebrities. Eddie Huang, Taiwan-American convenor and author. According to immigration officials, Taiwan left it in around 2020, while nearly four times more than in the previous year.
Taiwan’s borders have been closed to foreign visitors since last spring. But highly skilled non-Taiwanese workers are allowed under a “gold card” employment program, which the government has aggressively promoted during the epidemic. Since January 31 of last year, more than 1,600 gold cards have been issued, more than four times in 2019.
The influx of people helped make Taiwan one of the fastest growing economies of the past year – indeed, to expand some of all. There was a slowdown for some time at the onset of the epidemic, but the economy grew by more than 5 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the same period in 2019. Government 4.6 percent growth expected in 2021, Which will be the fastest speed in seven years.
Steve Chen, a Taiwanese-American entrepreneur who co-founded YouTube, was the first to sign up for the Gold Card program. He moved to the island from San Francisco in 2019 with his wife and two children. Then, after the epidemic hit, many of his friends in Silicon Valley, especially those of Taiwanese heritage, began to join him – a reverse brain drain.
He and colleagues such as Kevin Lin, one of the founders of Twitch and co-creator of Guitar Hero Kai Huang, have traded coffee meet-ups for badminton matches at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and poker nights in Taipei. Taiwanese leaders say the infusion of foreign talent has given their tech industry a shot of energy, which is known to make manufacturing better than the entrepreneurial culture.
“The whole chain that you have in Silicon Valley – the entrepreneurs who are willing to take the risk, the investors who are willing to write an initial investigation – all of those people have actually come back and are now in Taiwan,” Mr said. . Chen, sitting on a couch in his office in a government-backed co-working space in Taipei.
“It seems to me that this is a golden age for technology,” he said.
The growth of returning citizens has put a strain on the short-term rental market. A property manager estimated that the number of dual citizens or foreign Taiwanese looking for apartments doubled in 2020 in the most recent years.
Not all Taiwanese industries are flourishing. Those who depend on strong international travel such as airlines, hotels and tour companies have achieved great success. But exports have been growing directly for eight months, fueling shipments of electronics and rising demand for Taiwan’s most important product, the semiconductor chips.
Domestic tourism is also booming. Taiwanese who were accustomed to taking short flights to Japan or Southeast Asia are now looking for their home. Tourist destinations such as Sun Moon Lake and the Alishan mountain resort area have been paired with tourists, and at least one upscale hotel outside Taichung has been booked through July.
Orchid Island, a small, coral-ringed island off the east coast of Taiwan, had so many visitors last summer that hotel operators Started a campaign Encouraged him to lift two pounds of trash when he left.
Some aspects of epidemic life have allowed the borders of Taiwan. Temperature checks and hand cleaning are common, and masks are required in many public places (although in schools).
But for the most part, the virus is out of sight and out of mind, thanks to rigorous contact tracing and strict quarantine for oncoming passengers.
Some returned, such as, 35-year-old Robin Wei promoting his final farewell.
“We are very lucky and definitely a little guilty,” said Mr. Wei, product manager at Bay Area Tech Company. “We think we are the people benefiting from the epidemic.”
For many, coming back means a chance to connect with Taiwan.
After receiving a master’s degree in computer science in Australia, the 25-year-old, dual Taiwanese Australian citizen Joshua Yang decided to return in October. He said that the job market in Australia was looking bleak, so he took the opportunity to do the necessary military service for all Taiwanese men under 36.
Mr. Yang was not the only one with that idea. When he arrived for basic training in December, Mr. Yang said, he found himself with a group of returns and dual citizens, including an American, a German, a Filipino and a foreign Taiwanese who were studying in California. Found colliding.
Since completing two and a half weeks of training, Mr. Yang has been allowed to voluntarily end his service at an indigenous history museum in a remote city in southern Taiwan.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I don’t know that if it wasn’t for the epidemic I would have had the opportunity,” Mr. Yang said. “I am able to understand my motherland in a different way through a different lens and learn what it is for the indigenous people of Taiwan, who are the traditional owners of the land.”
Many are wondering how long Taiwan’s status as a Kovid-19 may persist for a long time, especially as the vaccine rolls out elsewhere. So far, the authorities have slowed down the purchase and distribution of vaccines, as there is little need for them. The government just announced this month that it had Received my first batch, Will be given to medical personnel.
Some people like 72-year-old Tai Ling Sun are already planning to leave the bubble.
In January, Ms. Sun and her husband emigrated from California to the city of Kaohsiung, where she grew up, at the urging of friends and family in Taiwan. They were concerned about its safety in Orange County, where cases of coronovirus were increasing.
After two weeks in quarantine, Ms. Surya stepped into a Taiwanese – which was isolated from the facade – almost looked and felt as it had on previous visits. She has since been making the most of her stay with a series of regular medical checkups, something that is in the United States Is delayed Ever since the epidemic started.
But a virus-free paradise does not provide immunity for all diseases. Ms. Surya said that she was beginning to feel at home. She was longing to see her five children and breathe the ancient suburban air. And, she said, she wanted a vaccine.
“It’s great to be here,” said Ms. Surya. “But it’s time to go home.”