Analysis | Is the ‘Taiwan Model’ the panacea for virus prevention?

Beginning of the 2020 school year in Taiwan. (Photo courtesy of CNA)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Taiwan’s efforts in epidemic prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic have been commended worldwide, leading to international media coining the term The Taiwan Model.

The island has set a high international standard in its strategies for combatting the virus but does it mean that such a model can be exported? Should Taiwan strategies be applied elsewhere knowing that foreigners might be more sensitive to any attempts to limit their rights?

The Taiwan Model: Rightfully Idolized?

Owing to a strong feedback loop and proactive planning, Taiwan’s success echoes far and wide. Many countries are singing praises for the successful policy-making structure that Taiwan has.

Taiwan’s government benefits from transparency, so there is less friction and more respect from its people for public policies. The island avoided an educational crisis and a severe blow to its economy.

Doing this through a rigorous quarantine early on in the growth of the pandemic and enforcing strict border restrictions, it maintained a civil and orderly environment.

Taiwanese people have a deep respect for each other and the democratic society they live in which aided the containment of the virus.

Wearing masks became a social norm, alcohol sanitizers were available in public areas, social distancing was enforced, while schools and offices operated safely.

Beginning of the 2020 school year in Taiwan. (Photo courtesy of CNA)

According to Mung Chiang and Jonathan Moore who published an article on the U.S. Department of State’s website, “A formula consisting of respect for human rights, accountability, rule of law, and transparency has made the people of Taiwan more nimble, innovative, and successful in combating international health threats, including COVID-19.”

The government has a fully functioning feedback loop with its people. This promotes a solid ground for a civil society to voice their support or disapproval for any policy leading to an environment of transparency and understanding.

Several issues arose during the first COVID-19 wave in Taiwan, where people voiced their concerns to a receptive government. When there was a lack of masks or inconvenience in purchasing them by queueing at pharmacies, the government constructed an online mask ordering system for pick up at local pharmacies.

FamilyMart and Hi-Life, two major convenience stores, have begun selling masks on June 2. (Courtesy of Family Mart)

 Missteps and Discriminative Policies 

Another successful aspect of The Taiwan Model” is that it was able to lift the entry ban on returning international students in early August.

This, quite controversially, did not apply to Chinese students due to tense cross-strait relations. A hasty amendment to the original policy led to it being labeled discriminatory.

When Taiwan appeared to be on a winning streak, the government had a lapse in judgment and the discriminatory policy backfired. The island has solid epidemic prevention measures in place, but it has also erred and made mistakes.

Futile Attempts to Imitate

Only taking note of its success, other countries are trying to adopt and export The Taiwan Model” in their own countries.

It is difficult to strike the delicate balance in Taiwans method of operation. Admittedly, it’s also futile for other Western countries to try and copy the entire system ignoring any missteps.

Taiwans people and its government are unique in the way they operate in a healthy symbiotic way, which cannot truly be replicated anywhere else.

In France, much like Taiwan, schools opened for the new academic year last week. The French Education Minister said 22 schools closed again across France due to the spreading of the virus, only a few days after nearly 12 million students returned to school.

France echoes Taiwans policy during the first wave of Covid-19 where a school will be closed if three or more students are found infected.

Taiwans elementary schools, junior and senior high schools were the first to open in early September. Universities will be next and have enforced strict quarantine either in school dormitories for returning students or at hotels.

Taiwans elementary schools, junior and senior high schools were the first to open in early September. (Photo courtesy of CNA)

There is no consensus on whether children should wear masks and many have questioned the effectiveness of them. Suffice to say, studies conducted show that disposable medical masks are the most hygienic, effective, and readily available out of other contenders.

Whereas Taiwanese citizens are understanding of the thorough procedures that involve phone tracking and other strict quarantine measures, Western societies may find this invasive.

Taiwanese people are obliged to wear masks in all public transportations and other public areas. They respect the greater good which demonstrates a utilitarian society. While people in the United States strongly oppose something as basic as mask-wearing.

Face masks are mandatory when taking the MRT and other public transportations in Taiwan. (Photo courtesy of NOWnews)

Taiwan has seen a streak of favorable outcomes and it wholly deserves international recognition. Yet, this system is built on liberal values and a small progressive population. It cant be imitated in other nations that have different policy-making systems and environments.


Saloni Meghnani is a student working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication in Taiwan. She grew up in Taipei and attended an international school. Saloni is an avid reader and is passionate about writing. Her upbringing as a third culture child gives her a unique perspective on her coverage of socio-economic issues in Asia.