COVID? What COVID? Taiwan thrives as a bubble of normality. With coronavirus improving lives and economies around the world, Taiwan has always been a great place to live.
Every day, drops fly by dropping into crowded restaurants, bars and fine restaurants. Office buildings are buzzing, and schools are buzzing with the cries and laughter of innocent children. In October, the proud exhibition drew an estimated 130,000 people into the streets of this great city. Rainbow masks were overflowing; social distance, not so much.
Taiwan, an island which has near to about a total of 24 million people that has seen just 10 COVID-19 deaths and fewer than 1,000 cases, has used its success to sell something missing: living without fear of coronavirus. The relatively small number of people allowed to enter Taiwan have been coming in large numbers, and they have helped to accelerate economic growth.
“For a while, Taiwan felt a little empty. Many people have moved abroad and come back only once, ”said Justine Li, senior chef at Fleur de Sel, a star-studded restaurant in Microsoft in the city of Taichung, adding that the restaurant had been booked a month in advance since the fall
These COVID migrants are mainly Taiwanese overseas and international. They include businessmen, students, retirees and well-known figures such as Eddie Huang, a Taiwanese-American consultant and writer. About 270,000 Taiwanese people enter the island than they left in 2020, according to immigration officials – about four times as many as last year.
Taiwan’s borders have been severely closed to foreign tourists since spring. But highly skilled non-Taiwanese workers have been allowed to join the “gold card” recruitment program, which the government has strongly encouraged during the epidemic. As of January 31, 2020, more than 1,600 gold cards have been issued, more often than in 2019.
The influx of people has helped make Taiwan one of the fastest growing economies last year – indeed, one of the few that will grow at all. There has been a slight decline in the start of the epidemic, but the economy has grown by more than 5% in the fourth quarter compared to the same period in 2019. The government expects to grow by 4.6% by 2021, which will be the fastest in seven years.
Steve Chen, 42, a Taiwan-American businessman who founded YouTube, was the first to sign up for the gold card program. He moved to the island from San Francisco with his wife and two children in 2019. Then, after the outbreak of the disease, many of his friends in Silicon Valley, especially those with a Taiwanese heritage, began to join him – a form of brain surgery.
He and his colleagues such as Kevin Lin, founder of Twitch, and Kai Huang, the builder of Guitar Hero, sold coffee meetups at the Ferry Building in San Francisco for badminton games and poker nights in Taipei. Taiwanese leaders say the recognition of foreign talent has given impetus to its technology industry, which is better known for producing cunning than business culture.
Chen said that the series they have in Silicon Valley – risky entrepreneurs, investors who are willing to write a check in advance – all those people are back and they are in Taiwan now.
The increase in returning citizens has put a strain on the temporary rental market. One property manager estimated that the number of two or more Taiwanese overseas countries looking for apartments doubled by 2020 than in recent years.
Not all Taiwanese industries were thriving. Those who rely on strong international travel, including airlines, hotels and tourism companies, have taken great preferences. But exports have increased for the exact eight months, due to electronic shipping and the growing demand for Taiwan’s most important product: semiconductor chips.
Domestic tourism is also thriving. Taiwanese people who used to take short flights to Japan or southeast Asia now explore their home. Views such as Sun Moon Lake and Alishan mountain resort area are full of tourists, and at least one luxury hotel outside Taichung is booked in July.
For many, the return meant the opportunity to reconnect with Taiwan.
After earning a master’s degree in computer science in Australia, Joshua Yang, 25, a Taiwanese-Australian citizen, decided to return in October. The labor market in Australia looked bleak, he said, so he took the opportunity to perform the required military service for all Taiwanese men under 36 years of age.
Yang was not the only one with this idea. When he arrived at the basic training in December, Yang said, he found himself barking at a group of returnees and people from two countries, including the American, German, Filipino and Taiwanese overseas students who were studying in California.
Since completing 2 1/2 weeks of training, Yang has been allowed to complete his ministry by volunteering at the Indigenous History Museum in a remote city in southern Taiwan.