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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Sacrifices of overseas Taiwanese pay off

Sacrifices of overseas Taiwanese pay off

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I was once invited by the New York-based Gheelan Association of USA to give an after-dinner speech. During the dinner, a member asked me what I thought of then-premier Frank Hsieh’s (謝長廷) “constitutional one China” idea.

I replied with my own question: What does “constitutional one China” mean?

This was met with laughter from some of the people around the table. They thought it odd that they possessed a fuller grasp of Taiwanese current affairs than a Taiwanese living in Taiwan.

Many expat Taiwanese entrepreneurs and businesspeople take a deep interest in the future of their mother country and the association is just such an organization.

Hsieh was attempting to break the ice and start a relationship with Beijing.

However, because his proposal of a “constitutional one China” ran contrary to then-president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) policy of “one country on each side” of the Taiwan Strait, it was not long before he was forced to step down.

Many Taiwanese academics have furthered their careers overseas and achieved significant accomplishments in the international academic community.

They take a keen interest in their native land, and many are willing to sacrifice the superior academic environment of the US to return to Taiwan to devote themselves to burnishing Taiwan’s academic credentials.

Nobel Prize-winning chemist Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) is a good example of this. With the prize under his belt, Lee could have stayed in the US to continue his research and lead a comfortable life. Instead, he gave up his US nationality for the sake of his native country and took the role of president of Academia Sinica.

During the 12 years that Lee was at the helm from 1994 to 2006, he persuaded first-rate foreign-born and overseas Taiwanese academics to return to continue their research.

This list includes viral disease specialist and Academia Sinica researcher Michael Lai (賴明詔), Academia Sinica Institute of Physics research fellow Tsong Tien-tzou (鄭天佐), former Academia Sinica vice president Sunney Chan (陳長謙), anthropologist Chang Kwang-chih (張光直) and many others.

Lai has said that the experience of defeating SARS was a key turning point that encouraged him to return to Taiwan.

Today, Taiwan’s approach to defeating COVID-19 has turned it into a model for public health policy in the international scientific community.

Indeed, many Taiwanese academics returned home to help fight the virus.

Over the past three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan’s successes in combating the virus have elevated the nation’s status in the international academic community. Taiwanese scientists such as Lai have made vital contributions to the global pandemic response.

Today, the nation faces challenges and existential threats. Taiwan’s survival depends on the combined efforts of Taiwanese at home and abroad.

Taiwanese who have not lived abroad should thank the selfless actions of the many academics and scientists who returned home to give back to their nation.

Paul Li is a research fellow at Academia Sinica.

Translated by Edward Jone

Source: Taipei Times - Edietorials 2022/09/10

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