TL;DR – Those who do good deeds, should not do so out of a desire for others to know about it.
Some of you may remember that back in February, we published an article where Mdm Ho Ching talked about masks and mask production in Singapore.
Back then, she had said that ST Engineering produced this one type of Air+ N95 masks in Taiwan and how they were stuck as Taiwan had banned export of all types of masks. She had shared then that ST Engineering had been working on relocating two of the production lines back to Singapore, and were also busy setting up the factory space here.
Ho Ching talks about ST Engg starting own mask production lines in Singapore, possibly as early as March
Fast forward to today, some two months later.
Our two production lines have been relocated back to Singapore in March. But we had effectively lost a month of precious time because during that time when we really really needed the masks, we weren’t able to export our own masks back for our own needs due to Taiwan’s ban on exporting masks.
You have to bear in mind that during that critical period, China, which accounts for over half of the world’s supply of masks, was also in dire need of masks. This means that China was not able to export much of the critically needed masks back then since they needed the masks for themselves.
The shortage was sharply acute two months back, and it was not a problem that could easily be solved with money. Because there was just no supply, and a lot of demand.
By now, the coronavirus situation in China has eased and it is now able to export masks to other countries. Other than China, there are also more sources to buy masks from now, including Vietnam, Indonesia and others. So it’s reasonable to say today, the pressure is a lot less.
And now, Taiwan is suddenly going all out with their mask diplomacy, including telling the media about how it’s donating masks to countries to combat COVID-19.
Yeps, they have been shouting “Taiwan can help” in a very high profile manner.
And yeps, Singapore’s one of the countries that Taiwan’s donating their masks to.
Check out how their pallets of masks to be exported to donee countries are plastered with the slogan, Taiwan can help.
Yeps, “mask diplomacy” at its best showing.
Those were our masks, but “cannot see also cannot touch”
Back two months ago, the coronavirus situation in Taiwan was actually quite OK, not critically widespread. For Singapore, we weren’t even asking Taiwan for their masks. We were just asking for our own masks which were made in Taiwan to be shipped back for our own use.
But nope, it was a blanket ban of export. So yea, cannot see and also cannot touch.
Mdm Ho Ching is the chief executive at Temasek Holdings, and Temasek Holdings is a controlling shareholder of ST Engineering. It’d hardly be surprising if she was involved when Singapore was talking to Taiwan two months ago about letting us have our own masks shipped back to Singapore.
So to me, it’s perfectly understandable that she would have an “Errrr….” moment when she heard about Taiwan donating, what, 100,000(?) masks to Singapore. Two months after the critical period for us.
Truth be told, if I were her, I’d be having more of a WTF moment than an Errrr…. moment. OK, I guess I’m more easily agitated and shorter-tempered, LOL! But I honestly think she’s already being polite and giving face with just this mild “Errrr….” expression. It’s, at
best worst, a disagreement with the contents of the article.
The Taiwanese netizens and also the over-zealous DPP supporters did not understand the context of the matter and just went attacking her. And along the way, they lashed out at Singapore and Singaporeans too. Well, we probably look like ungrateful brats to them.
Mdm Ho Ching then edited her Facebook post in response to the online spat. I suppose there’s no point stoking the online sparring, so best to put out the fire before it escalated into a diplomatic crisis.
In her edited post, Mdm Ho expressed her thanks to the people in Taiwan who had offered their helping hands when we needed them the most. She said that no matter if the attempts were successful or otherwise, she’s “forever grateful”.
She also added (cutely, LOL!), “And mistakes? Also forgiven, lah!”
Oh, she also urged everyone to “stop trying to beat each other up in cyberspace”.
Anyway, someone Whatsapp’ed me a video this morning.
It’s an episode from a news talkshow in Taiwan (无色觉醒) with English subtitles added. The host of the programme, Lai Yue Qian (赖岳谦), is supposedly quite the expert when it comes to international affairs and also Taiwan-China relations.
I thought this episode was a fairly rational walk-through and analysis of the online row between the Taiwanese and Singaporean netizens.
I’m sharing the video here, and I’m also publishing the English text in case you prefer to just read instead of watching the video. Now the whole idea of sharing this is so that Singaporeans are clearer about what really happened. I’m not encouraging anyone to launch any online attack on the Taiwanese, so chill, OK?
Note that I didn’t do the English translation, the video already had the subtitles embedded when it was sent to me. I’ve no idea who did the translation, but thank you!
Welcome to Wu Se Jue Xing. I am your host, Lai Yue Qian.
We have a very traditional mindset, that is “When you give, do not let your left hand know”. That is, when you are doing charitable work, there is no need for you to tell the whole world who you have helped. This is to take into consideration the feelings of the donee. And also, we are doing charitable work because we sincerely want to help others. We are doing good deeds not to become famous. This is what our forefathers have taught us. And this is the principle one should uphold as a decent human being. If we do not uphold this principle, the good work one did might have bad consequences.
This is what we see now between Taiwan and Singapore recently.
The relationship between Taiwan and Singapore is very important, and we have been enjoying good relationship for a very long time. Singapore’s position among the 10 countries in ASEAN is formidable, despite her small size and population of only 5-6 million. But Singapore is still ranked 7 out of the top 10 richest countries. The average Singaporean is richer than an average American. Singapore does not produce oil. Their wealth is accumulated due to its good governance, the hard work of its people, and their ability to make good use of their foresight, This is how they managed to amass great wealth. Singapore knows how to aim for balance among super powers and always safeguards the interests of Singaporeans. This is why the quality of Singaporeans is high, the quality of its government officials is high. Their remuneration is also very good. These are the reasons why Singapore is influential in ASEAN despite its size. Even the West would ask Singapore’s PMs, from Lee Kuan Yew to Lee Hsien Loong, for their advice and ideas when they want to enter ASEAN markets.
Singapore’s current PM is also able to handle the West with confidence and flair without giving in. Their confidence convinced and impressed the Western leaders. This is how Singapore managed to continue to be valued highly among ASEAN countries. Despite its small size, the country and its people are rich and cultured.
The official and personal relationship between Taiwan and Singapore, started from Jiang Jing Guo and Lee Kuan Yew. However, despite the close relationship, there were also times of disharmony. E.g. tensions during Lee Teng Hui’s ruling and Chen Sui Bian’s Foreign Minister belittling the size of Singapore to a booger, insulting Singaporeans. And now there is another episode of storm in a teacup.
I said it’s trivial because it is something Taiwan has to reflect upon. The recent response from Minister for Health, Chen Shi Zhong, is very appropriate, that Taiwan did not consider the feelings of Singaporeans (over the donation of masks). I feel that Chen Shi Zhong’s response is much better than our foreign affairs spokesperson. Our foreign affairs department did not know how to manage the misunderstanding between Taiwan and Singapore properly. But Chen Shi Zhong was able to diffuse the misunderstanding aptly. Chen Shi Zhong had handled the conflict with Singapore better than our foreign affairs.
The conflict is due to a Facebook response from PM’s wife, Ho Ching, over a piece of Taiwanese article stating Taiwan’s alleged donation of masks to Singapore. This is a deliberate act of letting the world know that we are doing charity. However, Singaporeans would have read the news and react differently form what DPP expected. Why? Because Singapore has their own mask manufacturing factory. They have two manufacturing lines in Taiwan.
In January, Premier Su Tseng-Chang announced the ban on mask export from Taiwan. So no masks could be taken out from Taiwan. This meant the Singapore-owned factories in Taiwan could only manufacture masks, only to be sold in Taiwan and they were unable to export back to Singapore. Singapore needed a lot of masks during that period, but they were denied access to their own masks which was manufactured in Taiwan. This created a lot of pressure for Singapore.
At that point in time, the situation in China was also very serious. The situation in Taiwan was not very serious. The most serious was China who also needed a lot of masks. Hence they restructured their factories to produce masks. There were not enough masks in Singapore and China. Taiwan’s situation was alright, yet they disallowed the export of masks.
Left with no options, Singapore Government had to recall their two manufacturing lines in February disassembled the machines, shipped them from Taiwan to Singapore, and then re-assembled them back in Singapore. The whole process, including shipping of the machines, dragged till March. Which means when Singapore was in serious need of masks, they couldn’t get any masks. Singapore only began producing masks in March, and the virus control situation in China had improved, China then began to export their masks.
So China began to export their masks. With the price of masks being so cheap, Singapore was then able to purchase masks from China in bulk. With masks available from China and Singapore’s own production, there were enough masks in Singapore to meet their own demand.
Secondly, Singapore is a wealthy nation.
Thirdly, masks are very cheap. 100,000 masks will only cost 500,000 NT (approximately, SGD24,000). Five hundred NT (or SGD24,000) is nothing to Singapore.
So when Taiwan announced to the world that we are going to donate masks to Singapore, PM’s wife posted a comment on her Facebook, “Errrr”. Her comment broke the fragile hearts of some Taiwanese netizens, resulting in the Taiwanese keyboard warriors beginning to attack Mdm Ho Ching online. DPP’s politicians also started to criticise Mdm Ho Ching. This incurred the wrath of Singaporean netizens and both countries’ netizens began an online battle of words.
But the truth is, when Singapore was in dire needs of masks, many Taiwanese tried to help Singapore address the shortage of masks in their private capacity. And these Taiwanese did not reveal their kind acts, even till today. Hence Mdm Ho Ching was aware that many Taiwanese and their friends tried to help Singapore, and these Taiwanese were also trying to help China with their masks. Mdm Ho Ching published a second Facebook post to thank all the Taiwanese and their friends, out of gratitude.
After Chen Shi Zhong’s clarifications, the conflict was quickly diffused between Singapore and Taiwan. Chen Shi Zhong adopted a very simple approach, that is, self-reflection. Whether did we take into consideration the feelings of Singaporeans? Chen Shi Zhong managed to resolve this conflict. Whereas these 1450 (i.e. Taiwanese keyboard warriors) and DPP politicians’ way of insulting Singapore failed to solve anything. Our foreign affairs tried to make amends, but they didn’t perform as well as Chen Shi Zhong.
This is how we can also interpret news. I am Lai Yue Qian. Thank you for watching.
Mdm Ho has shared this article on her Facebook page this morning, and she also left some food for thought:
I actually have no problem with ppl who want to let others know of their good deeds.
It’s one way to encourage many more to step up to be in the company of the good and better.
Just don’t make others beg to be helped, ok?
Respect the worth of all individuals.
Recognise that even the poorest of us have something to give to others, whether in money, ideas, services, dignity, or values.
And very often when we give, we get more than we give – except it may take us a while to find out!
Meanwhile, I’ll leave you the Chinese copy of the Wu Se Jue Xing (无色觉醒) episode too.
所以当台湾告诉全世界我们要送给新加坡口罩的时候，对新加坡总理夫人来说的话，她就只用了一个字叫呃 (Errrr) 这样的一个动作。这样的情形就使有一些人的玻璃心破碎了，所以台湾的义勇军，特别是这些网军们，就蜂拥过去然后去大骂这个何晶女士。民进党的有一些政客也开始去酸这个何晶女士。这样的情形也引起了新加坡网民的不满，彼此之间在空中有较量。
Join the discussion 4 Comments
Fast forward to today, get your facts right. Taiwan only band export of mask wich was manufactured by Taiwanese company. Taiwan band export of mask because it was just not enough at that point of time. On the other hand, did Singapore government saw this coming? What was done and did it work ? I suppose you dare not to ask that to the Singapore government.
Now, of course Taiwan is to be blamed for the out break in Singapore, why not? In the eye of Singapore government Taiwan is not a country, so why not push all the fault to Taiwan. After all Taiwanese don’t speak english, so what do they know right.
Hello Po, thanks for your comment. Here’s our response.
One, the programme’s in Chinese, so it doesn’t exist the argument of “After all Taiwanese don’t speak english, so what do they know right”. Two, we disagree that Taiwanese don’t speak English, that’s your assumption, not ours. Three, the ban is on all types of masks, including ours. Four, read the article again, at no point did we say or even imply that Taiwan is responsible for the coronavirus outbreak in Singapore. Five, we did not say or even imply anything in the article about whether we think Taiwan is a country or not. Even if you read between the lines, it’s not there. We couldn’t care less because that’s not our business. It’s Taiwan’s (or China, depending if you’re pro-green or pro-blue) own prerogative and it’s a matter than involves another country’s sovereignity. Not our call, not our decision and also not our business. Do not self-victimise put words into our mouths. Six, Taiwan’s own Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shi-zhong as good as admitted that there was indeed a delay on Taiwan’s party when it came to facilitating Singapore bringing our own masks back. Please see references below, and I’ve included some news that came from Taiwan itself.
We can agree to disagree, but we draw the line at people putting words into our mouths. Thanks, again, for your comment.
Did you see recently how Singapore was sending medical supplies to other countries too?? Do you think that the photos of a Sg representative passing a box with a big SG flag was candid shot?? Or that international transport of stuff, ANY STUFF, is routinely done with some sort of photographer present, according to SOP? Here’s an example，https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-sends-additional-supplies-to-help-indonesia-s-covid-19-12607746
Thanks for swinging by and leaving us a comment. Yes, we’re familiar with those publicity shots and all too. In fact, we’ve also googled for how other countries sending masks and other PPE were doing this. It’s fairly standard practice to at least indicate the donor country, like you’ve rightly pointed out.
One key difference though. No one country we’ve seen has adopted a slogan even remotely close to how Taiwan does it. They’ve gone with “Taiwan can help” and “Taiwan is helping”. You can have a look at how some Taiwanese themselves have described this high-profile mask diplomacy tactic by Taiwan:
「台灣能幫上忙」 Taiwan can help
日本 中國 馬雲基金會的例子