Six weeks of unexpected celebration of Taiwanese pride – from an Anglocentric academic world

Most of my friends remember me venting about the work I had to do on Taiwan’s success story of COVID management during my Laidlaw research. In truth, I was more proud than anything about the country’s achievements – and how badly I wish the Anglocentric academic world would celebrate it, too.

Like Comment

Picture yourself in an action learning set group. Your fellow Laidlaw scholars are discussing the struggles they’ve been encountering, in their research and in their leadership-in-action projects. Some people’s projects have been delayed, because of the constraints of COVID. Some people were struggling to understand how to use the programmes, the materials that they are meant to use for their research. Then there’s me: a person from Hong Kong, moaning incessantly about the hours upon hours of transcribing, translating, and editing she had to do for speeches and interviews conducted in Mandarin, and how soul crushing the process has been – because god forbid, she had chosen to investigate Taiwan’s management of the COVID crisis, and that meant working with primary sources, available mostly in Chinese and Mandarin.

What I didn’t tell you, however, is how immensely proud I have been of Taiwan’s achievement.

I guess as someone who normally resides in Hong Kong, it never really occurred to me that Taiwan’s success story in COVID management isn’t as widely celebrated in the Anglosphere, as a similar counterpart like New Zealand had been. Of course, there’s a myriad of reasons this happened: Taiwan’s not-exactly-statehood status in the international community; its non-membership status in the WHO, which led to its successes being largely undocumented, at least on an official, international level; its recent outbreak in May 2021, which shattered its 8-month COVID-free image; and of course, the issue of language barrier.

Now, more in-depth discussion of the issue of Anglocentrism in International Relations scholarship will be featured in my research output – as will how it has impacted the public’s understanding of and the way we see East Asian affairs, at least as far as my experience as a student in the UK, and my interactions with my local peers suggests. But on a personal and emotional level? I would implore everyone to pay a little more attention to the world outwith the Anglosphere. It's a good way to tap into your leadership skills  – I've certainly felt like this is what I've done. When placed amongst peers who are genuinely interested in a topic but cannot seem to connect with it, due to a lack of the cultural proximity which you possess with the topic, are passionate about, and researching on, what you can find there and the influence your own research have when shared with your peers may surprise you.

Edith Lee

Student, University of St Andrews