Image courtesy of Sydney Allen via Canva pro

Until Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, there was little interest or shared knowledge between Taiwan and Ukraine. For understandable reasons, both countries are geographically distant, had very little bilateral trade, and were more preoccupied with their immediate — and threatening — neighbors, China and Russia, or more traditional allies. 

All of this changed in February 2022 when Moscow invaded Ukraine for the second time in eight years, and the Taiwanese public and the government extended their immediate support to Ukrainians. Since then, help hasn’t stopped and includes private and public direct and indirect humanitarian aid, the presence of Taiwanese volunteers in Ukraine, including in the foreign armed forces, support to Ukrainian refugees in nearby Central Europe, political declarations, and early compliance with international sanctions against Russia. 

As China is openly supporting Russia and also stepping up its direct military threats towards Taiwan, people on the island are getting increasingly curious to know how Ukraine, dwarfed in size and initial military equipment compared to Russia, has managed to resist the invasion by mobilizing civilians, reacting rapidly in the context of asymmetric warfare, and rallying old and new allies across the world. 

Today, Taiwan witnessing multiple political campaigns ahead of the January 2024 presidential and parliamentary election, and the word “Ukraine” is being dropped by all parties either as a reference to its resistance or as an example of the heavy cost of saying no to a bullying neighbor, depending on ideological preferences.  

In Ukraine, while the government avoids any direct contact with Taiwanese authorities, there is a change in awareness, often driven by the need to import spare parts of drones from Taiwan as China is closing its market to Ukraine. 

To understand how both countries perceive and misunderstand each other, build bridges outside a direct governmental dialogue, gradually build bilateral expertise, and involve other regions in this rapprochement, Global Voices is launching a Special Coverage on Taiwan and Ukraine to hear from Taiwanese, Ukrainian and other voices about this new development in international relations. 

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