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Democracies like Sweden and Taiwan 'should support each other'

Paul O'Mahony
Paul O'Mahony - [email protected]
Democracies like Sweden and Taiwan 'should support each other'
Klement Gu, Taiwan's Representative to Sweden. Photo courtesy of Taipei Mission in Sweden

In the latest of our interviews with international envoys, we catch up with Klement Gu, Taiwan’s representative to Sweden, about his impressions of Sweden, healthy trade ties, and how Sweden can support Taiwan amid tensions with China. 


Klement Gu enjoys playing with words and has hit on what he thinks is a fitting acronym for his host nation. 

“Sweden is a Smart, Wise, Efficient, Democratic and Equal Nation,” the Representative of the Taipei Mission in Sweden tells The Local. 

Having previously served in Germany and Switzerland, he’s also well versed in German and Nordic-language translations of the word democracy. 

“I’ve always said that in Taiwan we have very good tea. We have very good black tea, green tea, high mountain tea, oolong tea, bubble tea, even our guarantee. However, the best tea in Taiwan is our demokrati.” 


It’s a theme he returns to often over the course of our conversation: although very few countries have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, democracies all over the world have a duty to stand up for each other in the face of threats like those levelled against Taiwan by its authoritarian neighbour China. 

One way countries like Sweden can support Taiwan is simply by sending more political delegations, Gu says. Another is to push for Taiwan to be granted observer status in international organisations. Last year, for example, ten countries including the US, UK, and EU members Germany, France and Lithuania gave their backing to Taiwan’s bid for inclusion in the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva. Klement Gu would like to see Sweden lend its voice to similar calls when the WHA convenes again this May. 

“Hopefully the representative of Sweden can use this opportunity to speak up,” he says. 

"Democratic countries should support each other and sit together and do some common action."

Hear more from Taiwan’s representative on how Sweden can aid Taiwan in the Sweden in Focus podcast (18:08 minutes in).

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Like many other countries, including the US, UK and the entire EU bloc, Sweden follows a One China Policy. This means Sweden accepts Beijing’s claim that there is only one China but rejects China’s territorial claims to Taiwan. 

However, a lack of formal diplomatic relations does not preclude thriving business ties. Trade volumes between Taiwan and Sweden now amount to $1.7 billion, says Gu. Also, last year Sweden’s parliament took the “very good initiative” of voting by a large majority to institute a House of Sweden in Taipei, similar to the Washington DC building that’s home to the US embassy and was designed to nurture cultural and commercial relations between the US and Sweden.

The Social Democrats, who led the government last year, were the only party to vote against the plans for a House of Sweden in Taipei. By contrast, the centre-right parties now in government were all in favour. And in a further sign that Sweden’s new government could potentially strengthen relations with Taiwan, Sweden last month appointed a new representative to Taipei, Anders Wollter. The government stressed that Wollter would be based in Taiwan full time, unlike his predecessor who reportedly raised eyebrows in diplomatic circles by spending most of his time in Sweden. 


Taipei’s representative in Sweden meanwhile says he is “very satisfied” with his life in a country that is home to an estimated 2,600 Taiwanese people. The Formosa cultural association helps bring the community together and the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce facilitates trade. 

A few cultural quirks have surprised him since coming to Sweden, he says. For instance, after a stint in Germany, where cash is still king, Sweden’s near cashless society came as a shock. “Everywhere you just use your card”. He also wasn’t expecting the uniformity of Swedes’ winter clothing. “On the street most people’s coats are either black or grey”. 

Before we part, Klement Gu stresses how determined he is to build bridges between Sweden and Taiwan and how he wants more Swedes to discover Taiwan. To help make his case he pulls out a final acronym, this time for Taiwan. 

“Traveling Around Is Wonderful And Necessary. Therefore we sincerely welcome all of you to come to Taiwan.”


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