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Source: Republic Of China Taiwan

Taipei, Oct. 19 (CNA) Taiwan saw its relative power in Asia rise this year due mostly to its competent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the annual Asia Power Index (API) for 2020 released by the Australian think tank Lowy Institute on Monday.

“Taipei’s competent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted its international reputation,” wrote Hervé Lemahieu, director of the Asian Power and Diplomacy Program at the Sydney-based institute in the key findings report for the 2020 index.

The Asia Power Index, launched in 2018, ranks the relative power of states in Asia to reflect the current existing distribution of power and tracks shifts in the balance of power over time, according to the Lowy Institute.

The Index ranks 26 countries and territories in terms of their capacity to shape their external environment. Its scope reaches as far west as Pakistan, as far north as Russia, and as far into the Pacific as Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Taiwan was one of the three countries — along with Vietnam and Australia — among the 26 evaluated to see their overall score for comprehensive power increase in 2020.

Its score of 16.7 was up from the 15.9 score it received in 2019 and the 16.4 score it received in 2018, but the improvement did not result in a higher ranking, as the country remained ranked 14th in overall power as it did the previous two years.

The biggest contributor to its overall API score was its five-place rise from 24th in 2019 to 19th in 2020 in “diplomatic influence,” one of the eight main categories used to evaluate overall power and the one that included the COVID-19 response.

Within the diplomatic influence category, its COVID-19 response ranked first, and it gained seven notches to tie for seventh for regional political leadership with Indonesia, South Korea, and Vietnam.

Taiwan’s diplomatic influence score also benefited from a substantial network of unofficial representative offices abroad, and its being engaged primarily in diversifying the island’s economic relationships, according to the Index’s key findings report.

Yet of the eight main categories, the ranking of 19th for diplomatic influence was still Taiwan’s lowest, while its eighth-place ranking for “economic capability” was the highest.

Overall, Taiwan remains of central, strategic importance to the regional balance of power, Lemahieu said. “Backed by the United States, it presents a formidable check on China’s aspirations to become a fully-fledged sea power,” he said.

The U.S. remained the most powerful country in the region with a score of 81.6, but registered the largest fall — of three points — of any Indo-Pacific country in 2020.

It was followed by China (76.1), Japan (41.0), India (39.7), and Russia (33.5).

“China has emerged diplomatically diminished from the pandemic. But Beijing is holding ground in its overall power,” Lemahieu said.

The report categorizes countries and territories with a score above 70 points as “super powers,” those with a score between 40 and 70 as “major powers,” those with a score between 10-40 as “middle powers,” and those under 10 as “minor powers.”

The project assesses power in Asia through 128 indicators across the eight main categories — military capability, economic capability, resilience and future resources, economic relationships, defense networks, diplomatic influence and cultural influence.

This year, the Index included three new indicators that tracked major ecological threats, bilateral and plurilateral defense dialogues, and perceptions of the international and domestic handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Lowy Institute.

(By Elizabeth Hsu)

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