(Easton, MD) - Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio has returned from a week-long visit to the Republican of China (Taiwan) that included a meeting with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. While abroad, she also met with officials and representatives from key government agencies and private industry on an economic development and government relations mission. Four other elected officials from the Maryland General Assembly were also on the trip, which was sponsored by the Taiwanese government.
It was Haddaway’s first visit to Taiwan and an experience she called “a once in a life time opportunity that was very educational and informative”. Many of her meetings were very timely, including one with Cheng-hua Lee, President and CEO of the Bureau of National Health Insurance. Taiwan has a universal health care system similar to the model being considered in the United States. Haddaway reports that while the citizens of Taiwan are generally satisfied with the system, their officials reported that cost, quality of care and innovation were issues their country is still working on. She also discussed access to care for rural citizens with them - an issue Taiwan is familiar with. Many of Taiwan’s aboriginal populations live in mountainous regions or “off-island” on one of the smaller islands nearby. Like Maryland, Taiwan has a hard time recruiting doctors and physicians to work in more remote areas.
Haddaway and the delegation also met with Mary Ann Wo, the Director of the State of Maryland Business Center under the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED). From the Taipei World Trade Center, they discussed trade between Maryland and Taiwan and opportunities for future exchanges. “We discussed everything from biotech to fruits and vegetables,” Haddaway said. “I also talked with her about the new orchid business locating in Denton, Maryland and the partnership that University of Maryland Eastern Shore has with the Jet Green Group, of Beijing, China growing orchids. She was familiar with both projects.”
When asked about her least favorite part of the trip, Haddaway was quick to answer – “the earthquake”. According to AP News sources, Taiwan experienced an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale while the Maryland delegation was there. “It was about 2:00 am, so it took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on. We were on the 17th floor of the hotel and it was my first earthquake, so I was probably more nervous than I needed to be.” The next day, the group visited the Taipei 101, which is the world’s tallest building. No major damage or injuries were reported.
On a more relaxing note, Haddaway and the Maryland delegation received an invitation to attend the opening ceremonies of the World Games in Kaohsiung. The invitation came from Chen Chu, the Mayor of Kaohsiung, who is also serving as President of the World Games Organizing Committee this year. Haddaway said she was very impressed with the Stadium, which is completely eco-friendly. “There are nearly 9,000 solar panels on the roof and all of the raw materials used to build it are 100% reusable and all made in Taiwan,” she explained. “Aesthetically, it’s a very modern, dimensional design with great attention to detail.”
Of the show, Haddaway said it was spectacular and she felt honored to be one of the 40,000 spectators. Russell Watson and Hayley Westenra of New Zealand both performed as well as Shin and Tiger Huang who are very popular in Taiwan. According to Haddaway, traditional music and dance was also highlighted and was woven into performances on the field followed by fireworks.
On the last days of the trip, the delegation visited Yangmingshan National Park and the National Palace Museum. “Aside from being a political junky, art and nature are two of my top interests,” Haddaway said. “Politics and policy are important, but I think that attitudes and beliefs are equally shaped by personal experiences, historical events and cultural influences, so it is important to have an understanding of all of these things.”