Origin story aside, the personal protective equipment marked another small but meaningful moment in Taiwan’s recent ascent in the geopolitical consciousness. Those three words emblazoned on the masks—largely unnoticed by anyone not looking for them or lacking a telephoto lens—were a form of political statement, proof that Taiwan’s recent barrage of health-care diplomacy was reaching the highest levels of the U.S. government. “For people here in Taiwan, we are very happy that face masks donated by Taiwan are being put to good use,” Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, told me in a phone interview from Taipei. Taiwanese media this week became enraptured by photos of prominentWhite House officials wearing surgical masks.
Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s jack-of-all-trades son-in-law, sported one, as did National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. The face coverings themselves didn’t drive the intrigue so much as what was imprinted in tiny block font on their bottom edge: made in taiwan.