Spanish – The communist regime of Xi Jinping has long been searching for a way to break up the democracy of Taiwan, a territory that China considers its own and welcomes it under the figure of “rebel province.” Now, with the spread of COVID-19, the siege has accelerated. However, the tactic was not warlike; on the contrary, it was visible to everyone and had a rather questionable ally: the World Health Organization (WHO).
The siege of the island jurisdiction governed by Tsai Ing-wen, which was engineered by China and the WHO, is reflected in detail in the 2020 annual report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which was presented to the U.S. Congress on December 1.
In this document, a 60-page chapter is reserved only for Taiwan. In particular, it discusses how Beijing intensified its efforts to isolate Taiwan on the global stage. The strategy focused primarily on intensifying efforts to prevent its participation in the WHO amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Membership in the WHO requires recognition by the United Nations. China has veto power in the UN. In fact, China is the second-largest provider of money to the WHO, second only to the United States. In 2019, the Asian giant gave 44 million dollars and then offered 20 million dollars more to fight the coronavirus.
The examples that coexist in the COVID-19 nest
Taiwan’s work has been so rigorous in prevention and resource utilization that it provided it with the opportunity to communicate to the world its medical expertise and political transparency in the management of the pandemic. This approach won praise from foreign leaders who were also struggling with the outbreak.
Taiwan donated millions of masks, as well as various medical equipment such as ventilators, to countries in need. This work paralleled the strengthening of partnerships initiated with the United States and the European Union to develop a vaccine and treatments for COVID-19.
The results of its aggressive detection policies have paid off: as of December 5, Taiwan has 693 infected people and seven deaths throughout its territory, while the world has already reached 66.5 million infected people and 1.5 million deaths from COVID-19.
Taiwan’s success in mitigating the spread of the virus is especially notable, given its physical proximity to the territory under the Xi Jinping regime. Additionally, there is the factor of person-to-person contact and population density. Taiwan is the 17th most densely populated area in the world. It has 671.4 inhabitants per square kilometer, according to records collected by a UN perspective report.
Taipei’s response to COVID-19 was described as “strong and comprehensive,” which also allowed Taiwan to avoid total lockdowns and mitigate disruptions in its economic activity. On the other hand, the pandemic also highlighted continuing concerns regarding Taiwan’s economic dependence on China.
China, the “cronyism” with Tedros, and the slanders about Taiwan
The top WHO official, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also made the unfounded claim that Taiwan was responsible for a large number of racist attacks and death threats against him.
In April of this year, the controversy became more pronounced. From Geneva, the WHO representative charged against Taipei: “three months ago, this attack came from Taiwan. We need to be honest. I will be straight today. From Taiwan. And Taiwan, the Foreign Ministry also, they know the campaign, they didn’t disassociate themselves. They even started criticizing me in the middle of all that insult and slur, but I didn’t care.”
These statements were later disproved. A study by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute concluded that the social networking messages against Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus were connected to a coordinated disinformation campaign originating in China.
The analyst who examined this social media messaging campaign, J. Michael Cole, concluded that the purpose of this was “to discredit Taiwan, further alienate the WHO, and divert Taiwan’s attention from its success in managing the COVID outbreak-19.”
Beijing advanced these goals in May when it thwarted a U.S.-led diplomatic push to give Taiwan observer status again at the WHO’s World Health Assembly.
In 1972, Taipei was stripped of its status by the WHO. It is attributed to the “one China, two systems” policy promoted by Beijing. The World Medical Association (WMA) condemned this behavior of excluding 23 million people from these treaties and maintains that the inclusion of Taiwan is a health issue, not a political one.
Lack of recognition as a weapon
The tactic of making Taiwan invisible was not limited to the WHO alone. Nor is it an isolated event. Beijing is constantly playing its cards to disregard Taipei and taking advantage of its growing influence in other UN organizations to further shrink the international scope of Taiwan.
There are plenty of examples. One of them happened at the end of January 2020. At that time, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) blocked several Twitter accounts that criticized Taiwan’s exclusion as a member of the organization.
Taiwan’s 17 airports connect more than 72 million passengers to 32 countries and 150 cities annually, according to the report presented to the U.S. Congress. In 2019, 15% (10.8 million) of these passengers were traveling to or from the Asian continent.
Critics accused the ICAO of neglecting Taiwan, ignoring its importance as a regional and international transit center. Not only that, but these actions also limited its ability to share and receive information, as well as coordinate local air travel interaction throughout the region.
ICAO reinforced this action in a press release on the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry. It explicitly labeled Taiwan as a province of China and highlighted Beijing’s influence on the organization. Fang Liu, former Chinese regime officials, has led ICAO since 2015 and has spared no effort within the organization to marginalize Taiwan.
Taiwan and its path to defending democracy
Beijing increased its coercion on Taiwan to intimidate its leader, President Tsai Ing-wen, a member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), after the January election when she was re-elected despite interference from the communist regime.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) carried out frequent air and naval military operations near Taiwan. Further, it organized a large-scale formation in the wake of a conflict with Taiwan and publicized continued acquisitions and reforms that would support the invasion of an island.
Taipei did not flinch. The island remained defiant in the face of Beijing’s coercion and affirmed its commitment to its democratic system. In fact, in 2020, the Tsai administration intensified its efforts to strengthen Taiwan’s industrial base and its position in the world through its participation in technology supply chains. It has also strengthened its international relations in the economic area with a key ally: the United States.
The participation of the United States has been decisive for these purposes. In 2020, Taipei and Washington took important steps to improve economic engagement. President Tsai ended a long-standing source of friction in bilateral trade relations by lifting restrictions on U.S. meat imports, while the Trump Administration announced that it would launch a new trade dialogue with Taipei focusing on supply chain security, among other objectives.
The U.S. Congress is attentive to these moves, as reflected in the 2020 report on U.S.-China relations. Among its recommendations is the need to strengthen economic recovery with Taiwan in other key sectors.