by Esther Sun
Times of crisis have always proven particularly apt at driving cooperation. Now, with the world descending into a public health nightmare and China acting like a petty older sibling forcing Taiwan to sit at the little kids’ table, the world certainly needs cooperation more than ever. The World Health Organization (WHO) needs to set aside geopolitical differences as soon as possible and encourage Taiwan to participate in international discussions to mitigate the effects of the global pandemic.
At surface level, it seems almost certain that Taiwan should have faced a severe coronavirus outbreak after the initial genesis in China. Taiwan is only located 110 miles off the coast of China and much of the Taiwanese population is ethnically Chinese, meaning that many Taiwan residents have family ties, not to mention close business ties, that necessitate travel to China. Major Taiwanese cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung are densely populated – a characteristic that propelled the rapid coronavirus spread in global epicenters like New York City and Wuhan.
Despite these odds stacked against it, Taiwan successfully stayed ahead of the coronavirus curve by responding early, drawing on its past experience with SARS, and using technology. Among other proactive measures, the Taipei government implemented 124 safety protocols in early January and quickly started extensive screening for travelers from Wuhan, intensive health monitoring through big-data analysis and repeat testing, and hourly PSA broadcasts of new coronavirus updates on television and radio stations.
As of Mar. 26, Johns Hopkins research data revealed China to have confirmed over 80,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 3,000 deaths. In contrast, Taiwan has only confirmed 235 coronavirus cases and two deaths amid extensive testing.
Currently China is blocking Taiwan from officially joining the WHO, insisting that China already represents Taiwan. This purely political move results from Beijing’s “One China” policy toward Taiwan and prevents the international community from making strides in battling the coronavirus with Taiwan’s help. China may claim that Taiwan is part of their country, but China’s and Taiwan’s responses to the coronavirus have been drastically different, and clearly so are the results.
“WHO should not be a place for political struggle,” Claire Chen, a Taipei resident and Taiwanese citizen, told El Gato News. “We have been excluded [from WHO] for many years and could only join as observers, but we couldn’t receive the information first-hand. This time, the WHO President’s partiality to China, not to mention China’s initial concealment of the coronavirus, may cause many countries to support our potential membership, especially since Taiwan and China are high-risk areas of great political significance. If Taiwan can join WHO, then our country’s accessible, comprehensive medical resources can serve as a model for others, and we can improve our own medical resources by discussing mutual aid and collective strength.”
The world doesn’t have any time to lose in its battle against COVID-19. If Taiwan can provide valuable recommendations for countries to slow the coronavirus on a national scale, then the WHO needs to allow Taiwan’s voice to be heard now and, if possible, actively encourage Taiwan to speak up. The WHO’s purpose is not to cater to any single country’s political preferences. It is to protect public health. And if the results in Taiwan are any indication of capability, then the choice should be easy.
(Sources: NY Times, The Street, change.org, Business Insider)