Taiwan has drawn international recognition for its successful handling of the coronavirus, boasting only 440 cases and seven deaths. This is largely credited to Taiwan’s leadership sealing the island’s borders early on and ramping up domestic production of necessary supplies, such as face masks.
Their success managing the virus has led them to push for a larger role in global health discussions, specifically within the World Health Organization.
Taiwan had previously attended World Health Assembly meetings during periods that it maintained friendly relations with mainland China. However, in 2016 when the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party took office, Taiwan was barred from attending WHA meetings and thus left out of important global health conversations.
Taiwan is now vocally calling for an observer seat at the next WHA meeting, claiming that it has information on testing, border control and diagnosis that could be crucial in managing and preventing future outbreaks.
Whether Taiwan will be allowed to attend is decided by member states. Due to China’s increasingly widespread international influence, the decision is largely in their hands. Considering their open condemnation of Taiwan’s attempts to be included, it’s clear they will use this opportunity to further push their “One China” policy.
Taiwan’s exclusion has been criticized by countries such as the United States, New Zealand and Japan. Taiwan has continued to bolster political support through forming bilateral partnerships with the United States, the Czech Republic and India, with relevant supplies and knowledge being exchanged.
This debate serves as yet another example of how the pandemic has quickly evolved into a political power play, which may prevent a coordinated, successful international response to the crisis.