For a long time now, the self-governing country of Taiwan has been China’s Achilles heel. China views Taiwan as its inalienable part that has to be reunified with the mainland. However, Taiwan does not concur with Beijing on this worldview. The emergence of Wuhan coronavirus has provided an opportunity for Taiwan to push back against China’s menacingly authoritarian impulses.
As the global backlash builds against China for its initial mishandling of the coronavirus crisis and its opacity about the pandemic, Taiwan is increasingly asserting its independence to undermine Beijing’s efforts to isolate the self-ruled democratic island that it claims as its own. With its remarkable success in taming the coronavirus so far, Taiwan is advocating itself as a model of democracy to try to undercut China’s propaganda campaign aimed to tout the supremacy of its autocratic governance.
Countries across the world who are reeling under the coronavirus crisis have recognised, appreciated and sought help from Taiwan to blunt the spread of contagion. The greater global recognition to Taiwan has given China the willies. It is now aggressively and combatively using its enormous to denounce countries recognising Taiwan and warning them of economic and diplomatic fallout should they continue to flout its “one-China” principle.
China lobbying against Taiwan at global level?
China has also used its enormous heft to shut Taiwan out of international groups like the World Health Organization, denying it access to scientific briefings and emergency meetings. In fact, Taiwan had written a letter to the World Health Organisation on December 31, raising questions about the human-to-human contact spread aspect of the Wuhan coronavirus but it was ignored by the WHO (World Health Organisation), which is accused of conniving with China in concealing the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. Instead, the WHO endorsed China’s denial of human-to-human transmission until January 21.
Due to the growing clout of the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan is not permitted to be a part of the World Health Organisation. The People’s Republic of China(PRC) claims that Taiwan is not an independent state and therefore it alone has the right to represent all of China in the United Nations and other international organizations, including the WHO.
China’s rant against Indian newspaper
Recently, the Chinese embassy in India censured an Indian newspaper ‘The Hindu’ for publishing an opinion piece penned by Taiwan’s health minister Chen Shih-Chung. In the article, Chen propounded Taiwan’s exemplary strategy in curbing the sinister spread of the contagion in the country. Published on May 2, 2020, Chen argued in his article that if WHO sincerely wants to ensure the highest levels of health for all, then it should not exclude any countries from this goal. Chen urged the World Health Organisation to recognise Taiwan’s contributions to the international community in the fields of public health, disease prevention, and the human right to health, and to include Taiwan in WHO and its meetings, mechanisms, and activities.
China does it again. Now the Chinese embassy in India criticizes another Indian newspaper @the_hindu for publishing an opinion piece by Taiwan’s health minister. The embassy says “we urge the relevant India media adhere to the one-china principle”. @IndoPac_Info https://t.co/GIUvc5cP4V pic.twitter.com/JrQFDjcdmn— Vikrant Thardak (@VikrantThardak) May 4, 2020
Chen’s exhortations to include Taiwan into WHO was enough to raise the hackles of the Chinese Embassy in India counsellor Ji Rong who issued a strong-worded statement denouncing the Indian media outlet for disregarding China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by providing a platform to Taiwan’s health minister. Refuting the article that advocated “Taiwan’s participation in WHO”, the embassy asked the media organisation to adhere to the one-China principle and not provide a platform for “Taiwan independence” forces.
Earlier last week, the Chinese embassy in India had slammed another Indian Newspaper The Times of India for interviewing Taiwan’s foreign minister. In the interview, Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Jausheih Wu, listed down measures adopted by his government that had played a pivotal role in remarkably stunting the spread of the virus in their country despite being in close proximity to Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus.
Regarding the problems faced by Taiwan in tackling the pandemic given it couldn’t participate in WHO deliberations, Wu said that since 2017 WHO organisation has been repeatedly caving in to China’s interference and has stopped issuing invitations to Taiwan to attend World Health Assembly as an observer. He added that Taiwan applied to attend 187 technical meetings of the WHO but was accepted only in 57. On the question of if Taiwan can help the world in battling the coronavirus, Wu responded that Taiwan will be happy to collaborate with the global community to share its learnings and experience in combating the contagion.
However, the interview of Taiwan’s foreign minister in an Indian News daily did not sit well with the Chinese embassy in India which criticised it as a defiance of its “internationally recognised one-China principle”. Trotting out China’s long-standing position on Taiwan’s participation in WHO, the Chinese Embassy in India Counselor Ji Rong exhorted the media organisation to recognise the gravity of the problem and refrain from providing a platform to “Taiwan independence” forces.
In the last few weeks, Chinese ambassadors in several countries have shown a fiercely pugnacious approach to public relations, often engaging in combative arguments with countries, media outlets, who had held China responsible for the pandemic or approached Taiwan for advice or medical aid to battle the coronavirus.