The Coronavirus Comes for Taiwan

February 17, 2020 Topic: Security Region: Asia Tags: ChinaTaiwanCoronavirusPoliticsOne China

The Coronavirus Comes for Taiwan

China has worked to further squeeze Taiwan and its ability to combat the outbreak of the virus. The way in which China has treated Taiwan during the coronavirus outbreak in 2020 is indicative of the past four years and the likely path for the next four.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning ICAO’s behavior: “Taiwan has a relevant and credible voice on transnational health issues, and the United States has long supported its active engagement in international venues, including ICAO, where its expertise can be beneficial. We call upon ICAO to immediately and permanently reverse its practice of blocking discussion of Taiwan on its Twitter properties and make clear publicly its understanding that freedom of expression must always supersede the political insecurities of member states.”

Taiwan has the backing of the U.S. executive and legislative branches, but that hasn’t been enough to have these organizations admit fault.

A Friend in Need…

Even though it is handicapped by international organizations, the Tsai administration has offered assistance to China to help prevent further spread of the outbreak. Tsai said in a press conference, “In light of humanitarian considerations, we would also like to express our concern and condolences to citizens in China who have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak, and we are willing to provide necessary assistance where we are able.”

Even though Tsai has expressed openness to help—in the unlikely event that China accepts such help—Taiwanese people must be wondering if they will once again be left to fend for themselves because international organizations are too afraid to stand up to China. Likeminded countries that provide information and assistance to Taiwan can only do so much. Beijing is set to continue to keep Taiwan out of the WHO and ICAO despite international support for its inclusion to further punish Tsai despite her recent landslide reelection. A “global health emergency” is not enough to get China to change its treatment of Taiwan. It is unlikely that once this crisis abates that Xi Jinping will soften his attitudes toward Taiwan.

Thomas J. Shattuck is a research associate in the Asia Program and the Managing Editor at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Image: Reuters