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Asian history World Politics

The current pandemic and Taiwan’s continuing international isolation

The coronavirus outbreak highlights again Taiwan’s difficult international position due to China’s might.

The reason why Taiwan´s remarkable success fighting the coronavirus, taking effective measures since early January, is hardly noticed around the world lies in the negation of its very existence by the overwhelming majority of countries that are members of the United Nations (UN). Taiwan doesn’t belong to that international organization since China took its place on the 25th of October 1971, after Resolution 2758 sponsored by then Maoist Albania was passed by the General Assembly in New York. The Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan’s official name until today and at the time ruled with iron fist by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, who in 1949 had retreated to the island formerly known as Formosa, finally lost its recognition as the legitimate government of China, which it kept pretending to represent. Mao Tse-tung’s People’s Republic of China (PRC) was suddenly recognized as the sole representative of China in the UN.

It is debatable if Nationalist leader Chiang, already in his mid-eighties and a fervent anticommunist since the 1920s, wasted a historic chance by not abandoning the idée fixe of still representing all of the Chinese people. He flatly refused to accept dual representation of the ROC and the PRC in the UN on the grounds that he did not want “to coexist with bandits”, which as a matter of fact he had fought half of his life. Taiwan was expelled, never to return, and gradually became an international pariah state like Apartheid South Africa and Zionist Israel. Gradually, most countries switched its diplomatic recognition to the PRC and closed their embassies in Taipei. Some of them, like Germany, Spain, the US, Canada and post-soviet Russia, later reopened official agencies called Trade, Cultural or Liaison Offices, which assumed some of the embassies former functions. But as result, in the spring of 2020, only 14 small and mostly poor nations as well as the Vatican recognize the ROC as a sovereign state.

Nowadays Taiwan isn’t a member of any UN-affiliated organization for which statehood is required. From 2008 to 2016, President Ma Ying-jeou from the more China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) was in power and during a so called diplomatic truce, Taiwan for the first time ever since that fateful day in autumn 1971 enjoyed observer status at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. Unfortunately, that changed very fast after Ms. Tsai Ying-wen’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party took over, which by Peking was seen as an affront against its eternal goal of “reunification” between what the Chinese Communists see as a renegade island province and the embracing motherland.

Therefore, as a dire consequence of Taiwan’s very limited international presence, its amazing efforts during this pandemic, both at home and abroad, are mostly unknown around the globe, ignored on purpose due to political considerations or intentionally hidden by China’s lobbyists, not just in the WHO. Usually only insiders, specialists or members of Taiwan support groups worldwide are aware of the island’s willingness and capability to help other peoples in need.

This time, in a nice gesture certainly disapproved by China, German EU leader Ursula von der Leyen on April 1st lauded Taiwan’s donation of 5.6 million masks to the European Union, including 500,000 for Spain. They arrived at Frankfurt International Airport on the 9th, together with 1.4 million masks for the United Kingdom and Switzerland. Another two million were sent to the USA and one million to the countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, including the Vatican.

In any case, this whole crisis management doesn’t reflect well on the rather complacent Western world and will further weaken its stance. After all, those much-trumpeted universal values like solidarity and equality aren’t that universal if Big Brother is watching you.

P. D.: Since this month, Taiwan is able to produce 15 million masks per day!

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