India on Taiwan's Inclusion in the World Health Organization: Wider Implications and Current State

Updated: May 26

Ridhima Bhardwaj & Dhanya Visweswaran,

Research Interns,

Internationalism Research.

During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, a body that has been dominating the news cycle is the World Health Organization (henceforth, “WHO”). It is a ‘specialized global health agency’ established under the aegis of the United Nations (henceforth, “UN”) and consists of 194 member states, spread across six regions. [1]

The World Health Assembly (henceforth, “WHA”) is the primary decision-making body of the WHO, which hosts meetings among delegations from all the WHO member states once a year. [2] The delegations themselves decide on the goals that are to be set and the various courses of actions and recommendations that are to be proposed, with the responsibility of the WHO Secretariat being merely to oversee the working of these. [3]

This pandemic has impaired the working of almost all the WHO member states. This year’s 73rd WHA meeting was recognized as the need of the hour and convened virtually, with a shortened agenda. Its focus was on sharing of knowledge and progress reports and taking out a draft resolution on COVID-19. [4]

One of the key players in effectively and efficiently dealing with the pandemic is Taiwan. It recognized its harms much before the rest of the world and proactively worked to set into motion around 124 emergency measures. [5] Taiwan has had one of the best records in dealing with the pandemic, reported to have only 7 deaths and 440 cases as of 18th May 2020, with 398 having recovered. [6]

Hence, Taiwan’s inputs and expertise in dealing with the pandemic could be very useful to all the other nations who are struggling with keeping their COVID-19 cases respective lockdowns in check. One of the best platforms for Taiwan to impart its knowledge is undoubtedly the 73rd WHA meeting. However, this is a lot easier said than done due to Taiwan’s complicated history with China.

China-Taiwan Relations

China has consistently obstructed Taiwan from becoming an independent member of the WHO due to its claims of the island being a separated yet inalienable part of the province of China, also known as the One-China principle. [7]

Modern-day China-Taiwan political relations begin from after the end of World War II when China started ruling Taiwan after acquiring due consent from its allies, the United States of America and the United Kingdom. [8] In the next few years, Mr Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) government, the ruling party at that time, was defeated and forced to flee to Taiwan by the Communist government under the control of Mr. Mao Zedong. [9] The KMT inherited an effective dictatorship in Taiwan until Mr. Chiang’s son, Mr. Chiang Ching-kuo, facing resistance from locals, was compelled to begin the process of democratization of Taiwan, leading to the election of the first President who belonged to the opposition party the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). [10] This President was Mr. Chen Shui-bian.

Meanwhile globally, the relations between China and Taiwan began somewhat improving around the 1980s, much in part due to initiatives are taken by the KMT, which has always favoured the ultimate reunification of Taiwan with China. Despite the rejection of China’s proposition of a “One Country, Two Systems” model that proposed giving Taiwan autonomy if it reunified with mainland China, various unofficial talks and relaxation of rules took place between the two countries. [11] Relations were more or less stable until the election of Shui-bian, especially since the DPP has long been a major advocate for official Taiwanese independence from China.