Taiwan's Ties with Beijing: Analysing the Veracity of the China Commission Report on WHO & China

Updated: May 26

Dhanya Visweswaran,

Research Intern,

Internationalism Research.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (henceforth, China Commission), a body created by the US Congress, took out a report on Tuesday, 12th May 2020 [1]. This report explores how Taiwan has deliberately been excluded from being involved with the World Health Organization (henceforth, WHO) due to Beijing’s political influence within the organization. The report can be divided into three sections:

  • Section 1: It attempts to demonstrate the extent of the influence that Beijing has over the WHO and its hostile attitude towards Taiwan.

  • Section 2: It lays down the measures taken by Taiwan to control the spread of COVID-19 and further attempts to incriminate Beijing and the WHO for denying Taiwan’s outreach efforts.

  • Section 3: It details the implications of denying Taiwan’s outreach efforts such that a major burden of the world’s lack of preparedness is placed on Beijing and the WHO.

Thus, a lot of the blame for ostracizing Taiwan is placed on Beijing and the WHO. However, it is necessary to question whether these are well-founded claims and whether there exists a certain ulterior motive behind these assertions.

How and Why has Taiwan been so successful in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Taiwan’s proactive approach is a product of their past experience in dealing with the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) [2] outbreak. Closely following developments in Wuhan, Taiwan activated various measures as early as 31st December 2019 [3], almost a month before COVID-19 was officially declared as a ‘public health emergency’ by the WHO [4].

Taiwan’s measures to control the pandemic have been enumerated in quite some detail in the report. Major measures include activation of a Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC) with daily briefings being provided to the public [5]; high-risk cases being identified by integrating insurance and immigration databases [6]; and retesting all travellers who tested negative for influenza but exhibited symptoms similar to it [7].

It is reasonable to infer via the report to a limited extent that not enlisting Taiwan’s support was a mistake and would have provided the rest of the world with invaluable guidance. Nevertheless, this is not the only aspect that the report brings forward. It also largely attempts to incriminate Beijing and the WHO for deliberately ignoring Taiwan’s repeated pleas to provide its assistance. The veracity of the claims, however, must be tested essentially.

Did Beijing deliberately, by way of its political influence within the WHO, ostracize Taiwan from providing important information regarding how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic?