Updated: May 26
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 . 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)  outbreak. Closely following developments in Wuhan, Taiwan activated various measures as early as 31st December 2019 , almost a month before COVID-19 was officially declared as a ‘public health emergency’ by the WHO .
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 ; high-risk cases being identified by integrating insurance and immigration databases ; and retesting all travellers who tested negative for influenza but exhibited symptoms similar to it .
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?
The report provides ample evidence in an attempt to prove the extent of Beijing’s influence within the WHO. There are repeated mentions of the fact that the WHO ignored Taiwan’s pleas to provide vital information  and instead lauded China for its questionably transparent procedures . Additionally, there exists a claim that inaccurate information about the number of cases in Taiwan was published by the organization . The report even went as far as to imply that the Director-General of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at the behest of China, accused Taiwan of sending him death threats and attacking him online .
However, the evidence provided in the report is circumstantial at best. There is no denying that there exists a high likelihood of Beijing using its influence to keep Taiwan out of the WHO , especially considering past claims put forth by China of Taiwan belonging to its province under its ‘One China’ policy . Further supporting these claims is China’s history of censoring information from its social media platforms and recent reports of the nation under-reporting its COVID-19 numbers by changing its calculation technique .
However, it is worth noting that the report does not, in any way, prove Beijing’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt and is only successful in sowing certain seeds of doubt in the mind of the public. In fact, many other countries have accused the WHO of being too influenced by the U.S. itself .
Can an ulterior motive be sensed on the part of the U.S. in issuing this report?
It is an undisputed fact that the Donald Trump administration has not taken the most timely action during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Trump supporters do deflect blame from his lax administration to every other party imaginable. Considering this, wondering if the report is not merely a document to disseminate vital information to the public and rather the beginning of a strategy to explain away the US’ unsuccessful attempts at dealing with increasing COVID-19 numbers is not a far-fetched train of thought.
From providing unlicensed medical opinions about potential vaccines ; pushing to reopen the economy, first by Easter  and then by 1st May 2020 ; and supposedly ignoring 12 early warnings about how deadly COVID-19 could be , Trump, in his own eyes, has put forth a brilliant example to the rest of the world on how to deal with any crisis situation. POTUS has even gone on to use his own impeachment as an excuse for why it took him so long to react to the pandemic .
Now, hearing his second in command, Vice President Mike Pence alleging that
“The reality is that the U.S. could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming ,”
which should be an ethical ground to reasonably and clinically apprehend about what new conspiracy theories the US state actors and other non-state actors such as political pundits and leaders could come up with to explain away his inadequacies.
It may be the case that using Taiwan as a catalyst, the US intends to point fingers at Beijing and the WHO, regardless of whether they are to blame or not and without adequately proving their guilt. The U.S. will cite the lack of vital information from Taiwan as a major reason for its repeated failures.
Despite certain errors in judgement having been made, it is still not too late to include Taiwan in the WHO and enlist its support. This move is of utmost necessity. However, we must also err on the side of caution before applauding the US for its seemingly heroic act of pushing for Taiwan’s involvement, especially since other nations such as Australia have long taken up Taiwan’s cause in the WHO and much more consistently .
The pandemic has, at the end of the day, become political. We, as indirect subjects of the international world order, need to be wise and take all claims put forward towards us with a reasonable degree of scepticism and wisdom.
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