Two Goliaths likely to clash at next week’s meeting . . .
Rising tensions between the United States and China will take centre stage next week at the World Health Organization (WHO). The U.S. has been increasingly vocal in its support for Taiwan’s participation as an observer at the upcoming WHO World Health Assembly meeting, going as far as claiming that Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO has cost lives. Last week, Washington and Tokyo led a coalition of countries, including Canada, in issuing a verbal demarche to two senior WHO executives urging Taiwan be admitted as an observer. U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed “disappointment” with China’s handling of the outbreak and mulled cutting trade ties with the world’s second-largest economy. China has repeatedly condemned Washington’s attacks and refused to endorse Taiwan’s participation.
Tensions boiling across the Taiwan Strait . . .
President Trump has elevated Washington’s relationship with Taiwan, showing he is willing to push the limits on the longstanding One-China policy. American pressure, combined with a recently re-elected President Tsai Ing-Wen’s independence-leaning inclinations, has pushed Beijing’s buttons, to put it mildly. In response, China has suppressed Taiwan’s participation in global fora, including having its observer status at the WHO revoked in 2017 and blocking efforts to support Taiwan’s participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization and INTERPOL. Beijing has historically taken a warmer approach to Taiwan’s Nationalist Party, which is seen as more pro-Beijing than Ms. Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party.
Canada caught in the middle . . .
Dealing with its already tense relations with China, Canada has been cautious in recent weeks on condemnations of China and support for Taiwan, recognizing that it needs to be delicate in dealing with our second-largest trading partner. Other middle powers, such as Australia and New Zealand, have been much more vocal about their opposition to China’s handling of the outbreak and their support for Taiwan. Recently, Taiwan donated 500,000 masks to Canada. Though thankful, Canada drew some criticism for its caution in publicly expressing its gratitude. Canada is in a difficult position trying to balance relations with China, while not upsetting our longstanding and very important relationship with the U.S. Diplomatic artistry will be the key to helping Canada navigate the diplomatic storm ahead.