Highest ranking U.S. official to visit the island in four decades . . .
The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, will lead a delegation to Taiwan in the coming days, his office announced on Tuesday. The visit would make Secretary Azar the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the island since 1979, when the U.S. established diplomatic relations with Beijing. In a press release, Azar praised Taiwan as a “model of transparency and co-operation in global health” and said he hopes to strengthen U.S.-Taiwan economic and public health co-operation during the trip. The move has sparked strong criticism from Beijing.
Geopolitics overshadows COVID-19 co-operation . . .
International co-operation in combating the COVID-19 pandemic has been overshadowed by the growing geopolitical rivalry between the U.S. and China. In May, President Trump accused the World Health Organization (WHO) of being a “puppet of China” and subsequently withdrew the United States from the organization. Also in May, the U.S., Canada, and six other countries urged WHO officials to allow Taiwan’s participation at the WHO pandemic summit, with Beijing describing the move as an attempt “to seek independence under the pretext of the pandemic with the help of some Western countries.” Beijing blocked Taiwan’s participation.
Taiwan as a model of success . . .
While Secretary Azar’s planned visit to Taiwan is likely the White House’s latest move in the escalating bilateral U.S.-China rift, Taiwan, to its credit, has been largely successful in containing the deadly virus. With a population of close to 24 million, Taiwan has registered only 476 cases to date, significantly lower proportionally than any other Western jurisdiction. Taiwan’s success can be partly attributed to its ability to co-ordinate across government units in the fight against COVID-19. While Taiwan’s co-operation in and contributions to global health systems will likely remain a focal point in the U.S.-China rivalry, its success can help inform other countries in their approaches to combating this deadly disease.
- Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada: The secret to Taiwan’s successful COVID Response
- The Globe and Mail: Canada, U.S., allies demand Taiwan be allowed to join WHO pandemic summit
- The New York Times: U.S. Health Secretary to visit Taiwan, in a move likely to anger Beijing