Sat, May 20, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan can renew WHO approach

By Chiang Huang-chih 姜皇池

No matter how unhappy China might be, it cannot instruct these organizations not to send invitations to Taiwan for the simple reason that participation in these organizations is not subject to China’s approval, and Taiwan takes part in them in its own independent capacity.

In contrast, Taiwan’s attendance at the WHA is based on the understanding between the Ma administration and China under which Taiwan has no diplomatic space, but merely “attends” with China’s agreement; it can only attend if China gives permission.

This is the arrangement that Ma’s government accepted.

It also accepted that China would request for the WHO secretariat to send Taiwan an invitation every time.

Because the decision is in China’s hands, Taiwan has to leverage its resources and keep China happy, otherwise China can terminate or suspend its participation at any time.

The question President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) government should be asking about attendance at the WHA should therefore be how to get out of this model, because only by getting out of it will the nation be able to carry on as normal even when it has incurred China’s displeasure.

If the WHO secretariat does not send Taiwan an invitation this year, Taiwanese will feel shocked and angry, but they will soon get over it.

The best approach to participation in the WHO would then be to start over again.

China may be powerful, but it has made a foreign-policy mistake by negating the cross-strait “status quo,” because this allows Taiwan to escape the framework that was set up by the Ma administration and China.

Furthermore, China’s statement that it is blocking Taiwan’s attendance for political reasons gives Taiwan an opportunity to regain the moral high ground.

If the door to Taiwan’s attendance at the WHA opens again, China will of course be standing in the doorway. What happens next will depend on the determination and efforts of all Taiwanese.

Chiang Huang-chih is a professor in National Taiwan University’s College of Law.

Translated by Julian Clegg

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