Fri, May 11, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: WHA bid: Changing the global view

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs admitted defeat in its attempts to secure an invitation to this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA). The outcome was expected, but it nevertheless provided ammunition for Beijing and the pan-blue camp to attack President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration.

Some blamed the nation’s exclusion on the Tsai administration’s refusal to adhere to Beijing’s official line. However, that is not realistic: Attending international events under Beijing’s auspices and its “one China” framework is by no means a gain for Taiwan.

That would only lead to an outcome that is even worse than exclusion — letting an authoritarian regime represent the 23 million Taiwanese in the international arena and push forward its unification agenda.

When the last WHA invitation sent to Taiwan in 2016 came with an unprecedented mention of the “one China” principle, the nation’s fate of being excluded from the annual health convention in the following years was pretty much sealed.

Despite knowing that the WHO has been held hostage by Beijing and that its efforts would unlikely change the outcome, the ministry persisted in its efforts to gain international support for Taiwan’s WHA bid.

These efforts included making a documentary featuring Taiwanese efforts to treat a Vietnamese girl with lymphedema, which had been watched more than 8 million times as of yesterday; building a Web site highlighting the nation’s dedication to global health; and encouraging heads of the nation’s representative offices overseas to submit opinion pieces to reputable international media outlets to call for global support for Taiwan.

Some might consider these efforts a complete waste of taxpayers’ dollars — but that is because they are only looking at the short-term results.

Yes the outcome is Taiwan failed to receive a WHA invitation again, but the process matters.

Why is an international health body that pledges to ensure “health for all” at the beck and call of only one of its 194 member states? The hard truth is everyone is trying to get on China’s good side, because of its growing economic, military and political clout.

Against this backdrop, it takes time to sway the opinions of major actors on the world stage — many of which are probably in the middle of talks with China — and let them see that their support for Taiwan’s international participation matters, whether it is to prevent a blindspot in global efforts on non-political issues or to counterbalance Beijing’s belief that its bullying of smaller nations would continue to be tolerated thanks to its deep pockets.

Indeed, there appears to be a not insignificant shift in global view, as evidenced by the growing number of countries that have publicly denounced China and supported Taiwan’s WHA bid this year, as well as the increased intensity of protests over the matter by Taipei’s major allies.

The ministry revealed that a number of countries had joined the nation’s allies in supporting Taiwan this year — albeit in a less public manner because of diplomatic considerations.

As Tsai said in a televised interview on Monday, the WHA might have shut its door on Taiwan now, but her administration’s long-term goal is to create a force of international support so strong that world bodies like the WHO would one day have no choice but to accept her country regardless of political pressure from China.

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