Based on a US State Department report leaked to this newspaper over the weekend and a report in the China Times yesterday, Taiwan may be on the brink of obtaining observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the WHO.
After many years of unsuccessful attempts to join either the WHO or at least the WHA, the US’ charm offensive on Taipei’s behalf, combined with Beijing’s ostensible flexibility of late, is cause for satisfaction, as Taiwan may finally have a voice at and benefit from the global health body, thereby filling a senseless gap in the global health network.
As Taipei, Beijing, Washington and the WHO work on an agreement, one key element to keep an eye out for will be “compromise” — often a euphemism for political gains by Beijing.
This goes well beyond the name under which Taiwan would be allowed to participate.
One such compromise — supported by the US, as the State Department report seems to indicate — is the possibility that Taiwan’s observer status at the WHA would be renewable on an annual basis. This would be a grave mistake, however, as it would put Beijing in a position to blackmail Taiwan and the US every time renewal is at hand. Each year, China could make demands of Taipei, Washington and the international community. To keep what it has, Taipei and its supporters would have to beg to China, while the latter could use the carrot of participation in the WHA to exert political influence.
This is akin to a mobster striking a pact with a shop owner in which he promises not to harm him as long as he pays “protection” money. Every year, the crook and the shop owner sit down to “negotiate.” The thug uses the threat of violence to gradually increase the fee. For a while, the shop owner may yield to the demands out of fear for his safety, but one year, the list of demands grows too long, he refuses and suffers the consequences.
A situation in which one party’s interests or safety are held hostage can hardly be called a “win-win” scenario.
To prevent this potential subjugation from becoming reality, Taiwan’s observer status at the WHA should be permanent and not subject to Beijing’s whims.
Given the right of Taiwanese to have representation at the global health organization, observer status should not be used to give Beijing any leverage over Taiwan.
Permanent status would ensure that regardless of who is in power in Taiwan — the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the Democratic Progressive Party or anyone else — Taiwanese would continue to benefit from and contribute to the WHO.
Taiwan’s participation at the health body would never be “meaningful” if it became an instrument with which Beijing could make demands of the international community. Condescending as the terminology is (who would want meaningless participation?), Taiwan’s role at the WHA could amount to little more than self-harm if it were hostage to ulterior political motives.
The US intelligence community’s annual threat assessment for this year certainly cannot be faulted for having a narrow focus or Pollyanna perspective. From a rising China, Russian aggression and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, to climate change, future pandemics and the growing reach of international organized crime, US intelligence analysis is as comprehensive as it is worrying. Inaugurated two decades ago as a gesture of transparency and to inform the public and the US Congress, the annual threat assessment offers the intelligence agencies’ top-line conclusions about the country’s leading national-security threats — although always in ways that do not compromise “sources and methods.”
Let’s begin with the bottom line. The sad truth of the matter is that Beijing has trampled on its solemn pledge to grant Hong Kong a great deal of autonomy for at least fifty years. In so doing, the PRC ignored a promise Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) made to both Great Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the wider world back in the early 1980s. This was at a time when Beijing, under Deng and his successors, appeared to be seeking an equitable accommodation with the West. I remain puzzled by China’s recent policy shift. Was it because Hong Kong was perceived
The recent removal of items related to Japanese Shinto culture from the Taoyuan Martyrs’ Shrine and Cultural Park has caused an uproar. The complex was built as a Shinto shrine by the Japanese during the colonial period, but was transformed into a martyrs’ shrine commemorating veterans of the Chinese Civil War after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Figurines of the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu Okami were allowed into the shrine for a cultural event last year, attracting throngs of visitors to see the Shinto decorations and practices. However, some people accused the Taoyuan City Government of
The recent meeting in New Delhi between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov — the first such high-level interaction since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine — suggests that diplomacy might no longer be a dirty word. The 10 minute meeting on the sidelines of the G20 gathering occurred after US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reportedly urged Ukraine to show Russia that it is open to negotiating an end to the war. Together, these developments offer a glimmer of hope that a ceasefire is within the realm of the possible. The