With the World Health Assembly round the corner (scheduled for May 17), the United States and Taiwan authorities have launched a campaign demanding the island be allowed to attend the conference as a separate entity. But is Taiwan eligible for independent membership of the World Health Organization and attend the WHA in this capacity? Is the demand of the US and Taiwan really aimed at safeguarding Taiwan residents' health? If not, what is the real motive behind the move of Washington and Taiwan's ruling Domestic Progressive Party?
The WHO, as a specialized agency of the United Nations concerned with international public health, is open to only sovereign countries for membership. And since Taiwan is an integral part of China, which the international community including the UN recognizes, it has no right to seek independent membership of the WHO. So international laws, not political factors, bar Taiwan from seeking the WHO's membership as a separate entity.
DPP to blame for island not attending health assembly
From 2009 to 2016, the Taiwan administration acknowledged the 1992 Consensus that there is only one China and therefore could attend the WHA as an observer under the name of Chinese Taipei. But the island lost the special privilege to attend the WHA and participate in other WHO activities as an observer after the pro-independence DPP took office in 2016 and the Tsai Ing-wen administration refused to recognize the one-China principle and instead advance its separatist agenda.
But despite not being an independent member of the WHO, the island has not been left out of the global fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic－or any other global public health emergency. Which shows Tsai's effort to project Taiwan as a loophole in the global health system to combat outbreaks and other health emergencies is a sham.
There are no obstacles to technical cooperation between the WHO and Taiwan. In line with the one-China principle, medical experts from the island are free to participate in the WHO's technical exchanges. According to a consensus reached between Beijing and the WHO, a liaison office has been set up on the island based on the International Health Regulations, so island officials can easily access the latest information on the pandemic.
Besides, ever since the epidemic broke out, the Chinese mainland has been updating information on prevention and control measures. And in January, it arranged for a medical team from the island to visit Wuhan, the then epicenter of the outbreak. WHO experts, too, say Taiwan faces no obstacles in accessing information on anti-virus work.
Since Taiwan is neither eligible to attend the WHA as an independent entity nor threatened by a lack of information in the fight against the virus, why do US and the Tsai administration insist on the island participating in the global health conference? Because of the major shift in US policy toward Beijing and the DPP's Taiwan pro-independence stance.
For the US, China's continuous rise－combined with the fear that China may surpass its power－and the intertwining of the two sides' interests due to globalization, prompted it to identify Beijing as its top strategic competitor. This led Washington to change its China policy, making it more inclined toward congagement. As such, the US has been exploiting all possible means to curb China's rise, including by blaming it for the outbreak and playing the Taiwan card.
As for Taiwan, given the secessionist stance of the DPP, the island administration is always on the lookout for possible ways to push forward its Taiwan pro-independence agenda－including seeking the US' help－and expand its space for international activities.
Washington and Taiwan using outbreak to target Beijing
In fact, the US and Tsai authorities have been using the coronavirus outbreak as a ploy to target the mainland. Initially, the US exaggerated the outbreak's impact on the mainland's market in an attempt to accelerate the outflow of foreign direct investment from the country. And when the epicenter of the pandemic shifted to the US－thanks to the administration's failure to take the measures needed to control the virus and instead focus on boosting economic growth to gain more support for the president－Washington began blaming Beijing and the WHO for the global spread of the virus.
In the face of the pandemic, the mainland and Taiwan, as part of one family, should have worked together to contain the virus. But the DPP didn't even issue a statement of sympathy when Beijing was fighting its toughest battle against the virus, which reflected the DPP's total lack of humanitarian spirit. Instead, the island authorities are seeking to use the epidemic to exploit the island residents' worries－for example, by hyping up the baseless claim that Taiwan is a loophole in global fight against the pandemic－so they could continue playing their dirty political games. The DPP's move to blur the lines between truth and lies exposes its political ambition of realizing its secessionist goal.
Washington and island plotting against Beijing
Along with the demand to allow Taiwan to attend the WHA this time, the US and Tsai authorities have also been plotting against Beijing in recent years. But thanks to the mainland's peaceful rise as a major center of globalization that has brought huge dividends to the international community, the US-Taiwan plots will never succeed.
Frankly speaking, the US is not really concerned about Taiwan attending the WHA; it is just playing the Taiwan card to ensure the Tsai authorities serve as a pawn in its game to curb Beijing's influence in multilateral organizations and the international community. Also, by supporting Taiwan against Beijing (and withdrawing funding to the WHO), Washington intends to divert American citizens' attention from the White House's poor response to contain the pandemic.
Further, the DPP's calculation is clear: with US support, it is seeking to expand its global space, which－even if it cannot attend the WHA as an independent entity－it wishes to promote its Taiwan pro-independence agenda, hoping the failure to participate in the WHA could win it some sympathy from the international community and make some island residents hostile toward the mainland. But the DPP's evil designs will not succeed.
The author is deputy director of the Taiwan Research Center at Xiamen University.
The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.