As Coronavirus continues to grip the entire world, with more than one and half million positive cases and over 88,000 worldwide deaths, China has kickstarted “mask diplomacy” and a propaganda war in order to portray itself as the saviour of the world after facing outrage over the origins of the novel virus in its wet markets followed by the massive cover-up that left the world unprepared.
Also on China’s mind is the intention to capitalise upon the world’s misery and push its Telecom giant Huawei’s 5G technology to countries that had till now rejected the telecom major.
However, giving some serious competition to China’s reprehensible “mask diplomacy” is the little island of Taiwan, which has managed the Pandemic quite effectively despite WHO’s utter hostility towards it. In fact, Taiwan has the lowest number of positive cases per 100 tests- the percentage of positive tests being just 1 per cent showing how the country has been able to check the spread of COVID-19.
China asserts that it has the sole right over Taiwan and claims that Taiwan is a part of China, and given the manner in which top WHO officials have been acting like Chinese diplomats rather than behaving like a supranational organisation, it doesn’t really come as a surprise that WHO didn’t cooperare with the little island at all.
However, as it turns out WHO’s cooperation has only acted in Taiwan’s better interests because WHO has been complicit in China’s cover-up that is today hampering countries across the world.
What Taiwan’s successful fight against the Wuhan virus Pandemic also meant is that China is not the only country producing masks right now. China’s economy has come back to function to some extent, which is why it had gone into an overdrive to export masks, ventilators and faulty testing kits, in a blatant attempt of crisis profiteering.
But now Taiwan too is exporting masks giving a direct face-off to Beijing. Recently, Taiwan donated 5.6 million masks to the European Union to help fight the Wuhan virus. The President of European Commission which is the European Union’s executive arm, Ursula von der Leyen took to Twitter to praise and thank Taiwan.
The European Union thanks Taiwan for its donation of 5.6 million masks to help fight the #coronavirus. We really appreciate this gesture of solidarity. This global virus outbreak requires international solidarity & cooperation. Acts like this show that we are #StrongerTogether.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) April 1, 2020
And this is hurting the mighty Dragon in a big way. The European Union has often tilted towards Beijing with Italy being one of the first countries to participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Rarely does the 27-bloc EU support or appreciate Taiwan, but with the political climate turning against China and Taiwan’s humanitarian initiative, the EU has openly praised the little island.
The island has launched the global “Taiwan can help” campaign as a part of which it pledges to donate masks and medical supplies to the rest of the world.
Taiwense President Tsai Ing-wen even announced the decision to donate 10 million masks to Coronavirus-battered countries. She said, “We want everyone to not only see that ‘Taiwan can help,’ but that ‘Taiwan is helping.”
Despite sitting in a vulnerable position by neighbouring China, Taiwan has managed to keep the number of cases at only 329 with five deaths. But Taiwan understands the need of international cooperation.
This is why Tsai said, “We cannot stop the spread of COVID-19 simply by preventing an outbreak within Taiwan. All members of the international community must pool their capabilities and work together to overcome this challenge.”
With a capacity to produce 13 million masks a day, Taiwan is donating 7 million masks to Europe, including Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium and the UK, and an additional 2 million masks to the US.
Apart from this, Taiwan will also ship 1 million masks to the New Southbound Policy Countries.
As a part of its foreign policy to re-calibrate ties with South and Southeast Asian countries in order to reduce Taipei’s dependence on Mainland China, Taiwan will ship masks to the six ASEAN countries- Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Indonesia, apart from India.
Taiwan’s direct face-off to Beijing’s “mask diplomacy” is a turning point in the equations between Taiwan and China.
This is going to hurt China big, as can be already seen in the US, where President Trump has signed the TAIPEI Act to support Taiwan’s international relations. More importantly, the bill had received bipartisan support as it had been unanimously passed by both the house of Representatives and the Senate. This came at a time when the world is blaming China for causing the coronavirus pandemic.
Moreover, apart from weakening China’s perceived hold upon Taiwan, what this also does is puncture holes in China’s case for “mask diplomacy”.
Beijing is anyway going to face outrage for creating a major Pandemic, and now it is being recognised the world over that its “mask diplomacy” is not a humanitarian initiative but sheer extortion for economic gains.
Taiwan is doing what China should have been doing, given that it was China’s recklessness and cover up that has landed the entire world in trouble. Now as the little island goes into damage control for the mighty Dragon’s blunders, some major foriegn policy shifts could happen from the EU, the United States and the rest of the world in favour of Taiwan.