Saturday (May 16th): WHA meeting: with or without Taiwan?

Tsai Ing-wen

Name? Tsai Ing-wen

Westphalian identity? Taiwanese

Age? 63

Why is she in the news? Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has effectively handled the coronavirus pandemic on her small island nation, making her attendance to Monday’s World Health Assembly meeting largely desired. However, only members of the WHO are allowed to attend, and thanks to China, Taiwan cannot take part. The United States, Japan, and New Zealand have expressed support for Taiwan to attend the upcoming meeting, putting China and Taiwan’s difficult relations on full display.   

Why do we care? Tsai Ing-wen has been able to boost Taiwan’s international profile due to her effective public health measures. And while we can go on and on about how Tsai Ing-wen handled COVID-19, what her response means for Taiwan’s international relations could have important geopolitical implications. 

Why should you care? Tsai Ing-wen wants to share Taiwan’s experience with the virus: How she handled it, what she did to contain it, and how Taiwanese citizens felt about it. Thus, Taiwan’s presence at the WHA would be in the best interest of citizens of countries all over the world who wish to see their nation follow in Taiwan’s footsteps.

Who else cares? Because the United States, Japan, and New Zealand have all stated support for Taiwan to be present at the WHA, China is experiencing more pressure to permit their (Taiwan’s) attendance. China will almost certainly not let them attend because they consider Taiwan a province. If they were to allow Taiwan to attend independently from China, they would be forced to touch on the issue of Taiwanese independence and recognition. 

Any further comments? While the chances of China allowing Taiwan to attend the WHA are slim to none, Taiwan has reserved some space in future global health discussions, a move that further separates them from the mainland. This is largely due to Tsai Ing-wen effectively leading her country through this pandemic and the international attention her leadership as the first female president of Taiwan has drawn to the country; not exactly the attention China was going for…