For Taiwan, the Wuhan coronavirus is also a diplomatic battle

Global Voices
Date: 30 January 2020
By: Filip Noubel

Elderly citizens, the most at risk in the case of 2019-nCoV infection, sitting in a public park in Tainan, Taiwan’s fourth city on January 20, Half of them wear respiratory masks. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

Taiwan finds itself at the frontline of the Wuhan coronavirus also known as the  2019-nCoV coronavirus epidemic given the multiple ways that it is connected to China. But this challenge doubles as Beijing prevents the island nation from participating in international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) which plays a key role in global public health prevention and crises.

Cross-Strait relations present in all aspects of life in Taiwan

Though Taiwan is separated from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by the 180 km wide Taiwan Strait and has so far confirmed only 8 cases of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus infection, the two countries maintain close economic, labor, academic, tourism relations that explain why large numbers of people travel across the Taiwan Strait extensively on a daily basis. 

An estimated one to two million Taiwanese citizens live in mainland China, where they work, study, or accompany their families. Taiwanese employees mostly work in Taiwanese companies and factories that have invested in China or are employed by Chinese and foreign companies. An estimated 12,000 young Taiwanese also choose China as their third most popular destination to study after the US and Australia, and benefit from special advantages to study in China. In 2019, the PRC was Taiwan’s top trade partner, representing almost 30 percent of Taiwanese exports. 

Taiwan hosts close to 10,000 mainland students on its soil. On January 29, the Taiwanese Ministry of Education authorities announced a temporary ban on exchanges for PRC students and trainees.

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