As recognition of our mistakes, as correction for past errors, and in gratitude for showing the world the best way on how to handle such a pandemic, the United States should now, at long last, formally acknowledge Taiwanese reality: the United States should unilaterally recognise Taiwan as in independent country.
The National Interest
May 9, 2020
By: Azeem Ibrahim
All too often in politics, perception is reality. But when politicians themselves start believing that all political reality is just perception we always end up in trouble. Such was the case in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, when first the local authorities in Hubei province, and then the national government in Beijing, treated the emergence of the disease as a public relations issue rather than a health issue.
The first country in the world to face the facts around the virus and went on to implement one of the most effective responses to the virus was Taiwan. Taiwan registered the first case on January 21, one of the first countries to do so outside of China—at a time when most countries had not even registered the virus as a potential threat on their political horizons. Over three months later, and in a medium-sized country of nearly 24 million people, Taiwan has only registered 429 infections and 6 deaths (at the time of writing).
How did Taiwan achieve such an astonishing success? The country had at least two things going for it. The first is that it has had the experience of Sars two decades ago, so like South Korea and Japan had the knowhow and the infrastructure to cope well with an epidemic of this kind. The second advantage is political: led by a pro-independence government which has come under sustained pressure from Beijing in recent years, Taiwan knows to instinctively distrust narratives coming out of Beijing.
It also has some one million citizens working on the mainland, giving the Taiwanese government some useful channels of communication with people and with the realities of inland China. So when the initial reports from doctors in Hubei province emerged about a potential new viral respiratory disease, Taiwan was one of the first countries to know about it. As it has since emerged, it has also tried to pass on what it has learned, as well as the fact that the Chinese authorities were deliberately withholding relevant information and suppressing the doctors’ reports, to the World Health Organisation (WHO) as early as December.