How Taiwan’s Success with COVID-19 Negatively Impacts US-China Relations

A guest post today from UNC junior Morgan Hanchard, a 2019 Phillips Ambassador to Shanghai, China, and a double-major in HIstory and Peace, War & Defense:

As COVID-19 swept across the globe, its effects presented differently in differing regions.  Some countries saw lethal numbers of cases, in which population densities significantly decreased.  In some countries, the virus was tackled effectively, minimizing damage to populations.  Taiwan’s number of confirmed cases has yet to reach the 500 mark, largely due to their universal healthcare system.  To praise Taiwan for its success in handling the pandemic, the United States sent a U.S. Cabinet member to Taiwan, simultaneously hoping to learn from their “incredibly effective” response to COVID-19.  On August 10, United States Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, spent three days in Taiwan with President Tsai Ing-Wen, demonstrating Washington’s support for positive U.S.-Taiwan relations.

However, this success comes at a cost.  With tensions between the United States and China at a breaking point as President Trump continuously demonizes China, even calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus,” Azar’s trip to Taiwan cannot ignore its geopolitical intentions.  This interaction was a foreign policy rarity.  Azar is the highest U.S official to visit Taiwan since 1979, when the Taiwan Relations Act was signed into effect under the Carter Administration.  This legislation ended all diplomatic relations between the United States and Taiwan, under the terms that the United States solely recognize the People’ Republic of China, breaking ties with Taiwan completely.  By sending a delegation into Taiwan, which is not lawfully recognized by the United States, the Trump Administration is likely to spark controversy within Beijing.

On August 11, Azar spoke at National Taiwan University, where he stated that “in these trying times, the United States knows that we will always have a friend in Taiwan.”  In addition, Azar praised Taiwan’s democratic values, implying that Taiwan’s success can be contributed to its democratic society.  This statement set off anger in Beijing and amongst the Chinese Communist Party, as the U.S. gets dangerously closer to brinkmanship with China.  Azar claims that his trip was solely based on public health issues and Washington’s effort to gain insight on their treatment methods.  Even with COVID-19 in mind, the political consequences within U.S.-China relations cannot be ignored.  By ameliorating their relationship with Taiwan, Washington runs the risk of pushing tensions with Beijing to the brink. China may view Azar’s visit to Taiwan as a challenge to its sovereignty, polarizing the two sides even further.  The Trump administration is utilizing Taiwan as a strategic ploy to provoke China, which could seriously taint the bilateral relationship.

Find out more about this story at the Washington Post, CNN, or the Wall Street Journal.

Philippines Financial Aid relief

The Philippines has received around $130.4 million of financial aid so far for the government’s COVID-19 response. The largest donation came from the Project Ugnayan of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation at $29.1 million, followed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) at $19.2 million, San Miguel Corporation at $15.22 million, and Unilab at $12.08 million. The World Health Organization reports that the Filipino government was able to obtain a $1.1 billion loan from the World Bank and $1.5 billion from the Asian Development Bank (ADB, coincidentally based in the Philippines) for COVID relief.

However, government critics are asking where the funds are going, as the government hasn’t yet implemented massive COVID-19 testing programs, while several social aid beneficiaries have yet to receive the second wave of grants. As regulations are easing, Filipino families are still facing problems such as a lack of public transportation, unfinished social aid provision, closure of businesses due to distancing regulations, and distance learning difficulties due to the inability of poor families to secure technology and stable internet connection.

As of June 9th, the Department of Health (DOH) has counted 23,732 COVID cases nationwide; 1,071 who have passed away, and 4,736 who have recovered.

The Makati Office of the City Prosecutor and Makati courts are taking precautions – including suspension of face-to-face inquest proceedings, contact tracing, and disinfection – after a prosecutor was exposed to a family member positive for COVID-19. A total of 59 employees of the Department of Justice have tested positive out of the 488 that have been tested.  Senior Assistant Site Prosecutor Roberto Lao advised all prosecutors and staff to work from home – except those on trial duty. Lao said that inquest proceedings for those arrested without a warrant would be moved online, while oath duty, clearance applications, plead filings and motions, and regular filings are suspended until further notice.


Author: Camryn Thomas