The White House is sending a cabinet official to Taiwan for the first time since 1979. US relations with Taiwan have been warming during the Trump Administration and this visit marks a new milestone for the two countries. Taiwan has been struggling to fight for independence from mainland China and as relations sour with Beijing, Taiwan has been a friendly partner in Asia.
According to Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry Alex Azar will be visiting Taiwan sometime soon. Azar is the health chief is the highest level official to visit Taiwan since it fell into Chinese diplomatic control 40 years ago. The American Institute operates in Taiwan serving the role that is typically carried out at an embassy. Taiwan says the visit proves a solid foundation of mutual trust between Washington and Taipei.
“China firmly opposes official exchanges between the US and Taiwan,”Wang Wenbi- Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs
In May the State Department approved a massive arms deal made directly with Taiwan. China scoffed at the deal but the weapons and equipment is purchased for defense against them in the first place. China has been desperate to maintain control over the island of Taiwan, despite the people’s desire for independence. The island is a critically important location for coastal defense and access to international waters.
Taiwan is a massive manufacturing hub with expertise in high end electronics and computer components. The export volume from the country is enormous and the communist government in China is worried about losing it’s cut. Taiwan has been under control of China for more than 40 years. Under a promised “one country, two systems” policy similar to Hong Kong.
The “One-China Principle” is a Chinese policy of authoritarian control over territories. President Trump rocked the boat early on by having a phone call direct with Taiwan without going through China. That minor move greatly embarrassed China and they totally changed their posture to President Trump. Since then, the President has continuously caused issues for China while making deals and partnerships with other countries in the region.
Taiwan has been of particular interest during the coronavirus pandemic. Taiwan was outspoken early on about the dangers of the virus and the handling of the outbreak within Taiwan was one of the best in the world. Taiwan reported less than 500 cases and only seven deaths.
“Taiwan has been a model of transparency and cooperation in global health during the COVID-19 pandemic and long before it,”Alex Azar – US Health Chief
Despite the successes in handling the virus and the early warnings from Taiwan, the World Health Organization (WHO) has worked hard to block any information from the country. Because of the One-China Policy all of their medical reporting has to pass through Beijing. Despite the quality reports from Taiwan the WHO chose to repeat communist propaganda lines from China such as the report about no human-to-human transmission.
After the US announced is was leaving the WHO over Chinese corruption, a new partnership around medical collaboration is a natural next step for US relations with Taiwan. There’s plenty of opportunity as the world marketplace abandons China and seeks for other manufacturing partners with better relationships with Western consumer markets.