[health-vn] Taiwan, China, and the WHO
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Fri May 8 06:41:11 EST 2009
Taiwan, China, and the WHO
Author: Stuart Harris
Taiwan has been invited by the WHO to attend the annual meeting of the World
Health Assembly, its top decision making body, as an observer. Observers are
able to participate in all activities along with members but have no voting rights.
Taiwan has been granted observer status at the WHO, but much now depends on
cross strait relations
This will be seen generally as an important step forward both as a contribution
to the health of Taiwan’s population and as a step towards greater international
participation. It reflects a degree of pragmatism by the Chinese authorities who
have blocked 12 previous attempts by Taiwan to participate and it is, of course,
a response to the widespread criticism China received internationally and within
the region for blocking Taiwan’s attendance when the SARS epidemic was active.
It undoubtedly also reflects recognition that the cross-border transmission of
diseases like swine flu could harm China.
Taiwan will attend under the name Chinese Taipei, as it does in the WTO and APEC
and other bodies such as the Olympics. As President Ma has said, it will not
alter Taiwan’s sovereignty status. Chinese Taipei has largely ceased to be a
controversial title, finessed by the PRC and Taiwan by using different Chinese
translations for the term Chinese; that used by Taiwan has a cultural or ethnic
meaning, not a political one, as the mainland’s term has. It is a clear step
forward by China from earlier suggestions of Taiwan’s international
participation in international events as part of a Chinese delegation.
This will be seen by President Ma as a positive product of his efforts to ease
cross strait relations and the warmer, if still limited, relations that have
developed between the two governments. This development has been welcomed
internationally, including by the US, but whether it will lead to further
participation by Taiwan in international bodies (including the UN) or indeed
could be seen as foreshadowing regular Taiwanese participation remains to be seen.
The case for participation in a basically technical meeting on health issues
gives WHO participation a special logic, but much will depend on how the
experience plays out and on how cross strait relations develop.
One interesting twist, noted by DPP critics in Taiwan, is that it seems that the
first public announcement of the decision was made by China’s Health Ministry.
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