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While Beijing works to rebrand itself as a global leader by selling — at times — faulty protective gear amid the global coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan has been giving it away for free.
The gesture is not only a dig at China, which has refused to acknowledge Taiwan’s existence, but also raises Taiwan’s profile internationally, something China has been actively trying to prevent for years.
Last week. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen thanked Taiwan on Twitter for donating millions of masks.
“The European Union thanks Taiwan for its donation of 5.6 million masks to help fight the coronavirus,” she tweeted. “We really appreciate this gesture of solidarity. This global virus outbreak requires international solidarity & cooperation.” she tweeted after Taiwan announced it would help with the supply shortage as part of its “Taiwan can help” campaign.
Last week, Taiwan announced it would send 10 million face masks to countries around the world and pledged future donations as it ramps up production.
Two million masks will go to the United States and eight million others will be sent to Europe, including some of the hardest-hit countries like Spain, Italy and France, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said. Another million will be sent to Taiwan’s 15 diplomatic allies in Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.
“Over the past months, we have seen countless acts of bravery and sacrifice from medical workers around the world,” Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen recently said. “We need to step up cooperation and that means sharing experiences and materials, and working together to develop treatments and vaccines.”
As Taiwan’s star rises, China’s has begun hurtling to Earth.
Despite a massive campaign by Beijing to paint President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party in a positive light, China’s initial decision to downplay its coronavirus numbers as well as multiple shifts in its timeline has come back to haunt them and the rest of the world.
“There’s simply no question that China’s lack of candor to the world impacted the way the world was able to respond,” Vice President Mike Pence said last week.
U.S. intelligence officials have accused China of misleading the world and purposely underreporting the numbers of patients and deaths related to COVID-19. A report sent to the White House purportedly claimed that China’s public record of coronavirus infections was deliberately deceptive and incomplete.
All of the uncertainty surrounding China has left the door open for Taiwan to step onto the global stage and succeed where its neighbor has failed.
Located about 80 miles off China’s coast, Taiwan has acted as an independent nation for more than 70 years. China, however, refuses to acknowledge Taiwan’s independence and has vowed to bring it back under Beijing’s control through diplomatic or military means.
Last week, China’s complex relationship with Taiwan and its influence over the World Health Organization played out in real-time when a top WHO official avoided questions about Taiwan during an interview. Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK aired an interview with Bruce Aylward, WHO’s assistant director-general. When asked if Taiwan could join the organization, Aylward didn’t respond. Then, he claimed he couldn’t hear the reporter and asked her to move on to another question. When the reporter pressed him on the topic, Aylward hung up on her. When the reporter called him back and asked him again to comment on Taiwan’s response to coronavirus, Aylward replied, “We’ve already talked about China.”
China has long used its influence to prevent Taiwan from joining the United Nations and the World Health Organization.
“China’s imposed isolation of Taiwan is counterproductive as the world struggles to fight the coronavirus pandemic,” said Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy. “Taipei’s response to the outbreak has been characterized as exemplary.”
After being iced out from some international institutions, Taiwan, which is about four times smaller than Florida, has had to rely on itself to fight a number of different public health issues.
When coronavirus emerged in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, Taiwan was ahead of the curve.
It started inspecting airline passengers coming from Wuhan on Dec. 31. It banned Wuhan residents altogether on Jan. 23, suspended tours to China on Jan. 25 and banned all Chinese visitors on Feb. 6, Foreign Policy reported. Taiwan’s government stopped exporting surgical masks on Jan. 24.
It was around then that Taiwan asked local companies to step up the production of masks and started to produce millions a day.
The masks were then split between the public, medical and industrial sectors. The government took over the distribution of masks, which curbed hoarding and price hikes. It also allowed its residents to purchase a certain number of adult and children’s masks per week from pharmacies and health clinics for about 17 cents. In order to cut down on long lines, Taiwan tapped into its tech sector to allow people to order masks online and pick them up at their convenience.
When it came to transparency, Taiwan did the exact opposite of China.
The country set up a unified command center and held daily briefings to keep the public up to date. It also educated its residents about the risks of COVID-19 and the precautions they should take to avoid the virus as much as possible.
When Taiwan was busy responding to COVID-19, China was knee-deep in spreading rumors, falsely claiming a United States military member brought the coronavirus to Wuhan and unleashed it. More recently, China has shifted focus and started to blame Italy for the pandemic.
As the global pandemic stretches into another month, most experts Fox News spoke to said they don’t believe China will give Taiwan credit for anything any time soon but added it might be a good time to start.