Is China's vaccine diplomacy hurting Taiwan's international relations?

International Jun 01, 2021

Taiwan has accused China of using vaccine diplomacy as a political tool to pressurize some Latin American countries having diplomatic ties with Taiwan to switch their allegiance. China claims Taiwan (located off the southeastern coast of mainland China) as a part of China under its One China Policy but China and Taiwan are governed by separate governments. Only 14 countries have diplomatic relations with Taiwan and most of them are Latin American and Caribbean countries. China, using its economic power and investments, has tried to persuade countries to switch their allegiance from Taiwan to China due to which several diplomatic allies of Taiwan have switched their allegiance in recent years including Panama in 2017 and El Salvador and the Dominican Republic in 2018.

CHINA'S VACCINE DIPLOMACY TO PRESSURIZE PARAGUAY

Paraguay, a country in South America, is one of the diplomatic allies of Taiwan. Taiwan has built thousands of homes in Paraguay, provided scholarships, improved the healthcare system of Paraguay, and invested in some projects to boost diplomatic ties. There have been protests in Paraguay due to the slow vaccination rates and handling of COVID19 pandemic by the Paraguayan government. According to Foreign Minister of Paraguay, China is interested in establishing ties with Paraguay. Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that China is pressurizing Paraguay to sever its diplomatic ties with Taiwan in exchange for millions of vaccine doses from China. "In the last few weeks, we have been speaking to like-minded countries, including Japan, the United States, India etc, and India fortunately has been able to provide some COVAXIN vaccines to Paraguay," Wu added. India has shipped 2,00,000 doses of COVID19 vaccine to Paraguay.

CHINA'S VACCINE DIPLOMACY IN OTHER  LATIN AMERICAN COUNTRIES

Honduras, another Latin American country having diplomatic ties with Taiwan does not have any formal relations with China. Honduran government is considering opening a trade office in China to improve relations between both countries and acquire COVID19 vaccines. While several Latin American countries are receiving Chinese vaccines, Honduras and Guatemala, who have ties with Taiwan instead of China, aren't receiving COVID19 vaccines from China. As a result these countries have low rates of vaccination. While El Salvador is able to vaccinate 16% of its population due to Chinese vaccines.Taiwan foreign ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou said that China was trying to use the same methods it did with Paraguay and Taiwan is doing everything it can to help its allies in procuring vaccines.

REACTION OF THE US

Although China has denied the allegations that they are using vaccines for diplomatic means. The US has condemned political use of vaccines. "We condemn the cynical use of potentially life-saving medical assistance to advance the narrow political agendas of certain donors," a State Department spokesman said. A senior US official said that out of the 80 million vaccines that the US has pledged to give other nations before the end of June, Latin America will be one of the priorities. With Taiwan's allies slowly drifting away from Taiwan, this is worrying for Taiwan as well as for the US due to the growing influence of China in Latin America where most of Taiwan's allies are present.

This article has been written by Harsh Battulwar for The Paradigm

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