Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar this week became the highest-level American official to visit Taiwan since 1979, when Washington severed official diplomatic ties with Taipei. The optics of the trip were questionable, as it came amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and China, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province that should be brought under its control, by force if necessary. Nevertheless, the visit was a boost for Taiwan, as it deals with constant anxiety over Chinese aggression.
During a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday, Azar praised Taiwan’s democracy and its response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying that “Taiwan deserves to be recognized as a global health leader.” Taiwan has been hailed globally for its pandemic response, recording only 480 cases and seven deaths among a population of 23 million people. But despite that success, Taiwan remains excluded from the World Health Organization, due to China’s efforts over the years to keep Taiwan out of the WHO and other United Nations bodies.