Taipei Resists Beijing’s Vaccine Diplomacy Aimed at Isolating the Island Nation

April 10, 2021 Updated: April 12, 2021

Taiwan said on April 7 its diplomatic allies that supplied them with COVID-19 vaccines helped to prevent the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from invading the island nation. Taiwan also said Beijing is trying to use the pandemic to force the island nation’s allies to break away in exchange for Chinese vaccines.

Paraguay, Taiwan’s sole diplomatic ally in South America, said on March 22 that brokers of Chinese vaccine manufacturers told the state that it needs to break away from Taiwan if it wants to have the COVID-19 vaccines from China.

Joseph Wu, the Taiwanese foreign affairs minister, said on Wednesday that India had shipped 100,000 doses of COVAXIN vaccines to Paraguay, and would ship another 100,000 doses in the future. Paraguay has a population of 7.2 million people.

“The most important trend is the Indian government who is willing to help, and the United States who has decided they want to help,” Wu said. “I think this is going to relieve a lot of pressure for a lot of countries.”

Vaccine diplomacy is not the only method that Beijing authorities are trying to use to isolate Taiwan.

Surangel Whipps, president of Palau in the western Pacific, told AFP via video call this week that Beijing asked him to stop recognizing Taiwan, by calling his cellphone frequently when he was in in the 2020 election race. “It [The phone] would ring for like 16 times,” Whipps said.

Taiwan is a de facto independent country, while the CCP claims ownership of the island and applies pressures from all directions.

Since December 2016, Beijing has turned seven nations away from being allied with Taiwan: São Tomé and Príncipe, Panama, Dominican Republic, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Solomon Islands, and Kiribati.

Epoch Times Photo
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu speaks at a press conference in Taipei, Taiwan on Nov. 22, 2019. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)

Countering the CCP’s Vaccine Diplomacy

The Chinese regime has used the COVID-19 vaccine as a diplomatic tool of coercion.

On March 19, the China International Development Cooperation Agency—a sub-ministry-level organ under the State Council—announced that China was providing vaccines to 80 countries and three international organizations.

“If you look at those countries that are receiving the Chinese vaccines, whether it’s Brazil or Chile or El Salvador, I think it’s having lots of impact on our diplomatic allies,” Wu said.

The Chinese regime claimed that it didn’t have political pursuits behind its vaccine diplomacy efforts and said that it wanted to vaccinate people with a kind heart.

However, there aren’t enough vaccines for Chinese people. Bloomberg reported on April 8 that the CCP wanted to vaccinate 560 million people by the end of June, about 40 percent of its population, however, they face a supply shortage.

Epoch Times Photo
A health worker prepares to administer the COVID-19 CoronaVac vaccine, developed by China’s Sinovac firm, at a makeshift clinic at Saeng Thip sports ground in Bangkok, Thailand on April 7, 2021. (Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images)

While facing multiple challenges from Beijing, the United States, India, Japan, and Australia decided in their first Quad summit in March that they would work together and deliver up to one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines across Asia by the end of 2022.

Experts said that the larger agenda of the informal strategic forum—to forge a union of democracies against authoritarian governments—is making itself visible in the partnership for vaccines, and that India has emerged as an alternative to the Chinese vaccine supply chain.

“They pledged to expand and accelerate production in India of safe, accessible, and effective vaccines and partner at each stage to ensure that vaccines are administered throughout the Indo-Pacific region into 2022,” Joe Chalil, a health care executive and the author of the book “Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: Envisioning a Better World by Transforming the Future of Healthcare,” told The Epoch Times.

The partnership includes Australia supporting the delivery of vaccines to hard-to-reach communities in Southeast Asia, contributing $77 million. Australia has already committed $407 million to supply vaccines and for security to insure full vaccine coverage to nine Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste.

“Japan will assist vaccination programs of developing countries such as the purchase of vaccines and cold-chain support, including through the provision of grant aid of $41 million and new concessional yen loans, ensuring alignment with and support of COVAX,” the White House said.

Taiwan has 15 allies at present. They are Marshall Islands, Republic of Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu in Asia and Pacific; Holy See in Europe; Eswatini in Africa; Belize, Republic of Guatemala, Haiti, Republic of Honduras, Nicaragua, Republic of Paraguay, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines in Latin America and Caribbeans.

Venus Upadhayaya contributed to this report.