至于台湾人人耳熟能详的“Taiwan can help”这个口号现在听来似乎也流于过度承诺（over promise），台湾为疫情严重的国家提供了什么样的实质帮助？个人穿戴的防护装备（如口罩、防护衣等）、呼吸辅助装置等医疗资源在许多疫情严重的国家（如印度）都严重欠缺中。而“Taiwan can help”除了捐赠小量物资之外，help的主力在于宣传台湾本身成功防疫。台湾的确防疫成功，然而台湾在疫情蔓延一开始就采取的防疫方式在不同的时空之下并不一定适用于其他国家，例如台湾在一开始就采取了边境管控，但这个政策对于疫情已蔓延开的国家已经太迟。
在过去几年世界卫生大会期间，笔者观察到台湾不得其门而入，只好以“pity party”方式在场边活动。“pity party”在英文的意思是一些人聚在一起哭诉跟互相安慰的聚会，也就是我们中文说的“取暖大会”，这个词很适用于这几年来台湾参加WHA的情况。台湾代表团队通常会在WHA主会场旁租下另一个小会场，在WHA主要会议的行程之外，另外邀请其他国家的代表与台湾的卫福部长等政府官员代表在此会面。那些愿意来到场边会晤台湾政府代表的外国官员，通常会充分表达对于台湾无法正式进入会场的遗憾与愤恨，让在场的台湾代表能感受到友邦的温暖与鼓励。
美国喜剧演员格鲁乔‧马克思曾说过：“我不屑加入任何可以让我成为会员的俱乐部。（I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member）”台湾若采取这样的态度，不再因被国际组织排挤而悲伤，或许更能提升国格，也有助于创建民众的自信。（作者为美国共和党海外部前亚太区主席）
Cease the Annual Pity Party
By Ross Darrell Feingold
The author is a former Asia chairman of Republicans Abroad
The recent statement in the Group of 7 foreign ministers joint communique to support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in World Health Organization (WHO) forums and the World Health Assembly (WHA) has renewed hope that Taiwan will in fact be able to attend the WHA this year as an observer. Of course, such hopes were high last year in the months following the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, and, in earlier years when various governments or parliamentarians around the world would issue statements in support of Taiwan’s observer status. The hashtags LetTaiwanHelp and TaiwanCanHelp will once again spread on social media in support of Taiwan’s hope.
Although it is new for the Group of 7 foreign ministers to jointly support Taiwan’s hope, as we know from past years experience, the likelihood is low that Taiwan can attend the WHA an observer. Even amid the spread of Covid-19 in 2020, and with the enthusiastic support of the United States (and to a lesser extent other governments), China prevented Taiwan from participating as an observer.
We have to recognize a few realities in this situation, and stop deceiving ourselves.
Had the Trump Administration won a second term, the United States would have proceeded with its withdrawal from the WHO. This is a position enthusiastically supported by conservative foreign policy experts in the United States, who are also Taiwan’s key supporters. Conservatives in the United States have long criticized multilateral organizations’ ability to build bureaucracies, spend money, and take actions that run counter to United States interests. A second Trump administration is likely to have established an alternative global health organization, one open to democracies or countries who wish to reduce economic or political reliance on China. Taiwan would have participated as a member, and Taiwan would have enthusiastically supported such an organization as a separate track with which to maintain government-to-government contact with other countries. The Biden Administration announced on its second day in office that the United States will remain a WHO member, and not surprisingly, Taiwan has once again sought to participate in the WHA as an observer. This creates a situation where Taiwan’s desire to participate in the WHO appears inseparable from who the United States president is. When combined with criticisms by either the Taiwan government or Taiwan netizens of the WHO or its Director General Tedros Adhanom, and the reality that Taiwan does have in fact have some information sharing with the WHO about COVID-19, it is no surprise that the WHO bureaucracy is not eager to push back against China’s opposition to Taiwan’s meaningful participation.
Taiwan should not over promise what help it can provide to countries that still suffer from the Covid-19 pandemic and might also recognize that a degree of modesty should apply. Taiwan can provide personal protection equipment or assist with addressing an oxygen shortage such as the current situation in India. However, Taiwan’s success in keeping the number of Covid-19 cases low arises from closing the border to most inbound travelers (other than returning citizens and foreign residents), mask wearing, and contact tracing based on personal information available to government agencies via identity cards, the national health insurance system, and mandatory use of health monitoring apps. Such measures are not mysteries to policy makers around the world, though some countries (including many conservatives in the United States) would oppose such measures. The kind of help that countries need now other than personal protection equipment are strategies for when to impose and end lockdowns, or how to control large outbreaks. Fortunately, Taiwan does not have experience in this, but this also means Taiwan is unable to help provide advice about these matters. Similarly, other countries are currently in need of assistance to procure and administer vaccines, but Taiwan has little help to offer in this regard, especially given that to date, Taiwan has only obtained and administered a small number of vaccines.
In past years, this author has opined around the time of the WHA that Taiwan enjoys organizing “pity party” activities. A “pity party” is an activity that generates a self-indulgent feeling sorry for oneself. Typically, Taiwan’s delegation to the WHA will rent a room in a venue near the WHA meeting, and Taiwan government officials including the Minister of Health and Welfare will meet with government officials from other countries. It is as if the other governments who meet with Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare come to offer their pity at Taiwan’s inability to attend the actual WHA meeting. Some Taiwan non-government organizations, or Taiwan government agencies (including Taiwan’s representative offices) have held events in various cities or in Geneva to protest Taiwan’s exclusion, which might attract the pity of sympathetic foreign politicians and media, but do not change the reality of Taiwan’s exclusion. Taiwan also annually holds the Global Health Forum in Taiwan, an event that attracts the participation of only low level officials from foreign government officials, and receives little global media attention.
There is a simple solution to this. At least until such time as the WHO seeks Taiwan’s participation, Taiwan can cease its annual begging to observe the WHA. This might require more pressure on the WHO from the United States and other like-minded countries, or a willingness by the WHO’s leadership to challenge China’s position. In the meantime, for Covid-19 or other health related issues, Taiwan can continue to rely on its well-developed government-to-government contacts with important countries, and stop the “pity party” activities. It would be refreshing if Taiwan publicly told the world that the government and people of Taiwan are no longer interested in participating in an organization that has the WHO’s problems.
The American comedian Groucho Marx is famous for saying “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member”. Taiwan might consider taking this advice.