US interested in arms sales, not COVID-19 vaccines, to Taiwan
Published: May 27, 2021 09:59 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Although US hawks have been exaggerating tensions in the Taiwan Straits and even hyping the possibility of military conflicts, when the Taiwan people are struggling with an uphill COVID-19 battle, the US, as the so-called reliable partner of of Taiwan, has not offered a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine to the epidemic-hit island. What disappoints Taiwan people is the US is in no rush to deliver vaccines.

Brent Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan's Taipei office, said on Wednesday that he was confident Taiwan could control a spike in COVID-19 cases. "Taiwan's infection numbers are still among the lowest in the world," he said.

Taiwan has reported 6,091confirmed COVID-19 cases and 46 deaths as of press time, according to Johns Hopkins University. The island reported 11 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, a record high reported for one single day. A netizen from Taiwan asked angrily: "Is the US waiting for more people to die from the COVID-19 in Taiwan?" Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je also asked, "We ate ractopamine pork, bought arms, so [Christensen's] meaning is 'you've only had 11 deaths and that's not too many'?"

Fewer than 1 percent of Taiwan's residents have been vaccinated, making it the least vaccinated population in Asia, according to data gathered by The New York Times. However, the US has stocked a large number of COVID-19 vaccines and restricted the export of vaccine raw materials. These acts fully reflect the "America First" policy. According to a report published by a team of Duke University health experts, the US could have 300 million excess doses of the COVID-19 vaccines by the end of July. 

In 2020 alone, the US sold $5.1 billion in arms to the island of Taiwan, according to Reuters. The Trump administration authorized more than $15 billion in its 11 cases of arms sales to Taiwan. The US' enthusiasm for offering COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan is far less than its enthusiasm for selling weapons to Taiwan.

Yet some people in Taiwan have not seen this clearly, stubbornly looking forward to the US' assistance. Although the Chinese mainland had offered twice within one week to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan, the Taiwan-based Mainland Affairs Council let politics in and claimed that the mainland was pretending to be well-intentioned. 

Politics should have given way to life and health, but Taiwan authorities are allowing the loss of more lives.

"No matter how solid the so-called US-Taiwan relationship is claimed to be, the COVID-19 vaccine is a touchstone. The US is not so concerned about the epidemic in Taiwan, and it believes many US allies have more serious epidemic conditions than Taiwan. This also helps Taiwan people understand the true face of the US-Taiwan 'friendship,'" Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for US Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Some Taiwan people always have a wishful thinking that the US will do everything to protect the island's interests and security. They must realize that as Taiwan authorities are clinging to Washington's China policy, the US has regarded Taiwan only as a prominent pawn in its strategy to contain the Chinese mainland.

"This COVID-19 vaccine assistance issue shows that the US always puts its own interests first. This being the case, can anybody imagine that the US will engage in a military conflict with a nuclear power for the sake of Taiwan? This is sheer fantasy," Xin said.

Some US lawmakers who clamored for the so-called defense of Taiwan, such as Marco Rubio who took the initiative in reintroducing the "Taiwan Relations Reinforcement Act" in March, have not even come out to call on Washington to provide vaccines to the island. Isn't this a huge embarrassment for Taiwan regional leader Tsai Ing-wen and the Democratic Progressive Party authorities?