Taiwan is sending millions of masks to the United States and Europe

Taiwan appears to be engaging in its own "coronavirus diplomacy," striking a partnership with Czechia to manufacture testing kits and a possible vaccine. Taiwan has also provided aid to Italy. For Marc Cheng, Taiwan is “not competing with China” but Beijing is irritated. The US is pushing for Taiwan’s to be accepted in the WHO.

Taipei (AsiaNews) – Taiwan has donated seven million masks to Europe and will send another two million to the United States and one and half million to the 15 nations with which it still has diplomatic ties (including the Vatican).

In what is the first cooperation agreement between the island nation and a member state of the European Union, Taiwan and Czechia (Czech Republic) have set up a partnership to develop and manufacture rapid tests and a possible virus vaccine.

Taiwan also plans to donate ventilators, protective visors and other medical supplies to Czechia to deal with the pandemic.

Ordinary Taiwanese have also become involved, donating NT$ 120 million (US$ 3.97 million) to help fight the coronavirus outbreak in Italy. The fundraising campaign began on 1st April, led by Fr Giuseppe Didone, the superior delegate of the Camillians in the island.

In a tweet, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, thanked Taiwan for the aid. This is the first time that the EU’s top leader officially and directly addresses the Government of Taiwan.

Many EU states are also examining the Taiwanese model of response to the pandemic, a "democratic" alternative to China's draconian approach, one that has so far achieved excellent results.

For Marc Cheng, executive director of the European Union Centre in Taiwan, the aid does not constitute a Taiwanese "Health Silk Road."

"Taiwan is simply helping countries struggling with the COVID-19 because it is in its interest. We have no intention of entering into great power games. We don’t even have the capacity to do so.”

The numbers are clear. Taiwan manufactures more than 13 million surgical masks per day (up from 3.2 million in February), and is aiming to reach 15 million. In mid-March, China manufactured 110 million a day, 90 million more than a month earlier.

"We are not competing with China to win the hearts and minds of other peoples," says Cheng.

In his opinion, the difference between the two countries is that China is trying to polish its global image as a responsible power, whilst Taiwan just wants to prove that it is a responsible stakeholder in the international community.

It is hard to image the island and mainland China going head to head politically and economically. However, according to many observers, Taiwan’s "coronavirus diplomacy" is helping the island boost its international standing.

Not surprisingly, Beijing appears irritated by Taipei’s humanitarian activism. China believes that Taipei is using "political tricks" to gain membership in the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Chinese foreign ministry has "advised" Taiwan (and the United States) not to take actions that could harm China's core interests.

Washington is pushing for Taipei to be granted observer status in the World Health Assembly, a request that Beijing has rejected. To the Chinese, the island is a "rebel province" to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.