The politics of vaccine donation in Taiwan, Japan | Coronavirus pandemic news

Tokyo, Japan- The Japanese government injected itself into the increasingly tense confrontation across the Taiwan Strait.

Last Friday, Japan Send Taiwan 1.24 million doses AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 jab came after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen accused China of preventing the territory from obtaining a vaccine during the worst coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began.

Beijing considers Taiwan-an autonomous island 161 kilometers (100 miles) from the coast of China-as part of its territory and does not rule out the use of force to achieve its goals. Since Tsai Ing-wen was first elected in 2016, it has taken an increasingly tough stance, claiming that she wants the independence of the 23.6 million people on the island, and tensions have escalated as traditional allies, including the United States, unite to support Taiwan.

For decades, Japan has adopted a quieter approach.

However, as China’s economic and military strength continues to increase, and Japan continues to challenge the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands (called the Diaoyutai Islands by the Chinese), the Tokyo government is changing its strategy.

Daniel Sneider, a lecturer in East Asian Studies at Stanford University, said: “Japanese conservatives do indeed regard the Taiwan issue as a way to draw a line from the Chinese.”

The rise of China has worried many Japanese.

In recent years, Beijing has become increasingly tough in the Asia-Pacific region, demonstrating its military strength in the East China Sea and the South China Sea to support its maritime and territorial claims in disputed waters.

Taiwan also claims sovereignty over the South China Sea Feel the heat of Beijing.

In the past year, the Chinese military sent fighter jets to the airspace of the island almost every day. On April 12, 25 Chinese military aircraft flew over the airspace of the island.

‘Caring about Taiwan’s security’

In order to counter China’s growing influence, Japan is establishing security relations with countries such as Australia and India, and strengthening alliances with the United States, which also regards Beijing as a strategic competitor.

When US President Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met in Washington in April this year, China was the primary focus of their talks.For the first time in more than half a century, the leaders of the two countries issued a joint statement Include right “The importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

In addition, the Japanese Ministry of Defense mentioned the Taiwan issue for the first time when it released the draft of its annual “white paper” last month.

The draft document says: “The stability of the situation around Taiwan is essential to the security of Japan and the stability of the international community.”

Beijing condemned Japan and the United States for interfering in their internal affairs on the Taiwan issue, and accused the two countries of “collaborating and inciting group confrontation.” Chinese officials have previously described concerns about its military and economic influence as part of the “Cold War mentality” trying to contain it.

It is against this broad background that Japan, which once ruled Taiwan as a colony, jumped to the aid of the island while scrambling to ensure the supply of coronavirus vaccine.

As Snyder said, “This is to prove Japan’s interest in Taiwan’s continued de facto independence and security. It’s that simple.”

Beijing condemned Japan’s move.

When the first reports that Tokyo was considering shipping vaccines to Taipei appeared in late May, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin responded sharply. He said: “We are firmly opposed to those who use the epidemic to perform political performances or even interfere in China’s internal affairs.” “I noticed that Japan can hardly ensure enough vaccine supplies in the country.”

He added: “I want to emphasize that vaccine assistance should resume its original purpose, which is to save lives, and should not be reduced to a tool for personal gain.”

Wang’s argument involving politics is not entirely wrong.

Several reports in the Japanese and Taiwanese media have emphasized the role of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in accelerating the delivery of vaccines to Taiwan. He is a long-term “Chinese hawk”.

The Sankei Shimbun reported on June 3 that Abe, who stepped down in September last year, has been closely participating in the discussion and noted Taiwan’s generous donations to Japan at that time. The devastating earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

“Taiwan wins a big win”

In Taiwan, the Japanese donation is a victory for the Cai government.

Tsai Ing-wen won global praise for handling the epidemic early, but after experiencing a Sudden surge in COVID-19 infections That started last month. To date, the island has recorded 11,968 infections and 333 deaths, the vast majority of which were reported in the past month.

Since less than 3% of the public in Taiwan have been vaccinated, there is growing anger over the shortage of COVID-19 vaccine.

Taiwan says that China has exacerbated the crisis.

On May 26, Tsai Ing-wen accused China of using its influence to prevent the massive delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

However, Beijing denied this claim and stated that Taiwan actually refused to accept the vaccine it provided. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Yi also accused Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party of putting “political manipulation above cooperation in the fight against the epidemic.”

Lev Nakhman, a visiting scholar at National Taiwan University, said that the DPP faces a dilemma.

“The reality is that Taiwan needs vaccines,” he said, “and Catch 22 is that the DPP government is politically unable to purchase vaccines from China.”

He pointed out that if the independent DPP turns to the mainland for help, it may undermine the party’s legitimacy as an autonomous force.

But “vaccinating from Japan, compared to vaccinating from China, the political burden is much lighter, this is of course a major victory for Taiwan,” Nachman said.

Moreover, the process of introducing vaccines from Japan has made DPP politicians rarely show unity, showing that they are responsible for the interests of the people-although the Taiwan authorities still have a long way to go in ensuring vaccines for the entire population of the island .

Even supporters of the pro-Beijing opposition party, KuomintangNachman said they feel a “quiet appreciation” for Japan.

When news of the Japanese donation came through, many Taiwanese also expressed their gratitude on social media. Brian Chee-Shing Hioe, editor of New Bloom, an online magazine that reports on youth culture, said that some people posted photos of themselves traveling in Japan during the pre-pandemic era to express their appreciation and closeness to their neighbors on the northern islands. Politics in Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific region.

Hioe also considered the broader strategic context and pointed out that a few days after Japan’s donation, the United States promised to provide further 750,000 doses.

“The United States is coordinating this matter behind the scenes,” Niie asserted, “to consolidate this relationship between Japan and Taiwan, which is beneficial to regional security and the United States.”

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