Chinese State Media Warns Beijing Will Resist U.S.-Taiwan Collaboration Over WHO and Coronavirus

Chinese state media has hit out at Taiwan over its proposed involvement in this month's World Health Assembly (WHA), where nations will meet to discuss responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Taiwan—an independent island nation off the Chinese coast that is not officially recognized by most countries in the world—has long been excluded from World Health Organization (WHO) activities and listed as part of China.

But the coronavirus pandemic—and allegations that China tried to cover up the severity of the outbreak and failed to properly warn the international community—has prompted some nations to call for Taiwan's inclusion in the WHO, which has long been a red line for officials in Beijing who reject anything that might validate Taipei's independence.

Several nations have sent a joint letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus requesting he invite Taiwan to the WHA as an observer. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also made a statement supporting the request.

The WHO noted that Ghebreyesus cannot do so without a clear mandate from the body's 194 member states, but Chinese state media was still incensed by the move.

The Global Times—owned by the People's Daily newspaper, which is the Chinese Communist Party's official publication—published an op-ed Wednesday warning that collaboration between the U.S. and Taiwan will ultimately backfire on Taipei.

Global Times—often used to air the more nationalistic and bellicose sentiment within the CCP, particularly on foreign policy—warned against "U.S.-provoked troubles" regarding Taiwan.

Taiwan—officially called the Republic of China (RoC)—sits 80 miles from the Chinese coast across the Taiwan Strait. It has been independent for more than 70 years, having emerged from the last bastion of the nationalist forces that lost the Chinese Civil War to the Communist Party. It became the RoC capital in 1949.

But China does not consider Taiwan to be an independent nation, and under its "One China" policy has vowed to bring the island back under Beijing's control, whether by diplomatic or military means.

Wednesday's Global Times article said that China "may be propelled to strike back at whatever cost" if the U.S. "plays the Taiwan card with real actions." The op-ed added that Beijing's "ability to resolve the Taiwan question via military means is becoming mature," and claimed that China "tightly steers the wheel of the Taiwan Straits."

China has faced broad criticism for its response to the coronavirus outbreak. The virus was first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, and has since spread worldwide infecting more than 4.2 million people and killing more than 292,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Chinese officials are accused of trying to hide the initial outbreak and silencing whistleblower doctors. President Xi Jinping also reportedly sat on information that the outbreak was poised to become a pandemic, as officials intentionally hid information from the international community to win more time to secure medical equipment needed to fight the outbreak.

A U.S. intelligence report also suggested that China threatened to impede WHO operations if the organization sounded the alarm about the COVID-19 virus, as reported by Newsweek. American intelligence officials have also suggested that China underreported its true number of coronavirus infections and deaths.

Leaders in the U.S. and Europe have called for an international investigation into the course of the outbreak. The dominant explanation remains that the naturally-occurring virus originated at a wildlife market in Wuhan, but some—including President Donald Trump and Pompeo—have alleged that COVID-19 escaped from a research laboratory in the city. Neither has provided evidence to support that assertion.

Taiwan, meanwhile, has been praised for taking quick action to stem the spread of coronavirus. The island has recorded only 440 infections and seven deaths, despite its proximity to the outbreak.

WHO, China, US, Taiwan, coronavirus, WHA
This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a World Health Organization sign in Geneva, Switzerland, next to the body's headquarters. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images/Getty