今年5月26日，美國在台協會酈英傑處長（Brent Christensen ）發出聲明強調台灣的確診者數相對少。6月2日，德國在台協會王子陶處長（Thomas Prinz） 也發表聲明指出台灣欲從德國BioNTech購買疫苗屬於商業行為，而這個商業契約簽訂與否取決於契約雙方，德國政府無力介入。為什麼這些外國駐台代表要異口同聲暗示台灣政府別對他們幫忙爭取疫苗抱持著太大的期望？
在5月28 日，美國向台灣發送首批15萬劑莫德納疫苗，美國在台協會立刻在臉書發布此消息，並在文末加上「Real Friends Real Progress」 標籤。 許多台灣的政治人物也立刻熱烈響應，在社群媒體上大發感謝文，高聲呼喊「真朋友、真進展」口號。
台灣政府帶頭呼喊的「Health for All─Taiwan Can Help」讓台灣加入世界衛生組織的口號相信大家仍耳熟能詳，難道「Health for all」的all還有條件限定？必須是民主國家政體才能共享疫苗？
Foreign Policy ≠ Vaccine Policy
By Ross Darrell Feingold
Former Asia Chairman, Republicans Abroad
One outcome from Taiwan’s failure to date to timely acquire a sufficient quantity of vaccines is that what in reality should be a commercial relationship between the manufacturers and Taiwan’s government, has unnecessarily become a foreign policy matter that certain Taiwan politicians and other individuals in Taiwan are seeking to exploit. Is this really necessary, and is it helpful for Taiwan’s efforts to acquire vaccines?
An American citizen who lives in Taiwan recently contacted me to ask if the Republicans Overseas organization is doing a letter writing campaign to encourage the United States to provide vaccines to Taiwan. Although I am not currently involved in the Republicans Overseas organization, I had a simple reply for this American: I would not support that, and it is the Taiwan government that is responsible for vaccines, not foreign political parties. It would be a disappointment if the Taiwan government, which was previously universally recognized for its response to COVID-19, needed to outsource part of its own efforts to acquire vaccines to foreign political parties, even if Taiwan’s other domestic political parties or local government leaders have attempted to engage in vaccine acquisition diplomacy.
Another peculiar type of vaccine diplomacy in Taiwan was that the Taiwan government allowed foreigners who have remained in Taiwan from when travel disruption began in March 2020 to receive vaccines during the brief period that began in April when people could pay out-of-pocket for the AstraZeneca vaccines that were available in Taiwan at the time. Although many in Taiwan are unaware, there is a population of foreigners for whom the government has repeatedly extended their right to remain in Taiwan. These foreigners who do not pay taxes or participate in the National Health Insurance system. However, even though the limited number of vaccines available at the time should have been provided to first line medical workers and other priority persons, these foreigners could also pay for a vaccine. What humanitarian or diplomatic benefit Taiwan could gain from this is unknown, and probably limited.
On May 26, American Institute in Taiwan Taipei Office Director Brent Christensen （酈英傑） issued a statement in which he emphasized Taiwan’s relatively small amount of COVID-19 cases. Similarly, on June 2, 2021 the Director General of German Institute Taipei Thomas Prinz （王子陶） issued a statement which emphasized that Taiwan’s effort to purchase vaccines from BioNTech is a matter outside the control of the German government. It is no surprise that these foreign country representatives sought to manage Taiwan’s expectations for the amount of vaccines that their governments could provide Taiwan. In fact, subsequently, on May 28 the United States announced 150,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine would be sent to Taiwan, which AIT announced with a Facebook message that included the #RealFriendsRealProgress hashtag. This was quickly followed by Taiwan politicians repeating #RealFreindsRealProgress on their own Facebook pages. The excitement over this small amount of vaccines is similar to the over reaction in Taiwan to the foreign governments or foreign politicians who published social media messages with Taiwan pineapples after China banned imports of Taiwan pineapples earlier this year. Just as one time photos of foreigners eating pineapples （and the excited response on social media in Taiwan） does not result in substantive sales opportunities for Taiwan pineapple growers, hashtags or letter writing campaigns will not help Taiwan address its failures to acquire vaccines.
In fact, on March 18, 2020, the American Institute in Taiwan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a joint statement that both sides will seek to share best practices and cooperate on a range of activities under a partnership that included research and production of vaccines. People in Taiwan should ask what became of this initiative.
As for Japan’ recent donation of AstraZeneca vaccine doses that Japan purchased but has not used for its own citizens, certainly an expression of thank you from the government and people of Taiwan is appropriate. However, Tainan City Mayor Huang Wei-che’s （黃偉哲） announcement that Japanese nationals in Tainan City would receive priority to be vaccinated was a surprise. According to the Japanese government, the donation is to thank Taiwan for aid provided in response to the 2011 T?hoku earthquake and tsunami （東北地方太平洋沖地震）. There is no record of Japanese local governments announcing at the time that Taiwan nationals in Japan would receive first priority for the aid provided by Taiwan. Similar to the expectations management by the United States and Germany, we should manage our expectations for the significance of the Japan vaccine donation. Although in recent years Japan has made gestures such as the change in the name of Japan’s representative office in Taipei or the exchange of social media messages with Taiwan’s leadership following disasters in each country, Japan has yet to enter into substantive agreements with Taiwan on the range of issues as which occurred during Ma Ying-jeou’s presidency, and as of now, Japan has yet to indicate it will help Taiwan enter the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership （跨太平洋夥伴全面進步協定） or engage in a more substantive and public security relationship.
However, in thanking Japan, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized this as democracies assisting each other. This is inconsistent with Japan’s plans to donate vaccines to non-democratic countries such as Vietnam, or Japan’s large donation to a large amount of money to COVAX which will ensure many non-democratic countries receive vaccines, or the reality that several of the non-democratic countries which formally recognize the Republic of China are also in desperate need of vaccines. If the Taiwan government’s claim that “The goal “Health for All” can be achieved earlier only by allowing Taiwan to join the WHO” and the continued use by the Taiwan government of the slogan “Health for All – Taiwan Can Help” are to believed, then Taiwan should not encourage the sharing of vaccines only among democracies.
The Taiwan government’s failure to timely acquire a sufficient quantity of vaccines will ultimately prove to be from the bureaucratic inefficiency of Taiwan’s government and not due to Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Organization, the limited donations of vaccines by Germany, Japan, the United States or any other issue that arises from Taiwan’s lack of formal diplomatic relations with the world’s major countries. Attempting to make vaccine acquisition a foreign policy victory is unlikely to resolve the reasons why Taiwan lags far behind other countries in vaccinating its population.