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I am not a regular subscriber to the Taipei Times, but when I came across the peculiar headline, "WHO failure a step forward, officials say," I had to learn more.

It turns out that the "WHO failure" in question is the inability of Taiwan to achieve “observer” status at the World Health Assembly, after 10 consecutive tries. The “step forward” is the increasing inclusion of Taiwanese technical experts in selected WHO meetings - something that requires special authorization by China. It is, of course, China’s influence that prevents Taiwan from being formally recognized by the agency mandated to safeguard global health, despite the clear public health imperative to do so.

It just doesn't have to be this way. Four years ago, the World Trade Organization managed to admit both China and Taiwan as individual member states - an action no doubt motivated in part by a recognition that the more players there are at the table, the more trading deals there are to be struck.. Once again, if we valued lives as much as we do money, our international public health infrastructure would be a whole lot more sensible.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.