Buried amongst all the doom and gloom news of the Swine Flu (or more correctly Influenza A(H1N1)) in this morning’s NYTimes, was an interesting article highly relevant to global public health. Yesterday, Taiwanese officials announced that China had changed its policy on blocking Taiwan’s presence as an observer at the upcoming World Health Assembly, the main decision making body of the WHO. The invitation to attend the conference had been extended to Taiwan by Margaret Chan, the Director of the World Health Organization, and a key player in the avian flu outbreak in China in 2003.

I could not help to wonder about the timing of this an announcement. Although diplomatic relations have apparently been improving between Taiwan and China in recent years, I wonder how much the current Swine Flu epidemic influenced this decision. China and the surrounding area was the epicenter of the avian flu outbreak in 2003 and China had been criticized for having blocked external action to contain the disease in Taiwan. They, perhaps better than any country on the planet, understand the importance of global collective action in controlling and preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Foreign policy in China appears to be catching up with the realities of global public health.

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