by N. Peter Kramer
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (Taiwan) expressed its extreme regret that the government of the Republic of Nicaragua announced its acceptance of the ‘one China principle’, unilaterally terminated diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and established relations with the People’s Republic of China. The ministry also strongly condemned the Chinese government for once again coercing a diplomatic ally of Taiwan in order to sever relations and suppress Taiwan’s diplomatic space.
Responding to the news, Taiwan’s President Ms Tsai Ing-wen reaffirmed that no amount of external pressure can shake Taiwan’s commitment to its values or stop it from partnering with the international democratic community as a force for good.
A few years ago it were Taiwan’s diplomatic allies Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic, that wrestled away after China had offered huge financial incentives. Also then, Taiwan condemned China’s contemptible decision to use dollar diplomacy to wrest away Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, and its heavy-handed methods of suppressing Taiwan’s international participation. Beijing’s crude attempts can only drive a deeper wedge between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and antagonise the people of Taiwan.
As former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson once said, Beijing encourages dependency using opaque contracts, predatory loan practices, and corrupt deals that mire nations in eb and undercut their sovereignty, denying them their long-term, self-sustaining growth. Developing nations must beware the danger of falling into a debt trap when engaging with China. It was never more the reality than now.
Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation dates from 1971, when the United Nations switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China. Mos UN member states followed. Since then China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province and denies it the status of a sovereign state. In the early nineties, there were still 30 countries choosing to recognise Taipei over Beijing . That number is now down to 14, including the Holy See (Vatican).
It looks like, that how far China goes in trying to win Taiwan’s allies depends on who is in power on the island. From 2000-2008 when with President Chen Shui-bian the independent Democratic Party (DPP) was in charge, Taiwan lost nine friends. But China stopped pinching Taiwan’s allies during the period 2008-2016 when the more China friendly Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang (KMT) became president. He developed closer ties between the two countries and met his counterpart President Xi Jinping in November 2015, an unprecedented happening. Remarkable is that El Salvador tried to switch from recognising Taiwan to China during Ma’s period of diplomatic detente and China rebuffed it. But the diplomatic war continued after President Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP took office in May 2016. She was re-elected in 2020.
Although Taiwan faces serious diplomatic challenges, the government will not bow to China’s pressure. Taiwan will work with friendly nations to fight for and solidify regional peace and stability, and ensure its rightful place in the international community, it says. Taiwan’s diplomats will continue to fight to defend the nation’s dignity and rights.