In a jolt to Taiwan and boost to Beijing’s diplomacy, Panama on Tuesday severed ties with the country and recognised it as an “indispensable” part of China. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Panama’s Vice-President and Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo signed a joint communiqué establishing diplomatic ties in Beijing on Tuesday. Panama government said it recognised that there was only “one China, with Taiwan being an indispensable part of China, and that it was severing ties with Taiwan,” reported Chinese state daily Global Times. With Panama switching sides, Taiwan’s decades-old attempt to act as a “sovereign country” would likely face fresh challenges. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office today also advised Taiwan to make a “wise choice” on recognising the One-China principle.
Over the years Beijing has tried to choke Taiwan diplomatically in a bid to force the self-ruled island to accept itself as a part of China. On Tuesday, Global Times warned, “Taiwan can no longer match the mainland’s strength. The GDP of the mainland is almost 20 times that of Taiwan and the one-China principle is recognized all over the world. Taiwan independence faces a dead end politically, economically, and militarily, and is only an ideological tool for Taiwan politicians. Taiwan independence thought will have to retreat in front of an ever powerful mainland. There is a tough road ahead for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus, and the Tsai administration is encountering hard choices.”
It further said, “Although Taiwan is an island, throughout history it was never an independent unit, geographically or politically. As China ascends and becomes a world power, the Chinese people are determined to unify their country. The longer the Tsai administration clings to the wrong path, the more losses it will bring to Taiwan and the DPP.”
Here’s how China has been trying to choke Taiwan in recent years:
- Beijing doesn’t trust present Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and her ruling party, which advocates independence for Taiwan. After Tsai came to power last year, China had cut official communication channels with her government in a bid to pressure her to accept that Taiwan is part of China. On Tuesday Tsai said that China’s move to establish ties with Panama has affected current stable situation across Taiwan Strait.
- A year ago, Taiwan had diplomatic ties with 23 countries. But in the last one year itself, as many as three countries have severed diplomatic ties with the country, which is claimed by China as its own — a part of the mainland.
- According to Associated Press, China had lessened diplomatic pressure on Taiwan during 2008-2016 term of China-friendly President Ma Ying-Jeou. However, Beijing’s all-time strategy of narrowing the island’s global breathing space continued unabated.
- In 2007, Costa Rica was the first of Taiwan’s Central American partners to switch allegiance to China. It was southern African nation of Malawi in 2008. Gambia in West Africa followed suit in 2013.
- Last year, small African states Sao Tome and Principe switched ties from Taiwan to China.
- Taiwan is now left with only two allies in Africa: Burkina Faso in the west and the Kingdom of Swaziland in the south.
- Taiwan’s relations with its remaining Central and South American allies — Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Paraguay — are partly a legacy of their former shared right-wing politics and partly of Taipei’s generous aid programs. In the Caribbean, Taiwan’s allies are Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Taiwan is also allies with a number of fellow Pacific island nations and American allies, namely Kiribati, Nauru, the Marshall Islands, Palau, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
- Now, Taiwan’s only diplomatic partner in Europe is Holy See. This relationship has endured even amidst reports of Vatican’s plans to switch relations to Beijing. AP reports that successive popes have reached out to China in a bid to find an accommodation over management of the Catholic Church in the country, but agreement has proven elusive. China has insisted on the right to appoint bishops, as well as to tightly manage the church’s activities and its role in public life.