switching sides, ditching Taipei for Beijing, the Trump administration has issued its harshest statement yet regarding China’s pilfering of Taiwan’s ever-dwindling amount of allies.n the wake of El Salvador
The White House statement accuses El Salvador’s ruling party of having made the diplomatic change in a “non-transparent fashion only months before they leave office,” adding that:
This is a decision that affects not just El Salvador, but also the economic health and security of the entire America’s region. The El Salvadoran government’s receptiveness to China’s apparent interference in the domestic politics of a Western Hemisphere country is of grave concern to the United States, and will result in a reevaluation of our relationship with El Salvador.
The statement then goes on to warn other countries that Chinese government investment may result in short-term economic growth, but will end in “economic dependency and domination.”
Countries seeking to establish or expand relations with China in order to attract state-directed investment that will stimulate short-term economic growth and infrastructure development may be disappointed over the long run. Around the world, governments are waking up to the fact that China’s economic inducements facilitate economic dependency and domination, not partnership.
The United States will continue to oppose China’s destabilization of the cross-Strait relationship and political interference in the Western Hemisphere.
Obviously, this statement was not well-received in China. At a regular press conference today in Beijing earlier today, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “We urge the relevant country to respect other countries right to decide on their own affairs and stop their hegemonic activities.”
Lu added that China already had diplomatic relations with 25 countries in the Americas and has helped to push forward the economic development and security of the region. With that number now up to 26 countries, Lu wondered aloud: “Why does this now affect security and development?”
Of course, one of those 26 countries that have diplomatic relations with China and not Taiwan is none other than the United States, which makes the White House’s statement sound more than a bit hypocritical. The US dropped Taipei and recognized Beijing in a 1979 agreement while also acknowledging that there is only “one China” and that Taiwan is a part of China. The following year, Washington terminated its Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan, which came into force in 1955.
The US remains Taiwan’s chief backer and supplier of weapons. However, the closest its president can get to the White House is when transiting through US airports and coffee shops on the way to visit Latin American allies. After being elected, Donald Trump infamously accepted a phone call from Tsai Ing-wen, seriously upsetting China. However, since he’s been in office, Trump has yet to give her a call back.
Earlier this week, Taipei preemptively severed ties with El Salvador with Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu explaining that the Central American country was about to go over to Beijing’s side after Taiwan had refused to fund a large port project and provide monetary support for the ruling party’s campaign in the upcoming presidential election.
“As a responsible member of the global community, Taiwan will not engage in dollar nor debt-trap diplomacy,” Wu wrote on Twitter. “This is why El Salvador’s repeated requests for assistance with an unfeasible port development were declined. We worked tirelessly to preserve our countries’ friendship & ties, but couldn’t compete with the allure of “easy money” & pressing needs of a political party.”
“Taiwan is a sovereign nation & beacon of freedom & democracy,” he continued. “It will never be cowed by China’s relentless suppression of its international space. Such efforts only serve to galvanize the people & strengthen the will to resist.”
Similarly, Tsai Ing-wen has vowed not to bow to pressure from Beijing and fight China’s “increasingly out of control” behavior. On Twitter, she has praised the White House’s statement, using the (pretty bad-ass) hashtag #IslandOfResilience.
We welcome the statement from the White House. We will continue to defend our sovereignty & dignity, strengthen our self-#defence capabilities, and protect our free & democratic way of life. #Taiwan will also continue to be a force for regional stability.#IslandOfResilience pic.twitter.com/T3XsmYVOFc
— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) August 24, 2018
El Salvador’s defection leaves Taiwan with only 17 allies left in the world, a number that is swiftly shrinking down to zero. Already this year, Taiwan has lost two other allies inBurkina Fasoand theDominican Republicas Beijing has continued to turn up the pressure on Tsai’s government by generously splashing its money around, looking to isolate the self-ruled island that it considers a breakaway province.
While chipping away at Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, Beijing has also been busy pressuring international companies to choose sides. This year, a number of well-known brands from Marriott to Gap to Delta have issued public apologies for violating the “one China” policy and hurting Chinese feelings by implying in one way or another that Taiwan is a country.
Most recently, the Taiwanese coffee chain 85°C has been removed from Chinese food apps and has faced boycott calls after Tsai Ing-wen paid a brief to one of their outlets in Los Angeles. 85°C responded with a groveling apology, voicing its firm support for the 1992 Consensus.