On August 21st, El Salvador ended its diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China.
This marks the third country to switch allegiance from Taiwan to China in 2018. The Dominican Republic abandoned relations with Taiwan in April, followed by Burkina Faso in May. Taiwan has lost five official diplomatic relations since Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen assumed office in 2016. The three aforementioned, in addition to Sao Tome and Principe and Panama.
Taiwan is now left with formal relations with 17 countries worldwide, most of them small, less developed nations in Central America and the Pacific.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to fight China’s “increasingly out of control” behavior. While speaking in Taipei he said the country would not bow to pressure, he described El Salvador’s decision as evidence that China is attempting to squeeze the island, in addition to regular Chinese bomber patrols around Taiwan, as cited by Reuters.
“We will turn to countries with similar values to fight together against China’s increasingly out-of-control international behavior,” Tsai said.
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters earlier that Taipei was not willing to engage in “money competition” with its giant neighbor. He also said that El Salvador has been asking for “massive support” since 2017, for a port development, however Taiwan was unable to assist with the project, after it was assessed as “unsuitable.”
“Pressure from China would only make Taiwan more determined to continue our path of democracy and freedom,” the Taiwanese Foreign Minister said. “China’s rude and unreasonable behavior will certainly have negative impact to cross-strait relations. This is also not how a responsible country should behave.”
The Chinese diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said El Salvador had made the right decision. “I’m confident that the people of El Salvador will feel the warmth and friendship of the Chinese people and derive tangible benefits from its cooperation with China,” he told reporters alongside his El Salvador counterpart, Carlos Castaneda, shortly after the pair signed an agreement establishing ties.
El Salvador’s president, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, announced in a nationally televised speech that his government had broken off diplomatic relations with Taiwan and instead established ties with China. He said that the El Salvador citizens would see “great benefits” and “extraordinary opportunities” in the new relationship with Beijing.
The US strongly attacked the decision, claiming that the change was of grave concern to Washington and warning that China was offering economic incentives to seek domination.
The White House released a statement which said that the El Salvador government had made the decision to switch allegiances “in a non-transparent fashion only months before they leave office.”
The US accused China of destabilizing cross-Strait relations, further adding that “this is a decision that affects not just El Salvador, but also the economic health and security of the entire Americas region.” The White House also reiterated that the US would reevaluate its ties with the Central American country.
The US also accused China for its supposed hostility towards Taiwan has allegedly grown since President Tsai’s election, due to worries that she wishes to push for the island’s formal independence. The China-skeptic president says she wishes to maintain the status quo; however, she will also defend Taiwan’s democracy.
As cited by Euronews, the White House also stated that China has increased its efforts to restrict Taiwan’s international presence including ordering foreign airlines to list Taiwan as part of China on their websites and has been conducting regular military exercises near the island.
On August 17th, the South China Morning Post cited the Pentagon, which claimed that the Chinese military has increased its strike strength against US targets and Taiwan. The developments “pose major challenges to Taiwan’s security.”
The Pentagon’s report also claimed that the overhaul in the People’s Liberation Army has improved its ability to launch naval and aerial attacks on Taiwan, aiming to deter the island from pursuing independence and eroding Taiwan’s historical advantages in the Taiwan Strait.
“PLA services and support forces continue to improve training and acquire new capabilities for a Taiwan contingency,” the report said. “China’s official defence budget has grown to roughly 15 times that of Taiwan, with much of it focused on developing the capability to unify Taiwan with the mainland by force. “These improvements pose major challenges to Taiwan’s security.”
Despite the US claims, Beijing has so far shown no willingness to invade Taiwan. And it is much more likely for China to reunite with Taiwan via peaceful means, since the China-skeptic President and her government seems to be losing more and more of its popularity. This is supported by a statement by a Chinese mainland spokesperson as early as March 20th, 2018. The statement claimed that the Taiwan separatists will suffer by their own hand.
“The remarks which mentioned “Taiwan independence” was a flagrant provocation of the cross-Strait relations. Any attempts at “Taiwan independence” by secessionist forces are doomed to fail and will receive condemnation from the people and punishment from history,” said An Fengshan, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. Further saying that the mainland and Taiwan belong to one united China. Her statement was in response to Taiwan-related remarks made by the island’s executive head Lai Ching-te.
In addition to that, China already has experience in peaceful reunification with regions, such as was the case with Hong Kong.