China resumes ties with Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Alpha Barry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the signing ceremony establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries in Beijing yesterday.
Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Alpha Barry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the signing ceremony establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries in Beijing yesterday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

African country ended relations with Taiwan two days earlier

China resumed diplomatic ties with Burkina Faso yesterday after the West African country severed relations with Taiwan two days earlier, as China continued to tighten the international space of the island it considers a breakaway province.

The move came just weeks after the Dominican Republic broke ties with Taiwan earlier this month to re-establish relations with China, and reduced the number of Taiwan's diplomatic allies to 18.

Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Burkina Faso counterpart Alpha Barry signed a joint communique re-establishing ties yesterday in Beijing.

After the signing, Mr Wang noted in a speech that Burkina Faso had, in the communique, recognised that "there is but one China in the world, that the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory".

He added that the West African country "has made a correct decision in keeping with the trend of the times which the Chinese side highly appreciates".

Mr Barry noted that China was the world's most important economy, and said his country would benefit from the relationship.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry yesterday accused Burkina Faso of being "lured by China's dollar diplomatic offensive, ignoring the significant contributions Taiwan had made for the past 24 years" towards its security and economic development.

Taiwan has lost four allies, including Panama and Sao Tome and Principe, since President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power in 2016. She has refused to acknowledge the 1992 Consensus that both China and Taiwan belong to one China with each side having its own view of what this means.

China has chipped away at the diplomatic allies of Taiwan, with the four countries switching sides in a little over two years since Ms Tsai replaced the China-friendly Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou.

Mr Ma's recognition of the 1992 Consensus had led to improved ties between the two sides while Taiwan saw its international space increase. China had allowed Taiwan to attend the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer.

However, after Ms Tsai came to power, Taiwan was blocked from attending the WHA last year and again this year.

The last time Taiwan lost a substantial number of diplomatic allies was in 2000-2008, when the DPP was also in power - nine countries abandoned it for the mainland.

Taiwan's diplomatic allies are mainly poor and small states in the Pacific, Africa and Latin America which welcome Taiwan's economic aid and technological assistance.

In turn, they give Taiwan visibility as a political entity, with its leaders being able to visit these states, which also speak up for Taiwan at the United Nations.

Ms Tsai reacted to Burkina Faso's defection with anger, saying last Thursday: "China's crude behaviours to undermine our sovereignty have already challenged the bottom line of Taiwan's society. We will not tolerate it any more."

She also accused the Chinese of using "dollar diplomacy" to win over Taiwan's allies, adding that Beijing's moves reflected its "insecurity and lack of confidence".

But Taiwan could lose more allies to China, including its last African one, Swaziland.

Mr Wang yesterday noted that there was just one African country left that has not established diplomatic relations with China.

"We sincerely hope that this country will join the family of China-Africa friendship at an early date," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 27, 2018, with the headline 'China resumes ties with Burkina Faso'. Print Edition | Subscribe