Taiwan loses 2nd ally in a month amid China squeeze

Taipei won't engage in 'dollar diplomacy', says Tsai after Africa's Burkina Faso cuts ties

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said Taiwan cannot compete with China's financial resources in the diplomatic space.
Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said Taiwan cannot compete with China's financial resources in the diplomatic space.

TAIPEI • Taiwan yesterday lost its second diplomatic ally in less than a month after Burkina Faso said it had cut ties with the self-ruled island, following intense Chinese pressure on African countries to break with what it regards as a wayward province.

Taiwan now has only one diplomatic ally left in Africa - the tiny kingdom of Swaziland - and formal relations with just 18 countries, many of them poor nations in Central America and the Pacific such as Belize and Nauru.

The Burkina Faso Foreign Ministry's statement made no direct mention of China, but said "the evolution of the world and the socio-economic challenges of our country and region push us to reconsider our position".

Speaking at a hastily arranged news conference in Taipei, President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan would not engage in "dollar diplomacy" and denounced Beijing's methods.

"China toys with dollar diplomacy and promises huge sums of money to entice many countries to build relations," Ms Tsai said.

"I want to emphasise again that China's pressure will only lead to Taiwan's ties with its partners in the international community getting closer. We will not cower at all."

Taiwan has accused China of luring its friends away with offers of generous aid packages. China denies this, and says Taiwan is a part of China with no right to formal diplomatic ties with any other country.

Speaking shortly before President Tsai did, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said he had offered his resignation to her. Mr Wu said Taiwan cannot compete with China's financial resources.

"I along with our country's people feel sad, angry and regretful," he said. "China grabbing our allies and giving us pressure in the diplomatic space will not shrink the distance across the (Taiwan) strait and will not let cross-strait relations walk on a peaceful, friendly path."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said yesterday it appreciated Burkina Faso's decision to cut ties with Taiwan.

"We welcome Burkina Faso to join in China-Africa friendly cooperation as soon as possible on the basis of the one-China principle," he said in comments carried by state news agency Xinhua.

Taiwan is China's most sensitive territorial issue, and Beijing's hostility has grown since Ms Tsai's election as President in 2016, as Beijing fears she wishes to push for the island's formal independence, a red line for China. She says she wants to maintain the status quo.

China is Africa's largest trade partner, with massive investments in mining, construction and banking, though it has been less active to date in Burkina Faso. China is hosting a summit of African leaders in September in Beijing, where it will probably offer new pledges of aid and preferential loans.

In March, China said it was in the best interests of Taiwan's allies to recognise an "irresistible trend" and ditch Taipei in favour of "one China" ruled by Beijing.

Burkina Faso is the fourth country to cut ties with Taiwan since Ms Tsai came to office, following the Dominican Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, and Panama.

This is the second time it has cut ties with Taiwan. It last did so in 1973, before resuming relations with Taipei in 1994.

Separately, Japanese retailer Muji has been fined 200,000 yuan (S$42,000) in Shanghai for using packaging that lists Taiwan as a country, underscoring China's growing sensitivity to how companies refer to the self-ruled island.

It is the second time Muji has been hit by such moves from China this year, and comes after a number of foreign firms including Delta Air Lines and Marriott have apologised for similar actions.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2018, with the headline 'Taiwan loses 2nd ally in a month amid China squeeze'. Print Edition | Subscribe