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Taiwan - International Recognition

The election of Tsai Ing-wen as President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in 2016 reignited Beijing's quest to poach Taiwan's diplomatic allies. Between her election in January 2016 and reelection in January 2020, Taiwan has lost seven countries to China — the Republic of Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Dominican Republic, Burkina Faso, Republic of El Salvador, Republic of Panama, and Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe. After eight years of a “diplomatic truce” under President Ma Ying-jeou, China re-started its multi-pronged strategy to pressure Taiwan into eventual unification, and one of the key tactics is to poach all of Taiwan's now-15 remaining diplomatic allies to eliminate its international legitimacy.

Cicero, and, after him, the modern public jurists, define a State to be, "a body politic, or society of men, united together for the purpose of promoting their mutual safety and advantage by their combined strength". This definition cannot be admitted as entirely accurate and complete. It must be considered as excluding voluntary associations of robbers or pirates, the outlaws of other societies, although they may be united together for the purpose of promoting their own mutual safety and advantage. The legal idea of a State necessarily implies that of the' habitual Obedience of its members to those persons in whom the superiority is vested, and of a fixed abode, and definite territory beldnging to the people by whom it is occupied. External sovereignty consists in the independence of one political society, in respect to all other political societies.

The recognition of any State by other States, and its admission into the general society of nations, may depend, or may be made to depend, at the will of those other States, upon its internal constitution or form of government, or the choice it may make of its rulers. But whatever be its internal constitution, or form of government, or whoever may be its rulers, or even if it be distracted with anarchy, through a violent contest for the government between different parties among the people, the State still subsists in contemplation of law, until its sovereignty is completely extinguished by the final dissolution of the social tie, or by some other cause which puts an end to the being of the State. A new State, springing into existence, does not require the recognition of other States to confirm its internal sovereignty. The existence of the State de facto is sufficient, in this respect, to establish its sovereignty de jure. It is a State because it exists.

It is necessary to the possession of external sovereignty that the State claiming it shall be recognized by other States as free and independent. Until such recognition on the part of other States is universal, a new State claiming external sovereignty can exercise it only toward those States that have recognized its independence.

Before Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took office, China and Taiwan jockeyed for allies by offering countries money to switch allegiances. However, in 2008, Taipei and Beijing struck an agreement to stop the practice. The administration of President Ma called for a "diplomatic truce" with Beijing, under which Taiwan would retain its existing diplomatic allies but not seek to win over countries that recognize the P.R.C. The Ma administration also hoped to expand Taiwan's "international space," increasing its participation in international organizations, such as the WHO, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the International Civil Aviation Administration (ICAO).

The Ma administration wanted to stop the zero sum battle with China over small diplomatic allies, a battle attributed to Beijing's unhappiness with President Lee Teng-hui's 1999 "two-state theory" and the independence line of the subsequent DPP administration. The new administration's policy was to maintain the status quo: "no independence, no unification, no war." The Ma administration believed Beijing could accept this line and call a "diplomatic truce," ending the diplomatic struggle over very small countries which the PRC did not need.

After President Ma advocated a 'diplomatic truce' in his inauguration speech, he constantly repeated the same rhetoric while receiving foreign guests. It is obvious that 'cross-Strait relations trumping foreign affairs' has been set as the new government's policy. The new government's resumption of dialogue with China is a corollary to this policy.

Taiwan would also employ a "lower-key" approach to "international space" in multilateral relations, focusing on gaining meaningful participation in specialized functional organizations. Under the principles of "dignity and pragmatism," Taiwan can be flexible and put substance above issues of nomenclature and form. Ma did not intend to pursue high-profile symbolic efforts, such as applying for UN membership, which yielded little meaningful results in recent years.

As of June 2011, Taiwan had formal diplomatic ties with 23 countries (12 in Latin America, four in Africa, six in the Pacific and one in Europe - The Holy See). At the same time, Taiwan has cultivated informal ties with most countries to offset its diplomatic isolation and to expand its economic relations. Many states set up unofficial organizations to carry out commercial and other relations with Taiwan. Taiwan has representative offices in over 60 countries, without diplomatic status. Including its official overseas missions and its unofficial representative and/or trade offices, Taiwan was represented in 122 countries as of 2011.

In November 2013 the Republic of the Gambia, a small nation in West Africa, broke off diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It was the first country to do so since 2008. The move marked a worrying development for diplomatically isolated Taiwan, which had long struggled to forge such relationships because of opposition from China. It appeared that the split was a result of a personal decision by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, and there was no direct proof it was done by the PRC. The remaining 22 states that recognize Taipei are mostly poor countries in Africa, Latin America and the South Pacific.

Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen hit out at China on 20 September 2019 after a second Pacific nation announced it was terminating diplomatic ties with the democratic island to establish relations with the People's Republic of China instead. Kiribati, a Pacific island nation, announced the move that day, the second of Taipei's diplomatic partners to do so in a week. The decision came after China pledged billions of dollars to Kiribati in aid. "This fully testifies to the fact that the one-China principle meets the shared aspiration of the people and constitutes an irresistible trend of the times," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing.

The Solomon Islands also broke off diplomatic ties with Taipei 16 September 2019. The move was a political victory for the Chinese Communist Party as it marked seven decades in power on the October 1st National Day holiday marking the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

Tsai attended a reception in Tapei for the 198th anniversary of the independence of Central America on 17 September2019, celebrating the development of Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras and Taiwan’s diplomatic ties with them. The president slammed the Chinese government for trying to isolate Taiwan and impose the “one country, two systems” formula on the island nation while emphasizing Taiwan would not bow to pressure. “The determination of the Taiwanese people to participate in the international community will not change either,” she said.

Taiwan, which had never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party nor formed part of the People's Republic of China, now had formal relations with only 15 countries, including Belize, Nauru and the Vatican.

There are several other countrie with limited recognition by the 193 states that are members of the United Nations [Vatican and Palestine are "non-member states"]. Colombia became the last country in South America and the 137th member of the United Nations to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state on 09 August 2018. Barbados became the 113th state to recognize Kosovo on 15 February 2018. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) has been recognized by 84 UN member states.

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Page last modified: 06-10-2021 12:15:16 ZULU