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China Wants Vatican to Mend Fences With Beijing, Ditch Taiwan

Sputnik News

17:40 30.12.2016(updated 17:42 30.12.2016)

China is ready to engage in constructive dialogue with the Vatican and is hopeful that the Holy See will take practical steps to mend fences with Beijing, a senior Chinese official said.

Wang Zuo'an, Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, made the overture in an address to the participants of China's National Catholic Congress.

Earlier, the Vatican held out hope for a normalization of relations with Beijing following its criticism of the recent ordainment of Catholic priests by Chinese bishop.

In an interview with Sputnik China, Ren Yuanzhe, an expert at China's Diplomatic Academy, underscored the importance of normal relations with the Vatican.

"China and the Vatican are trying to improve bilateral ties and Wang Zuo'an statement is fresh proof of Beijing's dersire to mend fences with the Holy See. In 2014, on his way to South Korea, the Pope sent his best wishes to President Xi Jinping and expressed a strong desire to visit China," he said.

China's Catholic community has been growing fast and Beijing's effort to promote religious freedoms in the country has not been lost on the Vatican.

"That's why China, as a major power, pays so much attention to restoring ties with the Vatican," Ren Yuanzhe said.

While reiterating the two sides' shared desire to seek mutually-acceptable compromises, Wang Zuo'an underscored Beijing's wish to see the Vatican breaking diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognizing the island as part of mainland China.

The Vatican is the only European state that maintains no diplomatic relations with China over the issue of Taiwan.

Lyubov Afonina, an expert with the Institute of the Far East in Moscow, said that the problem of Taiwan in China's relations with the Vatican will be solved when Beijing grants the Pope the right to veto candidacies for Chinese Catholic bishops presented him by Beijing.

Alexei Fenenko, an international relations expert at Moscow State University, believes that Beijing will hardly agree to what could either be seen as its outright defeat or decisive victory.

"It will take time for this mutual interest in resuming ties to mature, otherwise it is not clear why they really need each other," he told Sputnik China.

He added that in 2017 China will be looking for a new chance to mend ties with Europe and Latin America, especially in the face of US pressure that is bound to increase after Donald Trump takes office on January 20.

"Because Latin America is one of the world's few remaining Catholic strongholds and Donald Trump is going to enter the White House, China wants to to play a bigger role in the part of the globe. Hence its desire to improve ties with the Vatican, which Beijing sees as its window on Latin America."

Taiwan too is trying to expand its foothold in predominantly Catholic Latin America.

On January 7 Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen will start a nine-day tour of Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Salvador.

In June she visited Panama and Paraguay, which Taipei fears could eventually give up diplomatic ties with the island in favor of establishing formal relations with mainland China.


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