The island’s loss is the mainland’s gain . . .
In another blow to its international presence and partnerships, Taiwan has lost official recognition from Nicaragua. In a televised statement last Thursday, Nicaragua’s Foreign Affairs Minister recognized the “People’s Republic of China as the only legitimate government for all of China and Taiwan is its inalienable territory.” The declaration came only hours after local media broke the story of a Nicaraguan delegation, led by the president’s son, meeting with Chinese representatives in Tianjin. For its part, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed “great regret” in ending diplomatic ties and a friendship with Nicaragua dating back to 1990. Taiwan has also funnelled heavy investment into Nicaragua to support trade, education, and health-care initiatives, even despite Nicaragua’s worrisome democratic backsliding since the mid-2000s.
A political decision . . .
China’s considerable and growing geopolitical and economic influence, further reinforced by promises of future investment and trade benefits, is a strong lure for economies that officially recognize Taiwan. In Nicaragua’s case, it received one million COVID-19 vaccines from China barely a week after severing ties with Taiwan. However, the deeper motivation behind the switch in allegiance is also political. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s dictatorship has been increasingly isolated in the region. Ortega has been in office since 2007, and he just secured a fourth consecutive term last month following sham elections that included the jailing of opposition leaders. The pantomime polls drew the ire of Latin American leaders and the U.S. Ties with Beijing may give Ortega more options in counterbalancing sanctions and a backlash from the Americas.
Going against a powerful current . . .
Only 14 countries now recognize Taiwan as an independent state, many still in Central America and the Caribbean – a number that may change. The newly-elected president of Honduras has promised to revise her country’s relationship with Taiwan, possibly to Beijing’s benefit. While losing these small allies may be a diplomatic blow, they do not endanger Taiwan’s overall economy or security, which are backed by unofficial yet strong ties with the U.S. and other powerful allies. Other countries, meanwhile, have fostered Taiwan ties, willing to risk retaliation from Beijing. Lithuania, for example, welcomed the opening of Taiwan’s representative office in its capital. Considering it a breach of its ‘One-China Policy,’ Beijing swiftly downgraded its diplomatic relations with the Baltic country, barring trade and allegedly pressuring multinationals active in China to drop Lithuanian suppliers. Beijing’s actions may deter other European countries from fostering ties with Taiwan, but they could just as easily further complicate EU-China relations.