Fighting (literally) for influence . . .
The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement today accusing two Chinese diplomats in Fiji of physically attacking its representatives at a reception for Taiwan’s national holiday on October 8 at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, Fiji’s capital. Taiwan alleges that the two Chinese diplomats were harassing and photographing guests at the reception, including Fijian politicians and foreign diplomats. A physical confrontation ensued after Taiwanese staff members confronted the Chinese embassy officials, and the dustup landed a Taiwanese official in the hospital with a head injury. In response, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused Taiwan of being a “thief crying ‘stop thief’” and said that the event was a “serious violation of the One-China policy.”
Influence campaigns in the Pacific Islands . . .
The fight at the Grand Pacific Hotel is the latest in the ongoing battle between Taiwan and China for influence in the Pacific Islands. Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province with no right to maintain formal diplomatic ties with other countries, and it tries to chip away at Taiwan’s international recognition. Pacific Island countries are seen as a key battleground for influence between the two: of Taiwan’s 15 formal diplomatic relationships, four are with Pacific Island countries, including the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu. Taiwan has accused China of engaging in “dollar diplomacy” to switch recognition from Taipei to Beijing, as happened recently with Kiribati and the Solomon Islands.
Tensions growing . . .
China’s assertive diplomatic campaign in the Pacific is reflective of its increasingly tense relationship with Taiwan. In the past month, China‘s military has been conducting exercises in the Taiwan Strait and has sent warplanes near the island. Last week, China’s state-run television aired footage of Taiwanese businessman Lee Meng-Chu supposedly confessing to endangering Chinese national security by illegally filming military exercises in Shenzhen while the anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong were heating up in August. As tensions continue to escalate, APF Canada will continue to monitor how other countries, including the U.S. and Australia, respond to the battle for influence in the Pacific.