Will The Dominican Republic Be The Next Country To Switch Ties From Taiwan To China?

Meeting between Taiwanese President Ts’ai Ying-wen and Dominican Republic Minister of Foreign Affairs in May 2016 (photo by the Presidential Office of the Republic of China, Taiwan / via Wikimedia Commons)

When on June 13 of this year Panama announced that it would switch diplomatic ties from the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan) to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan was left with only 20 diplomatic allies in the world. One of them, the Dominican Republic, may now be the next one to abandon Taiwan in favour of the more populous and influential Communist state.

Until the early 1970s the ROC government was still regarded internationally as the sole representative of China, despite the fact that in 1949 it had lost a civil war with Communist insurgents led by Mao Zedong and had been compelled to retreat to Taiwan, its last military stronghold.

The momentous decision by the Nixon administration to sever ties with the ROC and establish diplomatic relations with the PRC led the way for other countries to follow suit.

On October 25, 1971, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed Resolution 2758 which stated that “the representatives of the Government of the People’s Republic of China are the only lawful representatives of China to the United Nations and that the People’s Republic of China is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.”

The Resolution stipulated that the General Assembly had decided to “restore all its rights to the People’s Republic of China and to recognize the representatives of its Government as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations, and to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related to it.”

In the following years most countries switched ties to the PRC, thus leaving Taiwan isolated and without representation in international organizations.

It is widely believed that during the tenure of Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou, who was elected on a pro-China political platform, Beijing and Taipei reached an unofficial diplomatic truce. In 2016 the Taiwanese electorate, wary of rapprochement with China, overwhelmingly voted for Ts’ai Ying-wen, who opposes closer ties with Beijing and rejects ‘reunification‘.

After Ts’ai’s electoral triumph China once again began to aggressively undermine Taiwan’s diplomatic alliances. The first sign of Beijing’s renewed assertiveness was the diplomatic switch of Gambia in March 2016.

The Dominican Republic might now be the next country to sever ties with the ROC.

On October 18 Guomindang lawmaker Chiang Ch’i-ch’en (江啟臣) asked at a legislative hearing whether the Dominican Republic intends to break off relations with Taiwan. He pointed out that on September 21 Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) met with the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic Miguel Vargas Maldonado.

Vargas took part in the meeting as a member of the Quartet of Foreign Ministers of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). The Quartet met with China’s Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.

The Dominican Republic is currently looking for support for its candidacy to the UN Non-Permanent Security Council for the 2019-2020 period. The endorsement of the PRC as a member of the UN Security Council would be valuable to the Caribbean nation.

Chiang Ch’i-ch’en further remarked that recently the Dominican Republic refused to speak at the UN on behalf of Taiwan, and pointed out that when Taiwanese Foreign Minister Li Ta-wei (李大維) visited the Dominican Republic in July, neither President Danilo Medina nor Miguel Vargas met with him.

Li Ta-wei told Chiang Ch’i-ch’en that the government has been “closely monitoring” the Dominican Republic for a long time and that Vice Foreign Minister Liu Teh-li (劉德立) is currently on his way to the country. However, Li stated that the purpose of the visit is to strengthen bilateral ties and is not related to the possibility of the Caribbean nation severing ties with Taiwan.

Mainland Chinese media fuelled speculations that the Dominican Republic might break off diplomatic relations with Taiwan and clearly suggested that Beijing’s move is part of its strategy of retaliation against the Ts’ai administration.

Chinese website Guancha wrote that “One China” is a “world trend” that Taiwan cannot ignore. The website quoted Ma Xiaoguang (马晓光), a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) of the PRC, who repeatedly stated that “there is only one China in the world and endorsing the one China principle is the consensus of the international community.”

Beijing has often criticized the Ts’ai administration for refusing to adhere to the ‘one China principle‘.

However, polls show that the majority of Taiwanese voters support their government’s stance towards China.

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