Republican Senators Cory Gardner and Marco Rubio, and Democrats Ed Markey and Bob Menendez had introduced a legislation to discourage Taiwan’s few remaining allies from switching their diplomatic recognition to Beijing, after El Salvador became the third country this year to make the switch.
Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act “…is intended to strengthen Taiwan’s standing around the world and comes in response to several nations breaking official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, due to Chinese pressure and bullying tactics,” the press release said. South China Morning Post aptly entitled the news “the US senators introduce legislation to punish Taiwan allies who switch sides, accusing Beijing of ‘bullying’” as if questioning who the real bully is.
While the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government and Tsai Ing-wen thanked the senators for the initiative, not everyone was happy with the superficial act. Taiwanese questioned US intentions, and called out US for breaking ties with the Republic of China way back in 1979. At least these 5 countries held on to the diplomatic ties for another 40 years. What the Taiwanese want is for US to formalize diplomatic ties with the Republic of China again to prove that US is genuinely working in Taiwan’s interests. This is, of course, impossible. US is one of 193 countries in the world to recognize “The One China Policy”, having signed the Shanghai Communique in 1972. Building ties with the Republic of China means breaking ties with the People’s Republic of China, a disaster for the Trump Administration even as it wages trade war with China. Moreover, the Trump Administration is clearly only interested in selling more obsolete weapons to Taiwan, pushing the ROC military to acquire M1A2 Abrams that are way too heavy for Taiwanese terrains. The soldiers know that M1 tanks are for land operations, which implies that the PLA would have landed on the island, and if that’s the case, the war is effectively over. But, Tsai has promised to increase the defense budget in exchange for more pro-Taiwan measures from the US. This is to be expected of the cross-strait relationship without the 1992 Consensus.
The hostility is mutual, unthinkable during Ma Ying-jeou’s 8 years of peace with mainland China. Ma lost only one country, Gambia, during his reign. Gambia severed ties with Taiwan in 2013, but Beijing did not immediately resume relations with Gambia in order to not be seen as pressuring Taiwan. Beijing only resumed ties with Gambia in March 2016, after Tsai won the Presidential election. As a matter of fact, it was a known secret that most of the countries that recognize the ROC have been queuing to switch diplomatic recognition to the PRC. The diplomatic truce between 2008 and early 2016 stalled the process. After Tsai refused to keep the Consensus, President Xi Jinping said the earth beneath her feet would crumble. And sure enough, Sao Tome and Principe, a tiny island state off the coast of west Africa was the first to leave Taiwan. Panama followed suit in 2017. Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said his country’s decision to shift diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing could be a model for other countries. The Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso did the same in May 2018, and El Salvador ended its alliance with Taiwan, leaving the island with only 17 countries that formally recognize it.
The El Salvador case was timed to throw Tsai’s “victorious” state visits media conference into disarray; rather than bragging about how her breakthrough transits in the US allowed her to visit the NASA mission control, she had to prepare for a speech to denounce Beijing and El Salvador.
American senators’ reaction to the El Salvador case is surprisingly extreme. The legislation, if passed, would give the State Department the authority to suspend foreign assistance to, and downgrade, U.S. diplomatic relations with countries that choose to recognize China’s claim of sovereignty over the territory of Taiwan. In other words, US wants to bully the 17 states that still recognize Taiwan, and the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Panama. US Recalls Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Panama Diplomats to stop them from severing ties with Taiwan. “This bipartisan legislation demands a whole-of-government approach to stand up to China’s bullying tactics against Taiwan, and will send a strong message to those nations considering siding with China over Taiwan that there will be consequences for such actions,” Gardner said.
Joseph graduated with a degree in Business Administration from the National University of Singapore and is a CFA and CAIA charterholder. He enjoys geopolitics and study international politics extensively. Joseph currently lives in Hong Kong.