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In Blow to Taiwan, Dominican Republic Cuts Ties & Opens Diplomatic Relations with China

On Tuesday, the Dominican Republic (D.R.) and Taiwan ended their 77-year diplomatic relationship due to an economic incentive to the D.R. from China worth $3.1 billion in investment and loans.

A member of the Dominican presidential staff Flavio Dario Espinal stated that the country’s shift in foreign policy is based on the “country’s needs, potential, and prospects.”

The D.R. and China signed an agreement in Beijing, represented by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Dominican Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas.

Taiwan expressed their disappointment following the termination of their long-term ties with the Caribbean nation. Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu stated Taiwan was “deeply angry” about the Dominican Republic’s decision and announced an immediate “termination of relations” with the D.R.

In 2017, Panama also severed its ties with Taiwan after Beijing began construction of a container with a natural gas facility in Panama’s northern province.

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela expressed his confidence that the decision to start a relationship with China is the “right path,” despite hailing Taiwan as “a good friend.”

A brief history of the China-Taiwan dispute   

China labeled Taiwan as a Chinese renegade province after a civil war in 1949 when supporters of Kuomintang (the Nationalist Party), led by Chiang Kai-Sek, fled to Taiwan after losing to the Communist Party led by Mao Zedong. Previously, Kuomintang had ruled China since 1912 after outing the Qing Emperor and introducing Western-style modernization.

The war itself erupted in 1927 and was split into two phases: the first lasting from 1927 to 1937 and the second going from 1946 to 1950, which is typically the period most consider to be the official war.

After Taiwan separated itself from China, the relationship between the countries became complicated as Taiwan claimed to be “the legitimate China.” Taiwan held China’s seat in the United Nations (UN) before losing its influence to Beijing’s Communist Party in 1971.

The impact of China’s new diplomatic ties with Dominican Republic on the U.S

According to Wang Kung-Yi, professor of political science at the Chinese Culture University in Taipei, China’s success in establishing a formal relationship with the Dominican Republic is part of a chess game over power in Latin America between the U.S. and China.

“Beijing has become more and more sophisticated in playing the money diplomacy game,” Wang said.

Another Beijing-based expert on Taiwan, Yang Liqian, said that China’s ability to wield influence with the Dominican Republic over the Taiwan issue serves as a warning to the U.S. not to exploit the Taiwan issue.

“The Taiwan issue is part of the China-U.S. rivalry, and America has intensified its efforts to use Taiwan as leverage against China,” said Liqian.

While the US only sees Taiwan as a chess piece, China sees Taiwan as part of its core interests that cannot be compromised,” he added. “Taiwan should not have any illusions about that.”

After losing the Dominican Republic, only 19 countries (mostly impoverished states in the Pacific, Latin America, and Africa) recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state.

China’s dollar diplomacy has lured Central and Latin American nations

U.S. President Donald Trump did not attend the Summit of Americas in Peru last month, instead prioritizing the Middle East due to current events in Syria. Trump’s absence offered an excellent opportunity for China to exert its influence in Latin and Central America, despite the fact that the region is considered “America’s backyard.”

While Trump wants to build a wall to border the country, China is planning otherwise; Beijing wants to integrate South America and Caribbean nations and create a colossal New Silk Route.

One Belt, One Road is a 21st century Silk Route that promotes a Chinese agenda of increased globalization and international trade. Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the project in 2013 and invited other nations to get involved.

China is the most significant new economic player in Latin America and the Caribbean of the past 15 years according to the Brookings Institute. The Institute reported that China-Latin America trade jumped sharply from $10 billion in 2000 to $270 billion in 2012.

Beijing and Washington will likely fight to win influence in Latin America and the Caribbean, thanks to the move taken by the Dominican Republic. Who will win?

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Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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