In Brief

Why Taiwan is running out of friends

Taipei vows to fight China’s ‘increasingly out of control’ behaviour after losing third ally this year

Taiwan has vowed to fight China’s “increasingly out of control” behaviour after El Salvador became its third ally this year to switch allegiances.

The loss of the Central American country reduces the number of Taipei's formal diplomatic allies to just 17, after Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic also cut ties in May.

Many of the remaining nations are small, less developed countries in Central America and the Pacific, including Belize and Nauru.

Formally known as the Republic of China, Taiwan was established in 1949 by the remnants of the nationalist government which fled the mainland having lost a brutal civil war with Mao Zedong’s Communists.

Since then, Beijing and Taipei have had a history of rivalry in their efforts to gain economic opportunities and diplomatic support from governments around the world.

CNN says “the Chinese government views Taiwan as the most sensitive issue in its relations with other nations”.

China's communist leadership refuses to maintain diplomatic ties with any country that recognises the self-governed and democratic Taiwan, an island of just 23 million people off its south-eastern coast that Beijing considers an integral part of its territory.

For years, most Western nations refused formal ties with the government in Beijing, but ever since the 1970s the pendulum has slowly swung decisively in China’s favour, coinciding with an economic explosion that has been used to entice other countries to switch sides.

Speaking in Taipei after a diplomatic charm offensive of Africa, President Tsai Ing-wen said her country would not bow to pressure, describing El Salvador’s decision as further evidence of China’s efforts to squeeze the nation, which have included regular Chinese bomber patrols around the island.

“We will turn to countries with similar values to fight together against China’s increasingly out-of-control international behaviour,” Tsai said.

Beijing considers Taiwan to be a wayward province of “one China”, “and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control”, says Reuters.

For decades the two countries have maintained an uneasy truce, but since Tsai came to power in 2016, Beijing has hardened its stance due to concerns over strong pro-independence sentiment within Taiwan's ruling party.

The Chinese military has increased drills around the island while Beijing has repeatedly warned Washington over growing closeness with Taipei under US President Donald Trump.

With its number of allies dwindling, the most symbolic country that still recognises Taiwan is the Vatican, however, CNN reports that since the beginning of this year, “rumours have leaked out suggesting the Holy See might be close to a decision of establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing in favour of Taipei”.

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