Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Panama switches recognition to China

China's successful diplomatic coup, announced today, that Panama will sever relations with Taiwan (officially the Republic of China) and establish them with China, has already led to Taiwan breaking off relations with Panama to "preserve its national dignity".

China has progressively squeezed the Taiwanese out of every forum it possibly could, and cutting off the last official diplomatic relations it still maintains appears to be the last phase of this decades-long process. Following the ending of a "diplomatic truce" during the Ma presidency, and the severing of relations with the Gambia and Sao Tome and Principe, Taiwan's 23 million people now enjoy full diplomatic relations with only twenty other states, of which the largest in terms of population is probably the land-locked African state of Burkina Faso.

One thing the PRC leadership does not seem to have asked itself is whether this is an entirely self-defeating move. By progressively stripping the Republic of China of it's last remaining vestiges of legitimacy on the international stage, it makes the point again to the Taiwanese people that clinging to it has little value. Even were the Chinese nationalist KMT to again win the presidency, whilst China's communist party leadership might stop attempting to undermine Taiwan's diplomatic relations, they would not be likely to allow Taiwan's leaders to establish new diplomatic relations with anyone - this is therefore a one-way process in which the Taiwanese essentially have little to gain.

[Picture: The flag of Panama flies on a hot day at Gatun locks, taken on a stop there during my honeymoon in 2015]


Ji Xiang said...

Most Taiwanese are already fed up with their status as the Republic of China, and would readily declare the "Republic of Taiwan", if they weren't afraid of the military reaction from the Mainland. Thus I don't see anything self-defeating in what the Chinese government is doing. This is in line with their strategy.

I wonder if at some point they may try and stop the Taiwanese from taking part in international sporting events, regardless of the name they use. Then again they let Hong Kong take part with its own team, so I guess they have little reason not to let Taiwan do the same, from the point of view of their ideology and worldview.

FOARP said...

Yes, now the Republic of China has little legitimacy in Taiwan, but that is the end-result, in part, of decades of isolation and denigration of the Republic of China by the People's Republic.

When I lived in Taiwan in 2001-2, plenty of people in the KMT-dominated town I lived in still identified as Chinese (either wholly or at least partly). The 15 years since I left have seen Chinese identity withering in Taiwan, partly as a result of localisation under governments of all shades, but also partly as a result of the mainland government's unfriendly actions.

And yes, I think you're right that the CCP will try to escalate this even further at some point, as their power to do so increases.

justrecently said...

China will, for the time being, weigh the costs of every step that narrows Taiwan's living space, and the opportunities of "unifying the motherland". One of the problems is that our countries make it far too easy for China to create realities, based on pipedreams. Taiwan is a sovereign state, and we should treat it as a state.

What struck me last week was that Taiwan's foreign ministry reacted quite harshly to Panama's switch of diplomatic recognition. I think that they should focus the indignation on Beijing, rather than on the runaway "diplomatic allies". After all, their behavior is the rule, not an exception.

justrecently said...

Forgot to mention, that for now, Hong Kong may keep Beijing quite busy - not sure if they could swallow Taiwan without serious stomach trouble.