Amid continuing pressure from China, Nicaragua has laid off diplomatic associations with Taiwan, quitting the self-ruled democratic island with just 14 formal diplomatic pals. They made a succinct announcement regarding their decision mentioning their belief in Beijing’s “One China policy”. Their proclamation reads “The People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government that represents all of China and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. The Government of the Republic of Nicaragua today breaks diplomatic relations with Taiwan and ceases to have any contact or official relationship.” Soon after this declaration, Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, hailed the move. He asserted “We highly commend the right decision made by the Government of Nicaragua, which is in line with the prevailing trend of the times and people’s aspirations,” he tweeted, claiming Beijing’s One China principle was a “consensus widely accepted”.
In riposte to these statements, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it “deeply regretted” the decision of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to “disregard the friendship” of the Taiwanese people.
Formally recognized as the Republic of China, Taiwan’s authority fled to the island at the end of the Chinese Civil War. It embodied China at the UN from the end of World War II until the early 1970s. Since the 2000s, China has steadily whittled away at Taiwan’s remaining associates who are chiefly small countries in the Caribbean, South America and the Pacific Islands as well as the Holy See. Beijing has become increasingly decisive since President Tsai Ing-wen was first elected president in 2016, with Kiribati and the Solomon Islands both breaking with Taiwan in 2019. The Solomon Islands decision stays contentious, however, and partook to last month’s unrest in the capital, Honiara, which left at least three people dead.
The US asserted the decision to swap ties did not echo the will of the Nicaraguan people because of the “sham” election that carried out on November 7. “Without the mandate that comes with a free and fair election, Ortega’s actions cannot reflect the will of the Nicaraguan people, who continue to struggle for democracy and the ability to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Nicaragua was motivated to make the switch because “they had an offer they couldn’t refuse” from China. Nicaragua is among three countries in its region to have ratified China’s driving Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an enormous global infrastructure undertaking worth more than $3 trillion by some assessments.
“At the end of the day, it is mostly about who could give a better deal to some of the remaining allies of Taiwan. China has deeper pockets, and the way it has spent on the BRI projects is just one example. Through the BRI, China’s presence is already increasing in Central America,”Sana Hashmi said, a visiting fellow at the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation.
TAIWAN STAND ON NICARAGUA’S MOVE
President Tsai explained that Nicaragua’s conclusion would not dissuade it from its allegiance to democracy. “The more successful Taiwan’s democracy is, the stronger the international support, and the greater the pressure from the authoritarian camp,” she told reporters.
“Three years back, perhaps, I would have called it a major setback but now, I don’t see it impacting Taiwan’s international standing,” Hashmi said. “Taiwan is increasingly receiving the support of several liberal democracies, and if it wants to be a true beacon of democracy, it should no longer be condoning the human rights violations in the countries with which it has diplomatic associates. This becomes all the more important when Taiwan is ranked as one of the freest countries in the world.”