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How Beijing’s dollar diplomacy works

Nicaragua severed ties with the government in Taipei on Friday and officially opened relations with the People’s Republic of China. This reduces the number of states that recognize Taiwan (under the name of the Republic of China) as an independent country to 14. In Europe, only the Vatican is one of them. Chinese state television reported that both countries had signed a communiqué in the port city of Tianjin.

Friederike Böge

Political correspondent for China, North Korea and Mongolia.

Due to the strict corona requirements in the capital Beijing, almost all diplomatic encounters are currently taking place in Tianjin. For Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega’s son Laureano Ortega Murillo signed the agreement. According to state television, he said Nicaragua recognizes that Taiwan “is an inalienable part of Chinese territory.” The Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu pledged to help the Central American country contain the corona virus and build infrastructure.

The move is also a setback for America, which is campaigning for a stronger international presence for Taiwan. Under the previous Trump administration, a law was passed that allows punitive measures against states that switch diplomatic relations from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China. The US State Department spokesman said: “Taiwan’s relations with diplomatic partners in the Western Hemisphere bring significant economic and security benefits for the citizens of these countries.” Nicaragua’s people have been “deprived” of these benefits. He called on all democracies to “expand their contacts with Taiwan”.

Since Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, China has stepped up its checkbook diplomacy to poach Taiwan from its few remaining partners. Nicaragua is the eighth country to have switched sides since then. For Taiwan, which lost its seat at the United Nations in 1971, these relationships are important in order to be heard in international fora. At the same time, however, Tsai managed to expand unofficial contacts with the United States and European countries. The president said on Thursday that “the more successful Taiwan’s democracy and the stronger the support of Taiwan by the international community”, “the greater the pressure from the authoritarian camp”.

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