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.
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”.
More and more countries are switching sides
Countries in the region have already switched sides in recent years: Panama, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. In the latter case, Taiwan spoke of “dollar diplomacy” from China. In fact, Beijing has more to offer the states financially than Taipei. El Salvador’s controversial President Nayib Bukele, who recently called himself “CEO of El Salvador” on his Twitter profile, was only happy in May about the signing of an agreement with China, which he said will be followed by investments of $ 500 million, allegedly unconditional .
The authoritarian colleague Ortega is also likely to drive money into Beijing’s arms. When he first became president in 1985, he cut diplomatic relations with Taiwan once before. Five years later, his successor Violeta Chamorro reversed the decision. Back in power since the mid-noughties, Ortega then left it with the status quo – until now. Not only because of the undemocratic election process about a month ago and because of the imprisoned opposition politicians, the United States put pressure on Ortega’s circle. The break with Taiwan took place on the same day that the State Department announced sanctions against Ortega’s adviser Néstor Moncada Lau.
Another state could soon break with Taiwan: Honduras’ future president Xiomara Castro had announced this during the election campaign – and made no secret of her financial interests. After the election, the left-wing politician promised that everything would stay the same, but you won’t see what she’s really up to until she takes office in January. Central America is important to the United States because many migrants flow north from there. For now, however, Washington has to watch Beijing increase its influence in the former “backyard” of the United States.