In a speech from Taipei on Tuesday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to defy pressure from Beijing and join with like-minded nations to fight “China’s increasingly out-of-control international behavior.”
President Tsai and other Taiwanese officials were responding on Tuesday to El Salvador’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognize China.
Tsai just completed a visit to the Western Hemisphere that included stops in Paraguay and Belize to shore up relations with Taiwan’s remaining allies. The relentless campaign of diplomatic and economic pressure China launched against Taiwan after Tsai’s election leaves the island nation with only 17 allies that formally recognize the legitimacy of its government.
The Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso severed ties with Taiwan this year. The loss of a third allied nation leaves Tsai’s political future in doubt as voters consider switching to the more China-friendly Kuomintang party in November’s elections. El Salvador’s switch will also leave American policymakers concerned about China’s growing influence in Central and South America.
Tsai and her top officials fanned out on Tuesday to rally Taiwanese voters and allied nations against domineering Beijing, as reported by Reuters:
“We will turn to countries with similar values to fight together against China’s increasingly out-of-control international behavior,” Tsai said.
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters earlier that Taipei was not willing to engage in “money competition” with its giant neighbor.
He said El Salvador had been continuously asking for “massive funding support” since last year for a port development, but Taiwan was unable to assist with the “unsuitable project” after assessment.
“Pressure from China would only make Taiwan more determined to continue our path of democracy and freedom,” he said. “China’s rude and unreasonable behavior will certainly have negative impact to cross-strait relations. This is also not how a responsible country should behave.”
“China will not get unification with Taiwan by luring away our allies. What China did was to humiliate Taiwan repeatedly without getting any respect from Taiwan’s people,” Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party added in a statement.
The Trump administration supported Taiwan through a statement from its de facto embassy in Taipei, calling upon China to “abstain from coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan.”
The U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, Jean Manes, added that the Salvadoran government’s decision to abandon Taiwan is “worrisome” and will “impact” its relationship with the United States.
China appears to have swayed El Salvador with a combination of checkbook diplomacy and pure geopolitical muscle, in effect arguing the tide of history has turned irreversibly against Taiwan’s continued existence as an autonomous entity.
“We are convinced this is a step in the right direction that corresponds to the principles of international law, of international relations and the inevitable trends of our time,” Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren said in a televised speech on Monday.
Opposition leader Norman Quijano responded that Ceren’s alliance with China constitutes the “betrayal of a friendly country” and will have “serious consequences” for the future of El Salvador.