World View: Taiwan Says China Is ‘Out of Control’ After El Salvador Switches Allegiance

China has stepped up pressure to isolate Taiwan internationally since Tsai Ing-wen came to power last May, as she has refused to acknowledge its "one China" principle

This morning’s key headlines from

  • El Salvador receives harsh criticism for switching allegiance from Taiwan to China
  • Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen says that China is ‘out of control’

El Salvador receives harsh criticism for switching allegiance from Taiwan to China

El Salvador's foreign minister Carlos Castaneda and China's foreign minister Wang Yi share a toast in Beijing on Tuesday (Reuters)
El Salvador’s foreign minister Carlos Castañeda and China’s foreign minister Wang Yi share a toast in Beijing on Tuesday (Reuters)

El Salvador’s president Salvador Sánchez Ceren announced Monday night in a televised address that his country would end diplomatic relations with Taiwan and establish diplomatic relations with China. China refuses to have diplomatic relations with any nation that has diplomatic relations with Taiwan and forces countries to choose.

China has been using a variety of economic incentives, threats, and sanctions on numerous countries to force them to switch diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China. Since the beginning of 2016, when Taiwan’s current president Tsai Ing-wen took office, four other countries previously switched: Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, and Panama.

The Pacific Ocean island of Palau, which has diplomatic relations with Taiwan, is under tremendous pressure from China to switch. In order to pressure Palau, China banned tour groups from China from using Palau as a destination. The ban has devastated the tourist industry in Palau, cutting the number of tourists in half.

China’s foreign ministry defended their practice of using economic pressure with a statement saying, “The one China principle is the pre-condition and political foundation for China to maintain and develop friendly cooperative relations with all countries around the world.”

This wording is similar to statements by Chinese officials with regard to China’s illegal activities in the South China Sea. China has militarily threatened other nations and has prevented other nations from exploiting fishing and drilling for oil in their own territorial waters. China says that there is no problem as long as each country maintains friendly, cooperative relations, which is China’s way of saying, “Do as I say or we’ll kill you.”

The announcement by El Salvador’s president was particularly contentious since Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said El Salvador repeatedly asked for a “large amount of funding” to develop its La Union port, but Taipei declined since it decided it was an unrealistic project and could generate high debts for the two states.

El Salvador’s presidential spokesman said that Taiwan’s allegations were totally false, but then seemed to confirm the allegations by saying, “We cannot turn our back on the world, ignore that China is the second largest power in the world and the leading export economy on the planet. It is key for our country.”

Opposition lawmaker Margarita Escobar said: “The position from Taiwan is that [the El Salvador governing party] asked it for money to finance the campaign in 2019. That is called selling sovereignty and allowing another state to intervene in the internal affairs of El Salvador.”

The United States ambassador to El Salvador, Jean Manes, is expressing concern that China plans to use the new relationship with El Salvador to build a Chinese military base there. “Without a doubt, this will impact our relationship with the government. We continue supporting the Salvadoran people.” Senator Marco Rubio is planning a bill to end foreign aid to El Salvador. AP and Hong Kong Free Press and Reuters and South China Morning Post

Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen says that China is ‘out of control’

Since 1992, China, Taiwan, and the U.S. have adopted the “One China Consensus,” which says that there is just one China, but leaves ambiguous what that means. However, since winning the presidential election early in 2016, Tsai Ing-wen has refused to endorse the 1992 consensus, instead saying that she “respected … the common understanding” between China and Taiwan, without saying what that means.

This refusal has infuriated China, which has mounted a series of increasingly belligerent measures to threaten Taiwan. These measures include staging naval and warplane military drills around Taiwan and waging economic warfare by blocking Taiwan from attending a growing list of international events, and by using economic threats to force countries to switch diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China.

In July, China forced the East Asian Olympic Committees (EAOC) to cancel Taiwan as host of the 2019 East Asian Youth Games. The EAOC made the announcement with no prior notice and no explanation.

Last week, the 85C Bakery, a Taiwan coffee chain with stores in America and China, was dropped from all Chinese meal-ordering platforms after Tsai Ing-wen visited one of its stores in Los Angeles. The firm earns more than 60 percent of its revenue in China and losing its presence on food delivery apps would be devastating.

In 2005, China passed the Anti-Secession Law, which orders the army to invade Taiwan if any Taiwanese official makes any move toward independence, whether by word or by deed. So Taiwanese authorities have been careful since then not to say anything that might trigger the Anti-Secession law although, in fact, over the years things have been said which could arguably trigger it.

Tsai’s words following El Salvador’s announcement were considerably harsher than we usually hear from Taiwanese officials. She vowed to fight China’s “increasingly out of control” behavior:

China nowadays is not only a threat to cross-strait peace. What China has been doing now globally – interfering in other countries’ internal affairs and destroying the order of the international market – have caused high levels of global instability.

We have to remind the international community once again – that this is not only a matter for Taiwan. The situation is so dire that we cannot tolerate it anymore.

The question here is whether Tsai’s remarks fit the requirements to trigger a Chinese invasion under the anti-secession law. The statement that China is interfering in “other countries’ internal affairs” could refer to Taiwan.

At any rate, it is significant that the level of harshness is increasing. Taiwan is now discussing taking retaliatory measures against China. The particular issue is that China has suddenly begun demanding that any international airline that lists “Taiwan” as a destination must change it to “Taiwan, China” or be blocked from landing in China.

This has infuriated the Taiwanese and has led Taiwan to consider counter-measures against airlines that comply with China’s demands. According to Taiwanese media:

The Civil Aviation Administration of China recently sent a letter to 44 foreign airlines requesting that Taiwan not be reclassified as a “state” and must be named “China Taiwan”. 44 foreign airlines have all changed on the July 25 deadline. The Ministry of Communications recently studied the countermeasures against the airlines that added the name of “China” to Taiwan’s title, and considered punishing the practice of not allowing bridges and adjusting time zones [forcing airline passengers to board and deplane farther from the terminal, and at less convenient times].

Officials from the Ministry of Communications said that foreign airlines have ignored reality and succumbed to China’s political pressure, which has seriously hurt Taiwan’s dignity and national sentiments. There are many counter-measures that we can take, and various schemes will be evaluated by the Ministry of Communications.

[Taiwan official] Wu Hongmou said in an interview today that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country, but it has been renamed by foreign airlines. “We can’t accept it, and it is necessary to counter it.

The statement that “Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country” is accepted as truth by many Taiwanese, but saying it represents a major hardening of positions on the Taiwan side, just as China is becoming increasingly arrogant and contemptuous, and taking increasingly offensive and belligerent actions. This is a typical tit-for-tat pattern that leads to a major war in a generational Crisis era, when xenophobia and nationalism are at a peak in all countries.

I hope that there is nobody left who believes that China will never invade Taiwan because it is bad for business. History has shown that a business relationship makes a war MORE likely since the business relationship can be used as an additional weapon of war, through such things as tariffs, blockades, and boycotts. I doubt that a business relationship has ever prevented any war in history. Hong Kong Free Press and Focus Taiwan and AFP and Hong Kong Free Press and United Daily News (Taiwan) (Trans)

Related Articles

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, China, El Salvador, Sanchez Ceren, Carlos Castaneda, Wang Yi, Palau, Joseph Wu, Jean Manes, Marco Rubio, Margarita Escobar, East Asian Olympic Committees, EAOC, 85C Bakery, anti-secession law
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