Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, met with US House of Representatives Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, last week, despite China’s warnings. It was the first time since 1979 that a top US official had met with Taiwan’s president. Calling Taiwan’s president “one of America’s friends,” McCarthy said that Taiwan and the United States would work together for democracy, economic development, peace, and stability. All possible assistance would also be provided to Taiwan.
Taiwan has long been a topic of discussion in world politics. The reason for the renewed importance of this discussion is the new equation of world politics. As China grows stronger in global economic, political, and military power, Taiwan is purposefully brought forward. The issue of Sino-Russian friendship at the juncture of the Ukraine war and economic crisis has further fueled the issue.
China claims that Taiwan, which is governed by a democratic system, is part of its territory. The region will one day be unified under the ‘One China’ policy. Under this policy, no country can simultaneously maintain formal relations with Beijing and Taipei.
Last year, the then Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan, despite China’s warnings. Not only that, but the US military has stationed troops on the island of Taiwan and sold billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to them. Why is America maintaining relations with Taiwan despite China’s objections?
The number of countries maintaining diplomatic relations with Taiwan has decreased to 13, with Honduras being the chief among them, which recently reversed its decision to officially recognize Taiwan as part of China. That means only 12 countries and territories now maintain diplomatic relations with them.
According to CIA World Factbook data, the countries that still have ties to Taiwan rather than China are Guatemala, Haiti, Paraguay, Eswatini, Belize, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Marshall Islands, Saval Islands, Palau, and Marvelous Nauru (member of the United Nations No) Vatican City. They constitute only 0.49 percent of the world population. That is, 99.51 percent of people in the world still officially recognize that Taiwan is a province of the People’s Republic of China.
The US, which is so vocal and active about Taiwan, also recognizes Taiwan as part of China on paper. The treaty that the US signed with China in 1979 clearly states that it recognizes both sides of the Taiwan Strait as part of China. Despite this legal commitment, the US has increasingly supported and incited Taiwan to separatism.
Another major reason for the United States’ anger is the loss of Central American countries in their sphere of influence. These countries are stepping out of the US ring and recognizing Taiwan as part of China, deepening diplomatic and commercial ties with Beijing.
For example, in 2021, Nicaragua cut ties with Taiwan by recognizing China. Since then, Managua and Beijing have developed free trade relations as close allies. China is helping to expand Nicaragua’s public housing program, building thousands of homes for poor and working families, working to develop infrastructure, hospitals, and renewable energy.
China even plans to dig an interoceanic canal in Nicaragua, which would challenge the Panama Canal monopoly and create huge economic opportunities for the Central American country.
Recently, China and the Honduran government have been discussing and working on comprehensive development plans and projects. Honduras’ foreign minister says his country is trapped in billions of dollars in debt to US-controlled institutions, including the IMF, and that only China can potentially ease the burden. Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the world. About three-quarters of the one crore population live in poverty, with 74 percent living in poverty.
In 2009, a US government-sponsored military coup in Honduras overthrew the democratically elected leftist President Manuel Zelaya and installed a brutal right-wing regime. This resulted in drug trafficking, looting, and a reign of terror created through repression and torture, leading the country to become one of the most crime-ridden countries in the world.
In 2021, the US administration also interfered in the elections of Honduras and Nicaragua, but the people of those countries blocked them. Pictures and videos of these activities were spread on social media. Among the 12 countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, Guatemala’s scenario could also change at any time due to political pressure forcing them to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
China has not only made progress economically but has also made incredible advancements in military and information technology, giving them a stronger influence in world politics. However, the US and Western powers do not want any other power in the world to overtake them or challenge their position. The Sino-US conflict will continue to be a major issue, with Taiwan being the core. Nevertheless, the Sino-US dispute over Taiwan needs to be stopped.