China, El Salvador establish ties in fresh defeat for Taiwan

Beijing | China and El Salvador established diplomatic relations today as the Central American nation ditched Taiwan in yet another victory for Beijing in its campaign to isolate the island.

Beijing has been using its economic clout to peel away international support for the democratically-ruled island, leaving it with only 17 diplomatic allies around the world.

Speaking in Beijing at the Diaoyutai Guest House, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi praised El Salvador’s decision to “recognise there is one China in the world”.

Salvadoran Foreign Minister Carlos Castaneda, after signing a document with Wang establishing relations, said his country had made a “strategic decision” and taken the “correct and beneficial path for the people of both nations”.

The president of El Salvador, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, said in an address on national television Monday night: “I announce that my government has taken the decision to break diplomatic relations maintained until today between the Republic of El Salvador and Taiwan, and establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.”

The announcement in Beijing followed a decision by Taiwan to sever its ties with El Salvador after it learned the country was planning on recognising Beijing.

Speaking in Taipei, foreign minister Joseph Wu condemned China’s “crude actions”. “We will not engage in dollar diplomacy with China,” said Wu, adding that El Salvador had been asking for “huge funding” for a port development project which Taiwan was unwilling to give because it would leave both countries in debt.

El Salvador’s move leaves Taiwan with a dwindling number of allies around the world as a growing number switch recognition to China, which sees the self-ruling democratic island as a renegade part of its territory.

“El Salvador has made the choice to commit itself to one China with no pre-conditions, thus standing with most countries in the world,” Wang said in comments that seemed intended to pre-empt Taiwanese accusations that

China had bought the small Latin American nation’s loyalty. But, he added, the country “will get tangible gains from its partnership with China”.

Relations between Taipei and Beijing have worsened since president Tsai Ing-wen came to power as her government refuses to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of “one China”. China has stepped up its poaching of Taiwan’s allies since Tsai became leader in 2016.

El Salvador is the fifth diplomatic loss under her presidency and the third this year, following Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic. The small African nation of Sao Tome switched recognition to Beijing in late 2016, followed by Panama in June last year.

Taiwan and China have been engaged for years in a diplomatic tug-of-war in developing countries. Economic support and other aid are often used as bargaining chips for diplomatic recognition.

Tsai’s government is trying to enhance Taiwan’s international profile but faces a concerted attempt by Beijing to shrink its space on global platforms.

Beijing has stepped up pressure on her government by blocking Taiwan from attending a growing list of international events and staging a string of military drills around the island.

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