China restores diplomatic ties with Taiwan’s former ally Sao Tome and Principe


China signed an agreement on Monday (26 December) and re-established diplomatic relations with Sao Tome and Principe after the island nation off the coast of central Africa broke away from Taiwan last week.

Wang Yi, Chinese foreign minister on Monday said the resumption of ties would benefit both countries. He added saying, “Sao Tome will get full support and help from a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and the world’s largest developing nation.”

He further elaborated saying, “China is willing to support Sao Tome’s quest for socio-economic development and efforts to improve livelihoods and well-being to the best of its ability.”

Urbino Botelho, the foreign minister of Sao Tome, said: “We have to recognise that China plays an increasingly important role in the world, especially as a partner to promote development and its contributions protecting the interests of developing nations.”

He added saying, Sao Tome is a small, island nation, with very friendly people.

It is tranquil.

It has very good conditions for developing trade and business and cooperating with Chinese companies.”

The resumption of ties is believed to be a big victory for China, which considers Taiwan as a part of its territory.

According to reports, China and Taiwan have competed for allies for decades since the end of China’s 1949 civil war, when the nationalist government that was defeated fled to Taiwan Strait.

In 1997, Beijing stopped its contact with Sao Tome after the West African state established ties with Taipei.

Trump has also questioned the “one China” policy which the United States has followed since assuming relations with Beijing in 1979, under which Washington acknowledges China’s position that Taiwan is part of China.

The election of Tsai from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party earlier this year infuriated Beijing, which suspects she wants to push for the island’s formal independence, though she says she wants to maintain peace with China.

Taiwan Foreign Minister David Lee said Taipei would not engage in “dollar diplomacy” after Sao Tome’s decision.

“We think the Beijing government should not use Sao Tome’s financing black hole … as an opportunity to push its ‘one China’ principle,” Lee told a news conference in Taipei on Wednesday. “This behavior is not helpful to a smooth cross-Strait relationship.”

Taiwan’s presidential office said China’s use of Sao Tome’s financial woes to push its “one China” policy would harm stability across the Taiwan Strait.

“This is absolutely not beneficial to the long-term development of cross-Strait relations,” it said in a statement.

In Beijing, China welcomed the move, without explicitly saying it had established formal relations with the former Portuguese colony or making any mention of a request for financial aid.

“We have noted the statement from the government of Sao Tome and Principe on the 20th to break so-called ‘diplomatic’ ties with Taiwan.

China expresses appreciation of this, and welcomes Sao Tome back onto the correct path of the ‘one China’ principle,” the ministry said in a statement.

China says Taiwan has no right to diplomatic recognition as it is part of China, and the issue is an extremely sensitive one for Beijing.

Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan at the end of a civil war in 1949 and Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

In Africa, only Burkina Faso and Swaziland now maintain formal ties with Taiwan.

President Tsai will visit Central American allies Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador next month.

“We now have 21 allies left. We must cherish them,” Lee said.

China and Taiwan had for years tried to poach each other’s allies, often dangling generous aid packages in front of developing nations.

But they began an unofficial diplomatic truce after signing a series of landmark trade and economic agreements in 2008 following the election of the China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou as Taiwan’s president.

Sao Tome and Principe’s tiny island economy is heavily dependent on cocoa exports but its position in the middle of the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea has raised interest in its potential as a possible future oil and gas producer.

Diplomatic sources in Beijing have previously said Sao Tome was likely high on China’s list of countries to lure away from Taiwan.

In 2013, Sao Tome said China planned to open a trade mission to promote projects there, 16 years after it broke off relations over Sao Tome’s diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.

The impoverished Island nation, which is a former Portuguese colony, has a population of 200,000 and depends heavily on foreign aid.

Taiwan reportedly had almost 30 allies in the mid 1990s but now has formal ties with just 21 countries, which are mostly small and poor nations in Latin America and the Pacific.

Taipei has accused Beijing of taking advantage of Sao Tome’s economic difficulties to make the move and added that Taiwan will not indulge “dollar diplomacy.”


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