SANTO DOMINGO: The Dominican Republic and China announced they were establishing diplomatic relations Tuesday as the Caribbean country becomes the latest nation to dump Taiwan in the face of Beijing’s growing influence.
Taipei said it was “deeply upset” at the decision to sever ties as the island faces deepening international isolation while its giant neighbour flexes its economic and political might on the global stage.
The Dominican Republic said it believed its switch to ties with China would be “extraordinarily positive for the future of our country”, in an official statement.
“The Dominican Republic recognises that there is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory,” it added.
Beijing announced Tuesday morning that the two countries would exchange ambassadors “as soon as practicable”.
At an emergency press conference, Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu said the government “deeply regrets that Dominican Republic and China established ties on May 1”.
Wu said the ministry “strongly condemns China’s objectionable decision to use dollar diplomacy to convert Taiwan’s diplomatic allies” and accused Beijing of failing to follow through on its promises to those countries it had wooed away.
Its actions had damaged cross-strait relations and eroded trust, said Wu, who blamed China’s financial incentives for ending the 77-year alliance with Dominican Republic.
The government of President Tsai Ing-wen is trying to push Taiwan’s international profile but is coming up against a concerted effort by Beijing to shrink its space on global platforms.
Taiwan is regularly shut out of influential forums as organisers come under pressure from Beijing not to recognise the island as a valid participant.
Mainland China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since 1949, but while democratic Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign nation, it has never formally declared independence. Beijing sees the island as a renegade province that is part of its territory awaiting reunification.
There now remain just 19 nations worldwide with official ties to Taiwan, as its decades of Cold War era ties with Central America and the Caribbean have dwindled.
In June last year, Panama cut ties with Taipei to open relations with Beijing. Costa Rica did so in 2007.
An apparent warming of relations between Beijing and the Vatican — considered Taiwan’s most powerful remaining official ally — has triggered concerns that the Holy See may also switch allegiance from Taiwan to China, which would come as a crushing blow to Taipei.
Wu said all assistance and cooperation with Dominican Republic would end immediately, while embassy officials and staff at technical missions would be repatriated.
Taiwan’s vice president Chen Chien-jen had visited Dominican Republic in August 2016 when he attended the inauguration of president Danilo Medina. Ex-foreign minister David Lee visited again in July 2017, shortly after Panama switched recognition to Beijing.