“According to information obtained by Taiwan, the Chinese government has already promised to provide full funds for the procurement of several airplanes and commercial ferries, thus luring Kiribati into switching diplomatic relations,” the Taiwanese government statement said.
Zhu Songling, a professor at the Institute of Taiwan Studies at Beijing Union University, said that China was not likely to have been involved in the decisions this week by the governments of the Solomon Islands and Kiribati.
“Right now it’s a pivotal moment for Taiwan’s election,” Mr. Zhu said, adding that under the circumstances, China “would not possibly set out to poach Taiwan’s so-called diplomatic allies,” and in that way giving the governing Democratic Progressive Party in Taipei grounds to claim China’s involvement during an election season.
China’s ruling Communist Party claims Taiwan as its territory, despite having never controlled it. Taiwan is governed by the Republic of China, which based itself in Taiwan after losing a bloody civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communist forces in 1949.
Both the Republic of China government in Taipei and the People’s Republic of China government in Beijing claimed to be the rightful ruler of both China and Taiwan until the 1990s, when Taipei effectively abandoned its goal to retake China. To this day, neither Beijing nor Taipei will maintain diplomatic ties with countries that recognize the other.
During the past seven decades, countries have steadily switched recognition to Beijing from Taipei, with the United States doing so in 1979. In the 40 years since Washington abandoned official ties with Taiwan, however, the island has transformed from a military dictatorship to a vibrant democracy, while remaining an important unofficial American ally in the Asia-Pacific region.
At a Friday news conference, Taiwan’s minister of foreign affairs, Joseph Wu, reiterated the significance of its existing ties with the countries with whom it still maintains diplomatic relations, singling out the four Pacific Island nations that recognize Taipei: Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Palau.