China Targets Taiwan's Allies Ahead of 2020 Elections: Tsai Ing-wen

taiwan-kiribati.jpg Taiwan foreign minister Joseph Wu (C), addresses a news conference on Kiribati's decision to switch diplomatic recognition from the democratic island to Communist-run China, Sept. 20, 2019.

Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen hit out at China on Friday after a second Pacific nation announced it was terminating diplomatic ties with the democratic island to establish relations with the People's Republic of China instead.

Kiribati, a Pacific island nation, announced the move on Friday, the second of Taipei's diplomatic partners to do so in a week.

The move is a political victory for the Chinese Communist Party as it marks seven decades in power on the Oct. 1 National Day holiday marking the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

Tsai said Beijing has been stepping up its campaign to isolate Taiwan diplomatically since she was elected in 2016, because her ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has refuse to entertain the idea that Taiwan is a part of China.

The Chinese Communist Party claims Taiwan as an "inalienable" part of its territory, despite never having never ruled it, and has refused to rule out annexing the island by force if it resists attempts at "unification."

Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party nor formed part of the People's Republic of China, now has formal relations with only 15 countries, including Belize, Nauru and the Vatican. The Solomon Islands also broke off diplomatic ties with Taipei earlier this week.

Tsai said the diplomatic maneuvering by Beijing is carefully timed to undermine the DPP's support base ahead of the next presidential election in 2020, when she will be seeking re-election.

"They have only one goal, that is to sway the outcome of the presidential election," she told a news conference on Friday.

Taiwan foreign minister Joseph Wu said that Kiribati had officially notified his government of the decision, which came after China pledged billions of dollars to Kiribati in aid.

Taiwan "deeply regrets and strongly condemns the Kiribati government's decision, which disregards the multifaceted assistance and sincere friendship extended by Taiwan to Kiribati over the years," Wu said.

Beijing told Kiribati it "highly appreciates the decision to resume diplomatic relations with China."

"This fully testifies to the fact that the one-China principle meets the shared aspiration of the people and constitutes an irresistible trend of the times," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing on Friday.

United Front propaganda campaign

Taiwan's national security agency has repeatedly warned of growing attempts to flood Taiwan with propaganda and disinformation ahead of presidential elections in 2020, and to infiltrate its polity using Beijing-backed media and political groups.

Lawmakers say the country is doing all it can to guard against growing attempts at political infiltration and influence by the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department in Taiwan.

Dale Jieh, former ambassador to New Zealand for the Republic of China -- a government formed by Sun Yat-sen after the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 that now controls just four islands: Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu -- said Tsai's administration needs to strengthen its remaining ties as soon as possible.

"They can't go on like this any longer," Jieh said. "The most important thing is to review what went wrong and formulate effective methods [to stop it happening again]."

"But they also have to strengthen existing diplomatic relationships as soon as possible," he said, adding that Taiwan hadn't fully staffed its embassies in the Solomon Islands or Kiribati recently.

Taiwan was ruled as a Japanese colony in the 50 years prior to the end of World War II, but was handed back to the 1911 Republic of China under the Kuomintang (KMT) government as part of Tokyo's post-war reparation deal.

The KMT made its capital there after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong's communists that led to the founding of the People's Republic of China.

The island began a transition to democracy following the death of Chiang Kai-shek's son, President Chiang Ching-kuo, in January 1988, starting with direct elections to the legislature in the early 1990s and culminating in the first direct election of a president, Lee Teng-hui, in 1996.

Reported by Chung Kuang-cheng for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Hsia Hsiao-hwa and Hwang Chun-mei for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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