China, Nauru establish diplomatic relations after Taiwan split

Nauru, one of the world’s smallest nations, had been a longstanding ally of Taiwan until severing ties in mid-January
By Stephen Wright for BenarNews
2024.01.24
Bangkok, Thailand
China, Nauru establish diplomatic relations after Taiwan split Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) toasts with Nauru's Minister of Foreign Affairs Lionel Aingimea after signing a communiqué on the resumption of diplomatic relations between China and Nauru in Beijing on Jan. 24, 2024.
Andrea Verdelli/Pool/AFP

China and Nauru formally established diplomatic relations on Wednesday following the Pacific island nation’s decision earlier this month to sever ties with Taiwan.

Nauru’s foreign minister Lionel Aingimea held talks in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and signed a joint communique on the resumption of diplomatic ties. The communique said that Nauru, an island of 10,000 people northeast of Papua New Guinea, recognizes that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory.”

“Today marks a new page of the relations between China and Nauru,” Wang said, according to a video of the signing ceremony. “Nauru recognises that there is only one China in the world.”

Nauru’s move reduced Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to 12 nations including the Vatican, Paraguay and Eswatini and followed a presidential election in Taiwan won by a candidate opposed by Beijing. Many nations still maintain significant relations with Taiwan through trade and other semi-official offices and its passport holders have visa-free travel to dozens of countries.

Following Nauru’s Jan. 15 announcement, Taiwan’s government alleged the diplomatic switch was engineered by China and called it “retaliation against democratic values.” It said China used promises of aid to induce Nauru’s decision.

The United States had said Nauru’s severing of ties with Taiwan was its sovereign decision but also “disappointing. A State Department statement warned that China’s government “often makes promises in exchange for diplomatic relations that ultimately remain unfulfilled.” 

China’s government has courted Pacific island nations for the past two decades as it seeks to isolate Taiwan diplomatically and gain allies in international institutions. Beijing regards Taiwan, a democracy and globally important tech manufacturing center, as a renegade province that must be reunited with the mainland.

Aingimea said Nauru, the world’s third smallest nation by area after the Vatican and Monaco, hopes to boost its economic development as a result of diplomatic relations with China.

“We look forward to this new chapter of the relationship between Nauru and China,” he said. “It'll be built on strength, built on development strategy, it will have a synergy of policies, it will have good collaboration and shared governmental principles that both our countries enjoy."

In recent years more than half of Nauru’s government revenue has come from hosting Australia’s offshore migrant detention center.

Its sole island is pockmarked by a phosphate mining industry that on paper made Nauru among the world’s richest nations in the second half of last century.

The phosphate is now exhausted and Nauru turned to problematic money-making schemes such as selling passports and offshore banking that earned it international notoriety in the 1990s and 2000s.

Nauru had recognized China for several years in the 2000s but switched back to Taiwan following one of its frequent changes of leadership.

The Pacific island nations of Solomon Islands and Kiribati severed ties with Taiwan in 2019 and the central American country of Honduras ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan last year.

The Solomon Islands, in particular, has benefited from diplomatic relations with Beijing. China largely bankrolled the 24-nation Pacific Games that were held in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara in November and has significantly increased other aid to the country.

In the Pacific, Taiwan’s remaining allies are the Marshall Islands and Palau – both allied to the U.S. – and Tuvalu, which is seeking more than U.S. $1.0 billion in climate-adaptation funding from the international community for land reclamation that would double the size of its most populated island.

BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated online news organization.

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