China’s unremitting diplomatic push to isolate Taiwan has convinced another country to switch sides. Solomon Islands announced its decision to sever a 36-year relationship with Taiwan yesterday.
Taiwan has now lost six diplomatic allies in the past two years. Just sixteen countries still recognize Taipei, six in the Pacific, but the Solomon Islands was the oldest and the largest.
A local employee told RNZ Pacific that Taiwan’s embassy staff in Honiara gathered in the courtyard as Taiwan’s flag was lowered on Monday morning, before leaving for the airport. Taiwan has also recalled all of its technical and medical personnel in the Solomons.
The statement from Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry accused China of “dollar diplomacy” and there’s no question that promises of development funds played a key role. China has invested in major infrastructure projects in other countries that have switched sides, money that Taipei simply can’t match.
Over the years, Taiwan has been a major contributor to the Solomons controversial Rural Constituency Development Fund, a slush fund, where money is divvied up by members of Parliament to be spent at their direction. MP Moffat Fugui, the chair of the diplomatic task force, told parliament that China will continue to fund the RCDF for a transitional period.
In a comment on a podcast produced by academics at the Australian National University, Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said, “To be honest, when it comes to economics and politics Taiwan is completely useless to us.”
In a statement that regrets the decision, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said, “Taiwan still has many friends around the world willing to stand with us, and we are not alone.”