Nicaragua has decided to switch its diplomatic allegiance to China from Taiwan. This leaves Taiwan with just 14 diplomatic allies.
Taiwan is a self-governing island off the coast of China. Under One China Policy, a country has to cut ties with Taiwan if it wants to develop ties with China.
Taiwan has diplomatic ties with mostly small and poor nations in Caribbean, Western Pacific and Latin America.
Vatican is one exception among its diplomatic friends. Countries such as USA have robust unofficial ties with Taiwan.
Reasons for losing influence
Taiwanese leaders and officials have been unable to make diplomatic visits to their friendly nations.
China is feeding a narrative that Taiwan is losing a diplomatic battle and will ultimately accept joining with the People’s Republic.
Nicaragua’s changing stance
US recently denounced Presidential polls in Nicaragua where authoritarian President Ortega was re-elected.
China gave an offer of increasing trade and development assistance while ignoring the political controversies in the country. This may have influenced the nation’s stand.
The Marxist -leaning Ortega first came to power in 1979 and switched ties to Beijing. The restoration of ties with Taiwan was done by Violeta Chamorro after defeated Ortega in 1990’s elections.
There was a belief that Ortega would reverse this decision again when he returned to power in 2006 election. But he did not change stance.
China has been accused of using threats and bribes to win away Taiwan’s allies in addition to development aid, loans and other incentives.
Many Central American countries such as Costa Rica and Panama have fallen prey to such offers. The US and Taiwan feel that there would be a domino effect in future.
The biggest advantage for China is its booming international trade and increasing diplomatic clout on international stage.
Taiwan has some standing among global trade but its diplomatic influence is waning. The democratic nature of country can have only a limited appeal.
Role of US
The US has been trying hard to convince other diplomatic allies of Taiwan to not switch allegiance. It has been urging them to consider democratic values, rule of law and international order that Taiwan stands for.
The US has strong unofficial ties with Taiwan. It recently opened representative office in Taiwan and sells the country weapons for self-protection.
The US has also been providing training to defence forces of Taiwan so that it has some level of self defence capabilities.