Sunday 24 Oct 2021 | 01:27 | SYDNEY
Sunday 24 Oct 2021 | 01:27 | SYDNEY

El Salvador to lead the way in the Pacific?


Fergus Hanson


1 April 2009 07:09

There have been some remarkable developments in the China-Taiwan relationship following the election of the Ma Ying-jeou government. One area of rapprochement of importance to Australia is diplomatic competition.

Last year I noted some of the signs of a possible diplomatic truce. Then in October rumours emerged that China had rejected efforts by Nicaragua to switch from recognising Taiwan to recognising China, apparently in an effort to keep the wider improvement in China-Taiwan relations on track.

This month we have had more news from Central America with El Salvador's President-elect claiming he wants to switch to recognising China. That poses a new test for the truce. The Taiwanese Foreign Minister has said Taiwan would not sever ties with El Salvador if they switched to recognising China (although the government subsequently somewhat retracted this claim).

In an AFP report (no link) a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson rejected the idea that the one-China policy would ever change but gave the slightly cryptic reply that 'we are ready to have friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation with El Salvador'.

So how can each side safely wriggle through this mess? The Taiwanese seem to have a hybrid model in mind where: 'we would not oppose any substantial relationship between our allies and China, but of course we would not acknowledge mutual acceptance'. If that were to happen perhaps we would start to see the emergence of Chinese trade offices similar to those Taiwan runs in countries that recognise China. This could have implications for the Pacific.