China is filling a 'strategic vacuum' in the Pacific left by the US and its allies, and that's bad news for Taiwan
- Taiwan, which China considers to be a renegade territory, lost two of its few remaining allies in late September.
- China has sought to win over Taiwan's allies, but those countries have their own reasons to embrace Beijing.
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On December 1, 2016, 22 countries had full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, an island nation seen as a breakaway province by its larger neighbor, China.On December 2 that year, President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen had what was thought to be the first phone call between a Taiwanese leader and a US president or president-elect since the US severed ties with Taiwan and recognized China in 1979.Advertisement
a four-day period in September this year, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati, both Pacific Island countries, left Taiwan behind.
Now just 15 countries, five of them small Pacific islands, have full diplomatic relations with Taipei, compared to 180 that recognize Beijing.
Christopher Woody: For the countries in the Pacific that have switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, what factors have influenced their decisions to do so?
Woody: What efforts have the US, its partners in the region, and other Western countries made to counter China's influence among Pacific Island countries, and how have those island countries responded to those efforts?Advertisement
Woody: China has been accused of "debt trap diplomacy" in its dealings with smaller countries. To what extent has Beijing been able to use loans and other agreements as leverage over countries in the region, and what's the risk of it doing so in the future?
Woody: What do the US and its allies see as the strategic implications of growing Chinese influence among Pacific Island countries? Are China's relationships with those countries ones that would allow Beijing to access ports, airfields, or other infrastructure for military uses?Advertisement
Woody: How has climate change — both addressing its causes and responding to its effects — shaped Pacific Island countries' attitudes toward China and Western countries?
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