Isolated Taiwan hopes to win new diplomatic allies in Africa from giant rival China by drawing on resentment some feel over their treatment as a “big factory” for resources, Foreign Minister James Huang said.
Those countries wanted to set up formal relations with Taiwan, which they felt would not demand their resources in the way China does, Huang said.
“A lot of countries actually hold out hope for Taiwan,” Huang said. “As for Africa, there are friends who say China’s policies towards them are a disaster, because China is not helping them develop. Its goal is to use resources and turn them into a big Chinese factory for export of raw materials.”
China, the world’s fastest-growing major economy, has more than 170 diplomatic partners, including the world’s largest and most influential nations, while Taiwan struggles to hang on to its pool of just two dozen smaller, mostly poor allies.
Taiwan lost Costa Rica to China in June after 63 years of ties.
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. Beijing has vowed to bring the island back under mainland rule, by force if necessary.
China has aggressively sought energy and other natural resources in Africa, including controversial trade with Sudan, to fuel the world’s fourth-largest economy.
To reduce Taiwan’s international profile and pressure the island to unify with China, Beijing tries to wrest away Taiwan allies, with the two competing with checkbook diplomacy for allegiance.
Under its “one China” policy, China does not allow its allies to form separate ties with Taiwan.
Taiwan, which offers allies expertise in health care, technology and infrastructure, has invited senior leaders of its five allies in Africa to a summit in Taipei on Sunday to discuss poverty relief, global warming and civil unrest in Africa, Huang said.
A total of 43 senior African press officials from 29 countries are currently in Beijing to promote Sino-African relations.
Taiwan’s bids for U.N. membership, which supporters of Security Council member China have blocked for 15 years, should eventually succeed as global politics shift, Huang said.
“When we reach our goal is hard to say,” he said.
“But if Taiwan people stick together, and we’re resolute in applying for the United Nations, I think there’s a day we can reach the goal.” (Reuters)