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Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen lashes out at China after Burkina Faso cuts ties

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen lashed out at China on Thursday after Burkina Faso broke diplomatic ties with the island, the second country to do so this month.

The move, which has been welcomed by China, comes after the Dominican Republic switched recognition to Beijing earlier this month, leaving Taiwan with only 18 diplomatic allies around the world.

Although it was not immediately clear if Burkina Faso and China would establish diplomatic relations, officials in Taipei said it was only a matter of time and blamed Beijing for the setback.

tsai ing wen

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen exchanges gifts with Burkina Faso Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation Alpha Barry in 2016. Photo: Flickr/Taiwan Gov.

“China’s crude behaviours to undermine our sovereignty have already challenged the bottom line of Taiwan’s society. We will not tolerate it anymore,” President Tsai told reporters without elaborating.

Tsai accused Beijing of using “dollar diplomacy” to lure away the island’s allies.

She added that Beijing’s moves reflected “insecurity and lack of confidence…. The more crude their behaviour, the more it sparks international repulsion”.

The foreign ministry in Beijing said in a statement that “we welcome Burkina Faso’s early accession to the Sino-African friendship and cooperation family based on the one-China principle.”

Relations between Taiwan and China have worsened since Beijing-sceptic Tsai came to power as her government refuses to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of “one China”.

China still considers Taiwan to be a renegade province to be reunified, by force if necessary, even though they split in 1949 after a civil war.

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The two have been engaged for years in a diplomatic tug-of-war in developing countries. Economic support and other aid are often used as bargaining chips for diplomatic recognition.

Taiwan can now claim only one ally in Africa — eSwatini (formerly Swaziland). Burkina Faso was the fourth country to cut ties with Taipei since Tsai took office two years ago.

The Dominican Republic announced on May 1 the termination of its 77-year diplomatic relationship with Taiwan to recognise China.

The small African nation of Sao Tome switched recognition to Beijing in late 2016, followed by Panama in June last year.

Raising pressure 

Burkina Faso said earlier Thursday that it was severing diplomatic ties with Taiwan for the second time. The country terminated relations with Taipei first in 1973 but restored them in 1994.

“But today, changes in the world, the current socio-economic challenges facing our country and our region call on us to reconsider our position,” said Foreign Minister Alpha Barry.

The decision prompted Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu Thursday to tender his resignation, pending Tsai’s approval.

Wu said that Taipei was cutting relations with Burkina Faso “to safeguard our sovereignty and dignity” and halting bilateral aid and cooperation programmes.

According to some reports, last year Beijing allegedly offered $50 billion to Burkina Faso to establish relations but the landlocked west African state turned it down.

Tsai dropped a plan to visit the country in April during her first trip to Africa since taking office after its president was unable to receive her, citing scheduling conflicts.

Wu said Taipei already felt “a little unease” at that time.

Tsai’s government is trying to enhance Taiwan’s international profile but faces a concerted attempt by Beijing to shrink its space on global platforms.

Beijing has stepped up pressure on her government by blocking Taiwan from attending a growing list of international events and staging a string of military drills around the island.

Taiwan has accused the World Health Organization of giving in to pressure from China after it was not invited to a major meeting that is underway in Geneva.

Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen lashes out at China after Burkina Faso cuts ties