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China poaching Taiwan's diplomatic allies to sway election: scholar

2019/09/20 22:58:14

Taipei, Sept. 20 (CNA) China is trying to interfere in Taiwan's upcoming election by luring two diplomatic allies away from Taipei in less than a week, Taiwanese scholar Tung Li-wen (董立文) said Friday.

China has been working hard to lure all of Taiwan's diplomatic allies for years, Tung said, adding that in the recent cases, the main purpose was to influence Taiwan's election and to retaliate against the progress of the United States-Taiwan relations.

Taiwan cut diplomatic ties with Kiribati and the Solomon Islands on Friday and Monday, respectively, after the two countries decided to establish formal relations with China.

The severing of ties with the two Pacific nations leaves Taiwan with only 15 diplomatic allies worldwide.

Tung said although China's attempts to influence Taiwan's elections in the past have not been successful, China still wanted to see how Taiwanese voters would react to two countries switching diplomatic allegiance to China in such a short time.

Poaching Taiwan's allies was the most effective way that China could think of to sway Taiwanese voters, Tung said.

He said he believes there will be other allies cutting relations with Taiwan in the run-up to the 2020 presidential and legislative elections.

In addition, the scholar said Solomon Islands and Kiribati establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing over Taipei is a red herring meant to distract attention from the ongoing trade war with the U.S. and the continuing protests in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Arthur Ding (丁樹範), a former director of National Chengchi University's Institute of International Relations, told CNA that China had been expanding its influence in the South Pacific and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's refusal to accept China's "1992 consensus" had served as a perfect rationale for Beijing to further expand its presence in the region.

Ding said he believed that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) was seeking to justify the legitimacy of his reign by pressuring Taiwan to accept "the 1992 consensus" under Beijing's definition even if it is the opposition Kuomintang's presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), seen by many as China leaning, who becomes president of Taiwan next year.

The "1992 consensus" refers to a verbal agreement reached in 1992 between the then Kuomintang (KMT) government of Taiwan and Chinese communist officials.

The agreement has been consistently interpreted by the KMT to mean that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is only "one China," with each side free to interpret what "China" means.

However, Beijing has never publicly voiced support for the second part of the KMT's interpretation.

Taiwan's former Foreign Minister Chen Chien-jen (程建人), meanwhile, warned that Taiwan's ties with four remaining Pacific allies: Tuvalu, Nauru, Palau and Marshall Islands are fragile.

Chen added that developments in Tuvalu after the South Pacific country picked a new prime minister, shunning its former pro-Taiwan leader Enele Sopoaga, should be closely watched.

The situation in Haiti should also be monitored because the country has been plagued by poverty and can be easily influenced by geopolitical trends, he said, adding that given the political and social instability in Nicaragua, Taiwan should follow the situation in that Central American country too.

Taiwan's next presidential and legislative elections will be held Jan. 11, 2020.

(By Ku Chuan and Chung Yu-chen)
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