Experts say more countries will ditch Taiwan after Panama establishes ties with mainland

By Leng Shumei and Wang Cong Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/13 20:28:39

More countries will ditch Taiwan over pro-independence activities: experts

Panama Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo (left) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi share a toast after signing a joint communique on establishing diplomatic relations, in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo:AFP

Panama's decision to cut ties with Taiwan in favor of the Chinese mainland on Tuesday may trigger other countries to follow suit, and that will leave the island less space in the international community if it continues to promote pro-independence activities, experts said.

A joint communiqué issued by China and Panama on Tuesday said the two countries, in accordance with the interests and desire of their peoples, have decided to recognize each other and establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level effective Tuesday, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado in Beijing on Tuesday to sign the communiqué.

The communiqué on Tuesday recognizes the People's Republic of China as the only legitimate government representing China, and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, Wang said in a statement released on the Chinese foreign ministry's website.

Panama also promised to stop all official exchanges with Taiwan. Wang said the Panama government's decision is consistent with the country's fundamental interests and the one-China structure in international society.

Hsiao Shih-yan, a senior Taiwan media employee, told the Global Times that Panama was a vital ally of Taiwan in Central America, and severing those ties will come as a huge shock to the island, which could snowball.

Panama established "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan in 1954. Twenty countries continue to have "diplomatic ties" with Taiwan, including the Vatican, Haiti and Paraguay, according to the Taiwan administration website.

"Panama knows very well that Taiwan's economy does not serve Panama's interests," Hsiao said, noting that it would be very difficult for Taiwan to sustain relations as its economy declines.

Inevitable trend

Wang Jianmin, a Taiwan affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday that Taiwan should reflect instead of blaming the mainland for its loss of allies. "It is inevitable that more countries will pursue diplomatic ties with the mainland due to the latter's growing economic might."

The Taiwan "foreign affairs department" announced Tuesday that it has "severed diplomatic relations with Panama," and expressed their "regret and dissatisfaction" with Panama's decision.

The department condemned the mainland for "squeezing Taiwan's living space in international society."

"Taiwan authorities should take Panama's move as a warning that there will be less and less 'international space' for the island if it continues to promote pro-independence activities," Wang Jianmin said, warning that the Taiwan administration could issue a strong reaction.

 "The world only has one China.  The international community has reached a consensus to adhere to the one-China principle," Ma Xiaoguang, spokesperson for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Tuesday.

Ma stressed that only by acknowledging the 1992 Consensus, could cross-Strait relations return to the correct path of peaceful development. "The Taiwan administration must gain a clear understanding of the situation and make the right choice," Ma said.

A recent online poll in Taiwan revealed that over 80 percent of Taiwan residents think that the island should improve ties with the mainland, and 88 percent of respondents agreed that they are "members of the Chinese nation," the Taiwan-based China Times reported Tuesday.

Enhanced cooperation

"China welcomes Panama to the Belt and Road initiative," Wang Yi said on Tuesday, adding that the two countries will cooperate in various fields, including trade, investment and tourism, as well as deepen their mutual political trust.

Panama is located in the southernmost part of Central America. The Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and the Pacific and is located between South and North America.

China is the second-largest client of the Panama Canal, just behind the US. Trade between China and Panama reached $6.4 billion in 2016.

Over 30 Chinese companies, including Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies, operate in Panama, a significant increase from three years ago, Wang Weihua, permanent representative of China's Office of Commercial Development in Panama, told the Global Times.

Many Chinese companies have been engaged in infrastructure projects such as bridges, subways and ports on the Panama Canal, while others have been setting up regional headquarters in the country, Wang Weihua said.

Aside from the tremendous opportunities in infrastructure, Panama's advantage in transportation and favorable policy towards foreign firms, including tax and visa arrangements, have convinced many Chinese firms to set up their regional headquarters in the country, he added.

"Though China and Panama enjoy close economic and trade ties, the newly-established diplomatic ties could further enhance economic and trade cooperation. And the cooperation will be more stable and transparent," said Jiang Yong, a research fellow at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

Posted in: DIPLOMACY

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