China ‘highly appreciates’ Solomon Islands’ cutting Taiwan ties

By Shan Jie, Liu Xin and Wang Qi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/16 18:15:54 Last Updated: 2019/9/17 10:07:04

Move a blow to secessionists, says observer

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. File photo: VCG 

China on Monday said it highly appreciates the Solomon Islands' decision to cut the "diplomatic ties" with the island of Taiwan and acknowledge the one-China principle. 

"We support the important decision made by the Solomon Islands as an independent sovereign country," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement released at the website of the ministry Monday night.  

The decision to acknowledge the one-China principle and establish diplomatic ties with China once again proved that the principle corresponds with the will of the people and the irresistible trend of the times, said Hua. 

China would like to make efforts with the Solomon Islands to explore a broader future of the development of relations between the two countries, said Hua.

The Solomon Islands congress will break "diplomatic ties" with the island of Taiwan and switch to Beijing, Taipei-based news agency CNA reported on Monday.

Taiwan's "Foreign Minister" Joseph Wu said in Taipei late Monday that it would immediately close down its "embassy" and recall all its diplomats, Reuters reported on Monday. 

The switch takes Taiwan's "diplomatic allies" down to 16.  

Taiwan is suffering strong diplomatic unrest under the Tsai Ing-wen authority, losing five "diplomatic allies" since Tsai was elected leader of the island in 2016.

Chinese mainland observers of Taiwan affairs and Pacific politics noted that the move was in line with a general trend that the international community recognizes the one-China principle.

Rumors of the Solomon Islands' shift from Taiwan to the Chinese mainland have spread for months.  

The Solomon Islands' break from Taiwan is a heavy blow to secessionists, especially leader Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking re-election in January with her Democratic Progressive Party, Yang Lixian, a research fellow at the Beijing-based Research Center of Cross-Straits Relations, told the Global Times on Monday.

Li Fei, a professor at the Taiwan Research Institute of Xiamen University in East China's Fujian Province, told the Global Times that if the Chinese mainland agrees to build diplomatic ties with the Solomon Islands, it will be seen as a move to punish the Tsai authority for its close involvement in the Hong Kong unrest.

Secessionists in Taiwan and Hong Kong should understand their attempts to split China go against the general trend and are "doomed to fail," Li said.

More countries in the South Pacific may join the Solomon Islands in cutting ties with Taiwan. 

"Considering the strong influence of the US in the Caribbean Sea, it may take some time for Taiwan's remaining 'diplomatic allies' to sever ties with Taiwan," Li said.

"Haiti may be next," said Li. 

Haiti was planning to cut ties, Wang Hau-yu, a "councilor" of Taoyuan city in Taiwan, posted on Facebook.

A wooden house in the world heritage site of East Rennell in Solomon Islands. (Photo: Xinhua)

General trend 

Building ties with the Chinese mainland favors the general public on the Solomon Islands, said Yu Lei, a chief research fellow at the research center for Pacific island countries of Liaocheng University in East China's Shandong Province.

The Solomon Islands is a country with a small territorial area and population, Yu said, and its economic development depends heavily on foreign aid.

"In recent years, the country has developed good economic and trade ties with the Chinese mainland," he said.

Countries like the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France and the UK still try to influence island countries, he noted. 

They force countries to buck ties with the Chinese mainland by means such as threatening to cut aid altogether, economic sanctions, supporting anti-government forces or using local NGOs to pressure governments. 

Looking forward

The Solomon Islands' move shows that countries with "diplomatic ties" with the island of Taiwan have a "general feeling of insecurity," Lü Cuncheng, a research fellow at the Institute of Taiwan Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times.

The international community recognizes the one-China principle and worries about the rampant tendency of "Taiwan independence," Lü said.

It was the general trend to develop friendly relations with the Chinese mainland, he believed.

"The island of Taiwan worries about the situation and will step up to maintain ties, but they cannot change the general trend," Lü said. "Countries will build relations based on their own national interests."

There might not be much more cutting of relations with Taiwan approaching the 2020 Taiwan elections, Lü predicted. 

"But for sure countries with 'diplomatic ties' with the island will be fewer and fewer," he said.

There is no specific data about the number of ethnic Chinese or Chinese nationals on the Solomon Islands. But a database from the China Center for Economic Research indicated thousands of Chinese people living there.

Li Lin, an employee at a mining company on the Solomon Islands, told the Global Times that many Chinese reside there. She said at least 70 percent of shops in the capital Honiara are run by Chinese. 

Most Chinese were looking forward to diplomatic ties, Li said.

"People here have been gossiping about the news recently. Local newspapers are also reporting it," Li said. 

"We of course hope the Chinese mainland could build diplomatic ties with the Solomon Islands as soon as possible."

Li complained there was "no embassy" for Chinese on the islands.

"The embassy is the backbone of Chinese people abroad. With diplomatic ties, we can feel secure."

Chinese nationals currently must go to the embassy in Papua New Guinea, said Zheng Yangxu, a teacher from East China's Shandong Province. 

Chinese tourists like visiting small South Pacific islands, an employee from a Chinese travel agency, who preferred to be called Lee, told the Global Times. 

"No tourist packages to the Solomon Islands can be found on online travel platforms," Lee said. 

An email to the Solomon Islands' Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade from the Global Times had not received a reply as of press time.

Newspaper headline: Solomons cuts Taiwan ties

Posted in: DIPLOMACY

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