Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has said China’s recent moves have caused “a high level of global instability.”

El Salvador broke off diplomatic ties with Taiwan on Tuesday and established formal relations with Beijing, just after Tsai returned from a foreign trip. The move leaves self-ruled Taiwan with just 17 diplomatic allies around the world.

“China nowadays is not only a threat to cross-strait peace. What China has been doing now globally – interfering in other countries’ internal affairs and destroying the order of the international market – have caused high levels of global instability,” Tsai said.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. Photo: Taiwan Presidential Office.

“We have to remind the international community once again – that this is not only a matter for Taiwan. The situation is so dire that we cannot tolerate it anymore.”

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said El Salvador repeatedly asked for a “large amount of funding” to develop its La Unión port, but Taipei declined since it decided it was an unrealistic project and could generate high debts for the two states.

Wu said Taiwan knew of El Salvador’s intention to form ties with China in June. In July, he tried in vain to negotiate with the country’s deputy foreign minister.

Tsai said Taiwan had knowledge of El Salvador’s intention for some time and tries its best to maintain relations with international allies: “We hoped El Salvador would not become a battlefield of foreign affairs. But regrettably, the Chinese government had no intention to make concessions.”

‘All-pervasive suppression’

“Breaking off diplomatic ties is not an individual incident – it is part of China’s series of verbal attacks and threats by force,” Tsai said. “China’s suppression has never stopped and is all-pervasive.”

She mentioned incidents including the presence of military planes flying around Taiwan, demands that airlines change name for the island, demands that the 2019 East Youth Games be cancelled in Taichung, as well as a recent incident involving 85C Bakery Cafe.

El Salvador’s Salvador Sánchez Cerén & Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen in 2017. Photo: Taiwan Presidential Office.

Tsai said China’s actions have crossed the bottom line of all major parties in Taiwan.

“This is not the time to compare cross-strait policies. We have to unite together to defend the common bottom line of sovereignty. It is a challenge to our common bottom line when diplomatic ties in the name of the Republic of China (Taiwan) are being damaged,” Tsai said.

El Salvador is the fifth diplomatic loss under Tsai’s presidency and the third this year, following Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic.

But Tsai said: “Facing threats over the past two years, Taiwanese people have proven to the world that they will not give up freedom and democracy, as well as shown their determination to contribute to the wider world.”

“In the future, we will seek countries that share our ideals to defend against China’s global moves that are gradually becoming out of control,” she added.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.