Taiwan faces increasingly powerful and complex challenges to its formal diplomatic relations. China’s economic incentives, including aid packages and the allure of the Chinese domestic market, coupled with growing political clout, provides considerable leverage to persuade countries to break relations with Taiwan. Furthermore, when China unilaterally ended the so-called diplomatic truce with the election of Tsai Ing-wen, China has been increasingly willing to tie economic incentives and political pressure to persuade holdouts to switch recognition. Since 2016 five more countries have broken official relations with Taiwan.
Currently only seventeen countries maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. So how should Taiwan maintain these formal relations? Absent Chinese pressure, most countries would likely recognise Taiwan. However, China rejects the possibility that a country could recognise both China and Taiwan (dual recognition), even as evidence from the Germany example shows that dual recognition does not preclude China’s preferred outcome of unification. Taiwan thus must focus on countries willing to forego the incentives of relations with China while finding avenues to cement relations with Taiwan.
My own research depicts the uphill battle Taiwan faces.