No matter whether the Gambia broke off diplomatic relations of its own accord or under external pressure, it will only increase the pressure on Ma, who already needs Beijing’s help to get the service trade agreement approved as soon as possible. It is quite possible that Jammeh acted on his own, hoping to gain favor with China.
Given that Ma can hardly take any more blows to his ailing prestige, he may be hoping that China will politely advise the Gambia to reconsider its move.
It remains to be seen whether the Gambia’s severance of diplomatic ties will set off a domino effect.
Nonetheless, the incident proves that as long as Ma goes on talking about Taiwan and China as being two areas of the same country, complying with China’s policies, which are aimed at annexing Taiwan, and maintaining the so-called “diplomatic truce,” Taipei’s other diplomatic partners could follow in the Gambia’s footsteps at any time, in the interests of their respective “strategic national interests.”
If China desists for the time being from luring Taiwan’s diplomatic allies away, it is nothing for Ma to gloat about. It only means that Beijing is maintaining an appearance of calm while getting up to its old tricks under the surface.
While making sure that Ma keeps his guard down and forgets who the main opponent really is, China is working away at winning over the nation’s diplomatic allies. When the moment arrives, it can scoop them up all in one go, and Taiwan’s status as a nation will go up in smoke.
While Hong made it look as though the Gambia’s move had nothing to do with China, one thing he said is worthy of special attention. After saying that there had been no contact between China and the Gambia, Hong immediately added: “There is only one China in the world. Adherence to the ‘one China’ principle is a common understanding of the international community, and supporting peaceful reunification between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is the general trend of the times.”
The implication was that the Gambia’s severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan was an expression of a general global consensus, and that would be the ultimate conclusion to draw from Ma’s claim that cross-strait relations are not international relations. It could be that some of Taiwan’s 22 remaining diplomatic partners will decide to follow Banjul’s example even if they do not declare that they are establishing diplomatic ties with China.
That would make it easy for China to deny any responsibility, while strengthening its hand to put pressure on Ma at the same time. That would be the inevitable outcome of Ma’s “diplomatic truce,” and if that happens the “truce” will end up as a “diplomatic heart attack” for Taiwan.
Translated by Julian Clegg