China is not putting any pressure on Taiwan’s last diplomatic ally in Africa, the Kingdom of Eswatini, to switch to Beijing, but believes it is just a matter of time before that happens, a senior Chinese diplomat said yesterday.
China has become increasingly vocal about its desire to win away the country, formerly known as Swaziland, from Taiwan, even as the Swazi government has denounced Beijing for playing “mind games” and says it has no desire to ditch Taipei.
Eswatini is to be the only African country not represented at a major summit between China and the continent opening in Beijing next week, where Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is likely to offer new loans and aid for Africa.
Speaking at a news briefing, China’s special envoy for Africa Xu Jinghu (許鏡湖) said the issue of Eswatini and its lack of ties to Beijing was “an important question,” but it was up to them to take the initiative.
“On this issue we won’t exert any pressure. We’ll wait for the time to be right,” Xu said. “I believe this day will come sooner or later.”
Taiwan has formal ties with only 17 nations, many of them small, less-developed nations in Central America and the Pacific, including Belize and Nauru.
Taiwan has vowed to fight China’s “increasingly out of control” behavior after Taipei last month lost another diplomatic ally to Beijing when El Salvador became the third country to switch allegiances to China this year.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has vowed not to bow to Chinese pressure, and Taipei has accused Beijing of offering generous aid and loan packages to lure its allies across, charges China strongly denies.
Cheng Tao (程濤), a former head of the Africa division at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the news briefing that he had been involved in talks with African countries about abandoning Taiwan and recognizing China, and that money requests had come up.
“They said that while we want to establish diplomatic ties with China, we hope China can give us certain support financially,” Cheng said, without naming the nations he had been in talks with. “They were very blunt.”
“We told them [that] establishing ties is a political decision. It’s not a deal,” he added.
China’s hostility to Taiwan has grown since Tsai’s election, as Beijing fears that she wishes to push for formal independence, a red line for China.
Tsai has said she wants to maintain the “status quo,” but will defend Taiwan’s democracy.
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