Jul 22, 2019

Taiwan striving to keep Caribbean allies beyond China's reach

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei. Photo: Ashley Pon/Getty Images

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's tour through the Caribbean reflects Taiwan's imperative to reinforce relationships with allies vulnerable to poaching by China.

The big picture: Only 17 countries continue to recognize Taiwan instead of the People’s Republic of China, and the majority are in Latin America and the Caribbean. Tsai's 10-day trip follows 2 years of bad news, as Panama, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic have all broken decades-long diplomatic ties with Taipei in order to extend official ties to Beijing.

Details: President Tsai’s "Journey of Freedom, Democracy, Sustainability," wrapping up Monday, focused on Haiti and several smaller Caribbean nations.

  • In Haiti, Tsai met with President Jovenel Moise, who praised Taiwan’s assistance "in agricultural and energy matters, as well as other investments essential to the development of Haiti."
  • Tsai's 4-day trip to St. Kitts and Nevis marked the first-ever visit by a Taiwanese president to the island of Nevis, where Tsai broke ground on a national park.
  • In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, President Tsai met with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and addressed the parliament to praise joint efforts on sustainable development.
  • Tsai concluded her trip in St. Lucia, where she met with government leaders and toured agricultural and infrastructure projects.

Yes, but: Notably absent from the itinerary were visits to Guatemala, Honduras and Belize — longstanding allies considered likely to switch support to China. Although these countries are not yet a lost cause, and all recently sent high-level visitors to Taiwan, Tsai's trip redoubled efforts with smaller allies.

  • The Trump administration has supported Taiwan and harshly criticized countries that have changed sides, but its efforts haven't reversed the larger trend.

What to watch: Taiwan’s Caribbean campaign is likely to buy time as China continues making economic inroads across the region. However, the emphasis on photo ops, symbolism and warm words over substantive new projects leaves an opening for deeper Chinese engagement that will likely irritate Washington when it comes to pass.

Daniel P. Erikson is managing director at Blue Star Strategies and a senior fellow at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. enters 6th day of nationwide protests over George Floyd's killing

A protest in Philadelphia on May 31. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The D.C. National Guard is being called to assist police with protests, per AP, as protests continue past the city's 11 p.m. curfew.

What's happening: Police fired tear gas into a crowd of over 1,000 people in Washington, D.C.'s Lafayette Square across from the White House one hour before Sunday's 11 p.m. curfew, AP reports. Earlier in the night, protestors held a stand off in Lafayette Square, after previously breaking through a White House police barricade. A fire in the basement of the city's historic St. Johns Church was extinguished.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Journalists get caught in the crosshairs as protests unfold

A man waves a Black Lives Matter flag atop the CNN logo outside the CNN Center during a protest in response to the police killing of George Floyd, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Dozens of journalists across the country tweeted videos Saturday night of themselves and their crews getting arrested, being shot at by police with rubber bullets, targeted with tear gas by authorities or assaulted by protesters.

Driving the news: The violence got so bad over the weekend that on Sunday the Cleveland police said the media was not allowed downtown unless "they are inside their place of business" — drawing ire from news outlets around the country, who argued that such access is a critical part of adequately covering protests.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Tanker truck plows into Minneapolis protesters

The tanker after plowing into protesters on the shut-down bridge in Minneapolis on Sunday evening. Authorities said it appeared protesters escaped injury. Photo: Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Minnesota authorities said in a statement they're investigating as a criminal matter what happened with a truck that "drove into demonstrators" on a Minneapolis bridge Sunday evening while the eight-lane road was closed for a protest.

What they're saying: Minnesota Department of Public Safety tweeted, "Very disturbing actions by a truck driver on I-35W, inciting a crowd of peaceful demonstrators. The truck driver was injured & taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He is under arrest. It doesn't appear any protesters were hit by the truck."