Taiwan lost another diplomatic ally as El Salvador 20 Aug announced it was shifting its diplomatic relationship from Taiwan to China, fifth country to change alignment since Democratic People’s Party took power in Taiwan in 2016; brings number of countries that formally recognise Taiwan as Republic of China down to seventeen. U.S. and Taiwan criticised move; President Tsai said China’s behaviour “increasingly out of control”. Tsai made transit stops in U.S. 13-14 and 19 Aug during official visit to diplomatic supporters Belize and Paraguay; high profile trip part of apparent effort to push back at Beijing’s pressure, included public speeches and meetings with members of U.S. Congress; China lodged formal protests against both transit stops. Associated Press 18 Aug reported Taiwan has stepped up development and production of missiles and anti-missile systems. China’s State Council 18 Aug approved measures making it easier for citizens of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau to apply for residency permits and remain on mainland, latest measure intended to encourage ties.
After drifting toward crisis for much of 2004, the outlook for stability across the Taiwan Strait has improved.
Each side’s most preferred solution for resolving the continuing Taiwan Strait issue – in the case of Taipei, widely recognised de jure independence; and in the case of Beijing, reunification of China on the same ‘one country, two systems’ basis as Hong Kong – are both non-starters.
Apparently irreconcilable positions on the ‘one China’ principle have emerged between China and Taiwan over the last decade, with Taiwan for some time now asserting not only that it is a separate political entity but an independent sovereign country.
China's underlying position on its cross-Strait relations, however strong its current commitment to peaceful diplomacy, is that Taiwan must make sustained, visible progress toward a peaceful settlement or risk a resort to armed hostilities.
In the last decade, Taiwan has moved slowly but surely away from its commitment to the idea of ‘one China’, the proposition, long agreed on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, that Taiwan and the mainland are parts of one country.