Taiwan hits out at Chinese ‘bullying’ after Guyana U-turn

Taipei was supposed to open a representative office in the South American country, but the move triggered anger in Beijing.

Taiwan's foreign ministry said because of Chinese pressure Guyana had 'unilaterally' decided to back out of the deal, and it expressed deep regret it was unable to get the decision reversed [File: Ben Blanchard/Reuters]

Taiwan has blamed Chinese “bullying” for Guyana’s decision to revoke a deal for the island to open a representative office in the South American country, saying it had tried without success to get Guyana to change its mind.

Taiwan had already begun initial operations at the office, in effect a de facto embassy, last month. It had been welcomed by Washington and condemned by Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own territory with no right to state-to-state ties.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said because of Chinese pressure Guyana had “unilaterally” decided to back out of the deal, and Taiwan expressed deep regret it was unable to convince them to reverse the decision.

“We express our strongest dissatisfaction and condemnation of the Chinese government once again bullying and compressing Taiwan’s international space and Taiwan’s participation in international affairs,” the ministry said.

China’s continued efforts to isolate Taiwan in the international arena run counter to declarations by its leaders that it is against bullying and that “no one with thick arms and big fists has the final say”, it added.

“The Chinese government’s way of saying one thing and doing another will only highlight its evil nature and alienate people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”

Quick reversal

Beijing had condemned the agreement, which was announced only on Thursday.

During a press briefing on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin urged the Guyana authorities to “take effective measures and correct the mistake”. The two countries have maintained diplomatic relations since 1972.

Following Beijing’s reaction, Guyana quickly reversed its decision on the same day.

“The Government has not established any diplomatic ties or relations with Taiwan and as a result of the miscommunication of the agreement signed, this agreement has since been terminated,” said the Guyanese authorities through a statement.

Guyana also said it would honour the “one China” policy. Guyana is located in northeast South America near the Caribbean, where Taiwan has managed to keep four diplomatic allies.

China has gradually whittled away the number of countries which still maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan and now only 14 do, including Haiti, Nicaragua and tiny Nauru in the Pacific.

Taiwan, however, scored a small diplomatic victory in 2019 when Tuvalu turned down China’s offer of $400m to build artificial islands, in favour of maintaining relations with Taipei.

Tuvalu later signed an historic investment agreement with the US, giving it access to debt and equity financing for infrastructure projects, seen as a reward for sticking with Taiwan.

The United States has been particularly concerned at China’s efforts to grab Taiwanese allies in Latin America and the Caribbean, a traditional area of influence for Washington.

In 2018, the United States attacked El Salvador’s decision to ditch diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favour of China, saying the change was of grave concern to Washington and warning that China was offering economic inducements to seek domination.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies