Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Taiwan Loses "Recognition" from El Salvador (Map)

You can always find the latest version of this map, and a list of all related articles, on our Which Countries Recognize Taiwan? page.

Map of who recognizes Taiwan (what countries recognize the Republic of China) in August 2018. Marks countries that have cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan (withdrawn recognition) in the last ten years: El Salvador, Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Gambia. Also answers question: Where is Republic of China located? (Colorblind accessible)
Click to enlarge. By Evan Centanni, modified from public domain blank world map.
Contact us for permission to use this map.
Article by Evan Centanni

El Salvador Drops Taiwan

Flag of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Short Name (informal):  
• Taiwan (English)
• ROC (English)
• Táiwān (Chinese)
Official Name (in constitution):  
• Republic of China (English)
• Zhōnghuá Mínguó (Chinese)
Other names used officially:  
• "Republic of China (Taiwan)" (government offices)
• Chinese Taipei (international sports)
• Taiwan, Province of China (used by UN without Taiwan's input)   
Taipei (de facto)
Claimed by: People's Republic of China 
Disputed Taiwan lost its official endorsement from the Republic of El Salvador today. The small but densely-populated Central American country is cutting ties with Taiwan's government in favor of setting up relations with Mainland China, becoming the latest to endorse the Mainland's claim that Taiwan is part of China.

In a novel twist, reports said Taiwan's government "pre-emptively" cut ties with El Salvador just hours before the Salvadoran government publicly announced the switch. But the move was still based on a decision by El Salvador, which Taiwan officials said had been holding talks on the possibility since June.

Is Taiwan a Country?

The islands of Taiwan operate like an independent country today, but are governed under the constitution of the "Republic of China" (ROC), the government that ruled Mainland China before the country's communist revolution (the administration that now rules the Mainland is called the People's Republic of China, or PRC).

Since 1991, Taiwan's government has sought recognition separate from Mainland China in the UN, without challenging the PRC's right to the Mainland. But because the Mainland government insists Taiwan can't be separate, it cuts ties with any countries that set up relations with Taiwan, even if they want to stay friends with China too.

"Economic Reasons"

El Salvador's government is calling its shift away from Taiwan the only reasonable choice in a world where China is one of the most powerful economies, saying that it will bring more opportunities in the future. El Salvador has never before had diplomatic relations with the PRC. Alluding to the fact that the ROC no longer governs most of China, a Salvadoran spokesman was quoted as saying, "El Salvador can’t turn its back on international reality."

Taiwan's government, on the other hand, described more specific motivations. The disputed country's foreign minister accused El Salvador's president of asking Taiwan to fund his re-election campaign, and said the Salvadoran government had also backing for an expensive port construction project that would have left both countries in debt. (Some speculate that if China steps in to fund the port, it could eventually host the first Chinese military base in the Americas.)

Though Taiwan's dwindling list of diplomatic contacts may not be a critical threat to its self-governing status, these changes are not merely symbolic. Even aside form the economic ramifications for El Salvador, many average people on both sides may be affected. For example, Salvadoran students in Taiwan are about to see their studies cut short, being forced to either transfer to Mainland China or return home.

Learn More: What Exactly is Taiwan, and Do Countries Really "Recognize" It?

Republic of China: Shrinking Recognition

Today, only 17 countries in the world (about 9%) still have formal diplomatic relations with the Taiwan-based "Republic of China" government - the closest equivalent to officially "recognizing" Taiwan as a country. That includes 16 United Nations (UN) member countries plus UN observer state Vatican City.

El Salvador is the fifth country to drop Taiwan since the current ROC president, whose platform involves resisting Mainland Chinese influence, took office in 2016. Before El Salvador, the last four countries to switch to China were the Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso this May, Panama in June 2017, and São Tomé and Príncipe in December 2016.

Only one country, the Gambia, abandoned Taiwan between 2008 and 2016, during a "diplomatic truce" initiated by Taiwan's most Mainland-friendly president (even then, the PRC waited until Taiwan elected its current president before restoring its own relations with the Gambia).

Graphic of the Republic of China (Taiwan) flag is in the public domain (source).