China pushes Pacific island countries to pivot away from Taiwan

Beijing attempted to coax two PIF leaders last week

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Nauru flags at the 2018 Pacific Islands Forum

Nauru flags at the 2018 Pacific Islands Forum (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China is challenging Taiwan’s supremacy in the Pacific; one of the country’s last support strongholds.

Australia’s ABC News reported last week that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials had tried to convince Pacific island leaders that the CCP is the rightful government of both China and Taiwan, and that Taiwan should be excluded from the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

The politicians in question did not wish to be named, as it would risk harming ties with Beijing, they said. They believe the Chinese government is also pressuring the PIF secretariat, ABC reports.

Taiwan is not an official PIF member but has been regarded as a “development partner” since 1993. The forum has acted as an important platform for the country’s navigation of collaborative projects and diplomatic dealings.

Six of the 16 countries that maintain full diplomatic relations with Taiwan—Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Soloman Islands and Tuvalu—are members of the organization.

PIF Secretary-General Dame Meg Taylor created unease earlier this month by suggesting Pacific island nations forge bilateral deals with larger countries and consider a new formal dialogue between the PIF and China. “To a large extent, Pacific Islands Forum countries have been excluded from the sorts of financing, technology and infrastructure that can enable us to fully engaged in a globalised world,” ABC News quotes the Papua New Guinean diplomat.

Researcher at the Australian National University Dr. Graeme Smith believes China’s efforts are likely to further entrench Taiwan’s relationships with its six PIF allies rather than harm them.

If the Communist state were to forge ties with these Pacific nations, however, it would make it difficult for the U.S. and Australia to maintain influence over the region, UK newspaper The Telegraph quotes China researcher Michael Cole. “Pacific nations have become a new battleground for influence as China seeks to expand its sphere of influence,” he said.