Taiwan Loses Panama to China

Panama’s Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo (L) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shake hands as they exchange documents after signing a joint communiqué on establishing diplomatic relations, in Beijing on June 13, 2017.

Taiwan Loses Panama to China

The island just got lonelier.

Taiwan has lost one of its precious few allies. Panama cut diplomatic relations with Taiwan on Tuesday. The Panamanian government said there was “only one China” and Taiwan is part of it. This is another blow to the independence of a small island nation trying to keep free from the Communist control of China.

Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, is an island about 140 miles wide at its widest point and is located in the northern part of the South China Sea, about 110 miles east off the coast of China.

After World War ii, China suffered a civil war as the Chinese Communist Party (ccp) and the republican Kuomintang party (kmt) fought to fill the power void left by the Japanese. The ccp brutally conquered mainland China and the kmt fled to Taiwan, claiming to be the sole legitimate government of all China.

The kmt battled for international recognition, maintaining its goal of retaking the mainland, but by the 1970s, it was clear that was not going to happen.

Both governments in mainland China and Taiwan insist that countries cannot recognize both of them, so Panama switched sides. Financially, it’s hard to blame Panama.

China is the second-biggest user of the Panama Canal. Since 1999, the Trumpet has tracked and reported how Chinese companies have gained control of the majority of the ports and loading bays of the Panama Canal, the latest of which was bought in June of last year. Chinese investment in the Central American nation is growing as Chinese companies are developing the purchased ports in Panama and developing the land around the Panama Canal.

Taiwan has no chance of matching the investment, so there’s no stopping the diplomatic loss. Now there are only 20 countries that extend Taiwan diplomatic recognition. China has nearly cut Taiwan out of international society completely.

The few supporters of Taiwan are mostly small Caribbean islands and non-influential Latin American allies. Taiwan’s only European diplomatic partner is the Vatican, but if China and the Catholic Church ever resolve their disagreement on the right to appoint bishops, it doesn’t look like that would hold.

Taiwan has steadily lost diplomatic allies since the United Nations switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing’s People’s Republic of China in 1971. Few nations want to anger an economic giant.

Isolated Taiwan is getting lonelier.

Since 1998, the Trumpet has forecast that Taiwan will lose what independence it has, and Taiwan’s loss of Panama as a diplomatic ally is one more step toward that result. Taiwan’s situation is only going to get worse now that China has gained strategic control of the South China Sea and the U.S. continues to be an unreliable ally.

While recent focus has been put on China building militarized island bases to expand its control of the South China Sea, don’t lose sight of how China is slowly reasserting control of one of the Sea’s larger islands—Taiwan.