History & Culture

What countries recognize Taiwan in 2023?

Taiwan’s diplomatic relations have long been a complex and contentious issue due to its unique political status and the dynamics between the Republic of China (ROC) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). With its official claim over the entirety of China’s mainland, Taiwan faces diplomatic challenges as it seeks international recognition while balancing the economic consequences of its stance. This article explores the context of Taiwan’s diplomatic relations, the significance of maintaining such relations, the evolution of its diplomatic allies over the past decade, and the countries with both official and unofficial ties to Taiwan.

Context of Taiwan’s Diplomatic Relations

Taiwan’s diplomatic relations are shaped by its unique political status and historical background. The government of Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China (ROC), considers itself on paper as the legitimate representative of all of China, including the mainland. This stance creates a complex diplomatic situation, as recognizing Taiwan as an independent state means recognizing the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China, which is incompatible with establishing diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Moreover, recognizing Taiwan can have significant economic implications for countries due to the vast Chinese market. Establishing official diplomatic relations with Taiwan often means losing opportunities to access this lucrative market, as the PRC would not be willing to trade with nations engaging with Taiwan diplomatically.

The Significance of Diplomatic Relations for Taiwan

Despite the economic challenges and limited benefits, Taiwan strives to maintain diplomatic relations with other countries. The primary reason for this is to assert its legitimacy as a sovereign state. According to the Montevideo Convention, a country needs to possess four qualifications to be considered sovereign: a defined territory, a permanent population, a government, and the ability to enter into relations with other states. By maintaining official diplomatic relations, Taiwan strengthens its claim as an independent nation and affirms its status as a legitimate government.

Losing diplomatic allies would jeopardize Taiwan’s sovereign status, as it would no longer meet one of the essential criteria. Currently, Taiwan’s diplomatic allies consist mostly of small and economically disadvantaged nations, with the exception of the Vatican City. Despite the economic costs associated with supporting these allies, Taiwan provides financial assistance in the form of funding, scholarships, and other support to “compensate” for the economic loss they incur by maintaining diplomatic ties with Taiwan instead of the PRC.

Countries with Official Relations with Taiwan

At present, Taiwan maintains official diplomatic relations with 13 sovereign states: Belize, Guatemala, Haiti, Vatican City, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tuvalu. These countries play a crucial role in supporting Taiwan’s international presence and advocating for its participation in global forums, despite the challenges they face in terms of economic limitations and political pressure from the PRC.

Evolution of Taiwan’s Diplomatic Allies in the Past 10 Years

Over the past decade, Taiwan has faced a significant decline in its diplomatic allies. This past 10 years the number of countries recognizing Taiwan has decreased more rapidly than in the previous 40 years. While some attribute this trend to the political actions of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the underlying factor is China’s increasing assertiveness toward Taiwan. As military intervention remains an unviable option for China, it resorts to alternative tactics, including poaching Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, to exert pressure and isolate Taiwan internationally.

Given the ongoing developments, it is likely that Taiwan will continue to experience the loss of its remaining diplomatic allies in the coming years. This situation poses significant challenges to Taiwan’s global recognition and its ability to actively participate in international affairs.

Countries with Unofficial Diplomatic Relations with Taiwan

While Taiwan has relatively few official diplomatic relations, it maintains unofficial diplomatic ties with 59 countries, three quasi-dependent territories, and the European Union. These relationships allow for various forms of engagement, such as trade, cultural exchanges, and cooperation in specific areas of mutual interest. In recent years, the number of countries willing to engage with Taiwan unofficially has been growing, demonstrating a broader recognition of Taiwan’s contributions and value as a responsible global actor.

Notably, Somaliland established a representative office in Taipei in 2020, demonstrating its willingness to engage with Taiwan on a non-official diplomatic level. In 2023, Lithuania also established diplomatic relations with Taiwan, marking a growing trend of countries seeking to engage with Taiwan on a non-official level.

Taiwan’s diplomatic relations are a delicate and constantly evolving aspect of its international presence. Despite the economic costs and the challenges posed by an assertive China, Taiwan continues to strive for recognition as a sovereign state through official diplomatic relations. While the loss of diplomatic allies has been a concerning trend in recent years, Taiwan’s unofficial relations with an increasing number of countries demonstrate a growing recognition of its value on the global stage. As Taiwan faces ongoing diplomatic challenges, its ability to navigate this complex landscape will determine its place in the international community and its pursuit of meaningful engagement with the world.

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