May 2, 2018 / 2:43 AM / 6 months ago

China media say Taiwan has sour grapes as another ally goes

BEIJING (Reuters) - Taiwan has a case of sour grapes, Chinese state media said on Wednesday, after the self-ruled island accused China of using a $3-billion aid pledge to persuade the Dominican Republic to switch long-standing diplomatic ties to Beijing.

A police officer stands next to the Dominican Republic flag (L) inside the Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei, Taiwan, May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

China, which denied there were any economic pre-conditions for establishing relations with the Caribbean nation, says Taiwan is simply a wayward province with no right to state-to-state ties.

Taiwan’s government says the Dominican Republic accepted false promises of aid from China. A Taiwan official told Reuters that China had dangled a package of investments, financial assistance and low-interest loans worth at least $3.1 billion to the country, which shares an island with Haiti to the west.

The overseas edition of China’s ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily said Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive Party was unfairly trying to cast aspersions on the move.

“Once again they are playing the shirking responsibility game of laying the blame on others, creating tragedy and inciting confrontation, slandering the Dominican Republic’s choice of China with an axe to grind,” it wrote in a front page commentary.

However, it added, the real story was that the Dominican Republic abandoned Taiwan because that was the irresistible trend of the times and what the people demanded.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reiterated on Wednesday that no “coercion or trade” was involved, saying the decision was “right and proper, and fair and above board”.

The changeover leaves Taiwan with formal relations to just 19 countries, many of them poor nations in Central America and the Pacific, such as Belize and Nauru.

Widely-read Chinese tabloid the Global Times said Taiwan was now a step closer to having no diplomatic allies.

“In the end, Taiwan’s diplomacy will be suffocated,” it added.

China and Taiwan have tried to poach each other’s allies over the years, often dangling generous aid packages in front of developing nations, though Taipei struggles to compete with an increasingly powerful China.

Beijing has stepped up the pressure on Taiwan since the 2016 election of Tsai Ing-wen, from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, as president. China fears she will push for Taiwan’s formal independence, but Tsai says she wants to maintain the status quo.

The official China Daily said there was now “shrinking space for secessionists’ tricks” and that nearly all of the international community recognized Taiwan was an inalienable part of China.

“It shows that no matter how hard the Taiwan authorities try to maintain the island’s ‘international space’, their efforts to secure recognition of the island as an ‘independent country’ are doomed to failure,” it said in an editorial.

The Dominican Republic is the fourth country to cut ties with Taiwan since Tsai came to office, following the Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe and Panama.

The Vatican is possibly next, as the Holy See and China edge closer to an accord on the appointment of bishops there.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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