BEIJING (Reuters) - China will offer its new African ally Gambia support in infrastructure, agriculture, tourism and other areas, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his visiting Gambian counterpart, after the nation ditched ties with self-ruled Taiwan.
Gambia ended formal relations with Taiwan, claimed by China as a wayward province with no right to diplomatic ties, last year. Gambia’s new government, which took over from former long-time leader Yahya Jammeh this year, has pledged to continue relations with Beijing.
Wang told Ousainou Darboe at a meeting in Beijing that China was ready “to enhance cooperation with Gambia in infrastructure, agriculture, tourism and other fields”, China’s Foreign Ministry said late on Tuesday, without giving details.
Chinese and French companies are bidding to help Gambia build up its Atlantic port of Banjul to be what industry sources say could be a rival to neighboring Senegal’s Dakar.
It would be one of the first major structural changes in Gambia following the end of Jammeh’s more than 20-year rule in January.
Wang said the resumption of diplomatic ties had not only brought bilateral relations back to the right track but also opened up broad prospects for cooperation, the foreign ministry said.
Gambia would stick to the one-China policy, which asserts that Taiwan is part of China, and was looking forward to pragmatic cooperation with China in various fields, the ministry cited Darboe as saying.
Taiwan made informal contacts with the new government in an attempt to secure a change of policy, senior Gambian government officials have told Reuters.
For years, China and Taiwan have tried to poach each other’s allies, often dangling generous aid packages in front of leaders of developing nations.
China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan following the election of Tsai Ing-wen, from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, as president last year. China says it will never countenance an independent Taiwan.
São Tomé and Príncipe followed Gambia and switched recognition to Beijing in December.
In Africa, only Burkina Faso and Swaziland now recognize Taiwan.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait