Taiwan, which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sees as a breakaway province, has official diplomatic ties with only 15 countries.
Over the years, countries have avoided establishing official ties with the island, mostly due to the CCP’s policy that any country that wants to have diplomatic relations with mainland China must break official ties with Taiwan.
The CCP has used coercion and aid to coax countries away from Taiwan. Its campaign to squeeze Taiwan’s diplomatic space has succeeded on many occasions. In 2019, China managed to get the Pacific island nation of Kiribati to break ties with Taiwan by promising economic assistance. Taiwan has lost at least seven allies since 2016.
China’s poaching of Taiwan’s allies has continued even as the world fights the Covid-19 pandemic. Apart from coercion and offers of economic aid, the CCP has been using ‘vaccine diplomacy’ to get Taiwan’s allies to ditch the island in favour of China.
But recently, the CCP’s scheme to use access to Covid-19 vaccine as a tool to poach Taiwan’s allies ran aground in Paraguay, thanks to India.
Last month, Taiwan had revealed that it would help Paraguay, one of a handful of countries that recognise it as a sovereign nation, to get Covid-19 vaccine. This was prompted by China’s aggressive behind-the-scene effort to get the landlocked South American country to break ties with Taiwan to get access to the Chinese vaccine.
The government of Paraguay was under intense domestic pressure as protests and violent demonstrations broke out in different parts of the country against the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.