As the world turned attention to the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, China issued the latest indicators that it could do anything to curtail the influence of Taiwan on the global stage, including in Africa where the island has only one recognition.
On Friday, Lijian Zhao, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman told reporters it was Beijing’s sovereign right to oppose Taiwan’s accession to any international agreement.
“There is only one China in the world; Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory,” Mr Lijian said on Twitter.
“With regard to the CPTPP, we firmly oppose Taiwan's accession to any agreement or organisation of official nature.”
Beijing was referring to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), currently a 12-member trade pact that was initially known as Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Both Beijing and Taipei have this month applied to join, handing in requests just days between them.
The agreement includes Asian countries like Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Vitenam, as well as Canada, Australia, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, and Peru.
Both Beijing and Taipei see themselves as representing “one china”, although they differ on who should, or which territory should. In turn, Beijing has lobbied strongly across the world to see Taiwan dropped from official diplomatic representation and membership to organisations. In Africa, only the Kingdom of Eswatini (out of 15 countries in the world) still recognises Taiwan (officially the Republic of China) as independent state from China (officially the People’s Republic of China). It has often worked against official acceptance of Taiwan’s leaders as separate from China.
In the international organisations Taiwan belongs to, it has often opted to use a different reference: The Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu as shown in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Taiwan is also a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping.
Last week, Taiwan admitted it faced a risk of being blocked out of the treaty’s membership from Beijing’s aggressive campaigns against Taipei.
“China has been obstructing Taiwan’s international presence. If China is admitted into CPTPP ahead of us, it will definitely risk Taiwan’s entry to the trade bloc. It’s a very obvious fact,” John Deng, Taiwan’s leader of the negotiating team said in a statement last week.
China insists on ‘One-China’ policy, and included Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Inner Mongolia among territories it considers part of its wider borders, even though it allows them to run different systems of government.
But the bid by China to stamp authority on Taiwan has also involved territorial disputes. Earlier last week, Taiwan claimed 19 Chinese air force aircraft, including two capable of dropping nuclear weapons, strayed into its skies, known formally as the Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIA).
An Air Defence Identification Zone (Adiz) of a country is the airspace above the water or land and authorities often try to control traffic for security reasons even though they are usually not governed by international treaties. Taiwan’s zone was created after the WWI.
After the incident, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said it warned the fleet off the zone. This isn’t the first time they have bickered over zones though.
In July, Taiwan said it had tossed back into the sea some 700 kilos of fish captured by Chinese vessels, as punishment for “straying.” The crew was also initially detained.
In September last year, Beijing also flew 18 military aircraft over Taiwan, moments after a US Special envoy Keith Krach had met with Taiwanese officials.
At the time, China’s Ministry of Defence called it a measure of protecting Chinese territorial integrity. Beijing is in strong opposition to any exchange of interaction between Taiwan and other nations especially the US and made the statement known this year when it conducted another military drill after Joe Biden took office, in January, and later in March and April. The US, officially does not recognise Taiwan as independent state, although it has often treated it as a de facto separate international entity. The Adiz, for example was the creation of the US ostensibly to protect the island.
The incidents aroused a statement of concern from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), which is a defence pact between the US and its allies, mostly in the West.
At a Summit in Brussels, the leaders also said that China is building and expanding its nuclear weaponry at a swift speed while cooperating with Russia.
Taiwan claims it separated formally from mainland china in 1949, the year the Communist Party of China defeated the Nationalists. In 1971, the People’s Republic of China formally replaced the Republic of China as a member of the UN, and as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Beijing profited from massive support from Africa, at the time.
Today, Taiwan runs on a separate constitution and holds regular elections.
Since 2016, Beijing has been mounting pressure on the island on the government of President Tsai Ing-wen to prevent any legal decisions that might frustrate Chinese control over the island.
Currently, 15 states in the world have no diplomatic relations with Beijing, and recognise Taiwan. They include Belize, Guatemala, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Nicaragua, Palau, Paraguay, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland and Tuvalu.