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China, Chad Re-Establish Diplomatic Relations, Upsetting Taiwan


China and Chad have re-established diplomatic ties after the African nation agreed to sever ties with China's democratic rival, Taiwan. The switch of allegiance has upset Taipei, which has steadily lost to its powerful rival Beijing in the competition for diplomatic recognition.

China and Chad restored diplomatic relations on Sunday after a nine-year gap, during which the Central African nation had recognized Taiwan as a nation. China refuses to establish relations with any state that recognizes Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province. Chad had dropped recognition of Beijing in 1997 and established ties with Taiwan.

The latest diplomatic switch came just hours after Taiwan pre-emptively severed diplomatic ties with Chad on Sunday. Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang had planned to visit Chad the same day, but suddenly cancelled the trip.

Joseph Cheng, a professor of political science at City University of Hong Kong, says Beijing's growing economic power and influence were largely responsible for Chad's diplomatic switch.

"Certainly China has an appeal in the sense that it is perceived as a major power, especially one with the power of veto at the United Nations Security Council," he said.

Taiwan has long been losing the diplomatic battle to the mainland. With the loss of Chad's support, Taiwan is now recognized only by 24 nations, almost entirely small and poor African, Latin American, Caribbean and Pacific island states.

Taipei has been courting nations for diplomatic recognition since 1971, when it lost China's United Nations seat to Beijing.

In their competition for diplomatic supremacy, Taipei and Beijing have often relied on "dollar diplomacy" - offering aid, investment, and trade to impoverished countries like Chad.

Cheng says the frequent changing of Chad's commitment shows how a small country like Chad can profit by playing Beijing and Taipei off against one another.

"I believe Chad has been rather skillful in squeezing economic assistance from either Taipei and Beijing, promising to switch diplomatic recognition," Cheng said.

Taiwan split from China in 1949 after years of civil war, but Beijing still claims the self-governing island as a province of China.