Pallavi Aiyar

A diplomatic coup for Beijing

Beijing: In what is being seen as a diplomatic coup for Beijing, Chad has become the latest country to switch recognition from Taiwan to the People's Republic. China's official news agency Xinhua confirmed that Chad and China had resumed diplomatic relations following the signing of a communiqué between Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and Chadian counterpart Ahmad Allam-mi, late on Sunday night.

"The Chadian Government recognises there is only one China in the world," the communiqué stated adding that "Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory."

Chad's move is a blow to Taiwan whose Premier Su Tseng-chang was forced to cancel an imminent visit to the oil-producing African nation. Ms. Su had been due to fly there on Sunday to attend the inauguration of Chad's President Idriss Deby, who was re-elected to a third term in early May.

Taiwan has protested the move by Chad, which reduces the island's diplomatic allies to 24. China and Chad had established a formal diplomatic relationship in 1972 but ended it in 1997 when Chad's Government switched its allegiance to Taiwan, an island that enjoys de facto independence but that is regarded by Beijing as an integral part of China with no right to independent diplomatic relations.

China has been in contact with Chad to make it change sides for several months. Its success is reportedly tied to Beijing's offer of help to help resolve an insurrection and mediate in the Chad-Sudan conflict. Since 2000, China has in fact won over seven of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, including-Liberia and Senegal. It is achieving this in part through a judicious economic diplomacy focused on giving handouts of thousands of dollars in aid and investment in return for support on the Taiwan issue. Thus for example, following Senegal's breaking off of relations with Taiwan in October last year, China announced debt cancellation worth $18.5 million, with $3.7 million for the construction of hospitals, roads and other infrastructure.

While in the early 1990s there were still more than 20 African countries that recognised Taiwan, following Chad's move, there are now only five, a fact that underlines China's growing economic and diplomatic clout in the resource-rich continent.