Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei, capital city of Taiwan.
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Taiwan has long been in an interesting position. China officially claims it as a still non-reunited territory, while Taiwan essentially functions as a separate nation. It has its own prime minister, economy, and in some cases, recognition as a separate entity from China.

But that support from outside nations is wavering. Last month, Gambia cut all diplomatic ties from Taiwan, leaving the territory with just 22 countries worldwide that recognize it as a sovereign state. Gambia is the first loss of a country’s support that Taiwan has had for over five years, and some are blaming it on Chinese interference (for which there has been no evidence so far).

Many prosperous nations have economic relations with China, which is the second largest economy in the world. And in Africa, China is the lead investor. It is mostly smaller, poorer countries in Africa, Latin America, and the South Pacific that are supporting Taiwan instead.

But many economists say they don’t believe China would want to incite conflict at this point, as it would be harmful to later diplomatic appeals to Taiwan. And if China ever wants to reunite with Taiwan without bloodshed, it must have friendly diplomatic ties with it.

“I can’t see Beijing having any strategic interest in making Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou look diplomatically weak,” concurred Sean King, Park Strategies political consulting firm vice president.

Not having official recognition in the world scene makes it inordinately difficult for Taiwan to gain support; it doesn’t have a seat at the United Nations, can’t gain political ties from countries that have ties with China, and aren’t on the list for important global political gatherings. For example, Taiwan was unsure recently of whether or not they’d even be able to send a representative to pay respects to the late Nelson Mandela.

Will Taiwan ever gain its full independence from China, or will it someday be officially “reunited” with the world’s second largest economic power? That remains to be seen.