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Situating China in the Datasheet on the relationship between Taiwan & the Pacific Island States; By Sruthi Sadhasivam

Updated: Mar 6

Article: 08/2024

A data sheet has been curated to track the relationship status of Taiwan with the Pacific Island states. One of the chief objectives is also to understand the extent to which China poses a threat to the national security of Pacific Island states and to what extent it constitutes a significant factor in determining the relations of Pacific Island states with Taiwan. 

The nature of relationship between Taiwan and the Pacific island states have been depicted in detail (refer pgno.1, 2, 3 & 4). The nature of relations of Pacific Island states with Taiwan include trade relations, diplomatic relations or absence of official relations with Taiwan. Since 2019, about 3 Pacific Island States including Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Nauru have severed their relations with Taiwan and shifted their loyalty towards China. 

The objective behind curating an infographic on the availability of flight services (refer pg no. 4) between Pacific Island states and Taiwan was to find out if the Pacific Island states regardless of their absence of official ties with Taiwan had any connection at all with Taiwan. The presence of flights (be it direct flights or connecting flights) gives a hint about the nature of tourist arrivals and people to people ties between states. It is in this light, the author prepared an infographic mentioning the nature of flight services between Pacific Island States and Taiwan. It's interesting to note that Tuvalu and Marshall Islands, states that officially recognise Taiwan have only connecting flights to Taiwan. It can be noticed that Palau is the only Pacific Island state to have direct flights to Taiwan. 

Further, it can be deduced from the infographic that there are no direct flights between Pacific Island States (that have not established or have severed their diplomatic relations with Taiwan) and Taiwan. For instance, for people from Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to travel to Taiwan, they might have to go to Australia and get a flight to Taiwan. Likewise for countries like Samoa and Tonga they need to go to New Zealand to go to Taiwan. In the case of Fiji, one needs to go to Hong Kong to catch a flight to Taiwan. In the case of Papua New Guinea, people from the region will have to go to the Philippines to catch a flight to Taiwan. Finally in the case of Cooks Islands, people  will have to go to New Zealand, then to Hong Kong to get a flight to Taiwan. The need for acquiring a visa from the destination of connecting flights, increasing cost and travel time might prevent people from these regions from traveling to Taiwan and vice versa. 

For Taiwan to deepen its relations with its existing allies in Oceania, it becomes pertinent for the island nation to consider promoting direct flight services with Marshall Islands and Tuvalu. 

China as a threat to Taiwan’s Allies in Oceania 

At the moment of writing this piece, Taiwan has 3 diplomatic allies namely the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu. China  has been wooing the remaining allies of Taiwan to sever their relations with the latter. In light of the same, the author has attempted to track the threats posed by China to these 3 Pacific Island states (refer pgno. 5-21) that have reaffirmed their relations with Taiwan post its 2024 elections.  

The nature of the existential crisis of Palau and Marshall Islands is clearly illustrated in the letters drafted by the respective presidents of  Palau and Marshall islands to the US (refer pgno. 15 & 18). The letters have a clear mention of China’s use of grayzone tactics against them, virtually pushing them in a situation of strategic helplessness with the US failing to extend security and developmental assistance to them. 

From the datasheet it can be deduced that China has been threatening the security of the Pacific Island states by attacking their source of income (i.e) tourism and laying the foundations for submarine warfare by unilaterally sending its research vessels into the EEZ of Pacific Island states as witnessed in the case of Palau. Further, China has been attempting to impede the decisions regarding the conduct of  foreign relations made by the Pacific Island States as seen in the case of Tuvalu (refer pg no. 20). Apart from encroaching on the maritime territory of the Pacific Island states, China has been conducting influence operations in states such as Palau to promote opinions favourable to Beijing. What has come to limelight is Beijing’s use of its overseas citizens to threaten the sovereignty of the Pacific Island states (refer pg no. 12 & 13). China has been bribing the politicians from the Pacific Island states to destabilize the region internally and make the environment conducive to promote China’s ideals. A case in point is China’s attempt to create a mini-state within a state in Marshall Islands by wooing the politicians belonging to the opposition parties of Marshall Islands (refer pg no. (16 & 18). 

On a related note, the present allies of Taiwan- Palau, Tuvalu and Marshall Islands are indefatigable in their efforts to combat the security threats from China. Apart from intending to stay economically independent of China, these countries’ are resolute in securing their right to make independent foreign policy choices and in upholding their values of equality and democracy.  

Some significant inputs regarding flight services between Taiwan and Pacific Island states represented in the infographic were shared by Dr. Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer, France Ambassador to Vanuatu and Solomon Islands & Ms. Cleo Paskal, non-resident senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). The letters from Marshall Islands and Palau carried in the datasheet were shared by Ms. Cleo Paskal.  

Datasheet on situating China in the relationship between Pacific Island States and China
Download P • 5.88MB

Click here to view the datasheet:

(Sruthi Sadhasivam is a Research Officer, Chennai Centre for China Studies (C3S). The views expressed does not reflect the views of C3S)

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