Diplomatic ties with São Tomé and Príncipe terminated

  • Date: 2017-01-09

I. Background

The Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe is an island country with a population of about 200,000 located in the Gulf of Guinea, just off the coast of West Africa.

Taiwan established formal diplomatic ties with São Tomé and Príncipe in May of 1997, and subsequently played an active role in helping its ally promote national development through bilateral cooperation efforts in public hygiene and health care, agriculture, infrastructure, energy and education. A national malaria prevention and control project was especially successful, reducing the incidence rate of malaria from 50 percent in 2003 to 1.01 percent in 2015. That success led the World Health Organization to announce in 2013 that São Tomé and Príncipe had entered the “pre-elimination stage” for malaria, a significant development.

Facing major financial difficulties, São Tomé and Príncipe had recently requested that Taiwan provide massive financial aid. When that aid was not forthcoming, São Tomé and Príncipe decided to terminate formal diplomatic relations on December 21, 2016. To uphold national dignity, Taiwan decided to terminate diplomatic ties that same day and closed its embassy, recalled its technical mission and ended all bilateral cooperation projects. Five days later, on December 26, São Tomé and Príncipe signed a communiqué with China to resume their diplomatic relationship.


II. Foreign relations based on “steadfast diplomacy, mutual benefits, and mutual assistance”

After taking office in May of 2016 President Tsai Ing-wen unveiled a new diplomatic approach based on “steadfast diplomacy, mutual benefit, and mutual assistance.” The “steadfast diplomacy” approach seeks to “expand the ROC’s international space through sure-footed means, sharing Taiwan’s experiences, values and technologies with international friends to contribute to world prosperity and peace.”

The old mentality of one-way assistance has thus been replaced with new thinking focusing on mutual benefits, with mutually beneficial cooperation projects conceived based on “making expenses public and transparent” to increase bilateral interaction and exchanges.


III. Terminating diplomatic ties with São Tomé and Príncipe to uphold national dignity

A. In diplomatic affairs, Taiwan has consistently maintained the principles of integrity and mutual benefit, contributing to the development of its allies to the best of its abilities. But due to São Tomé and Príncipe’s financial plight and subsequent demands—which Taiwan could not reasonably satisfy—the São Tomé and Príncipe government ignored 20 years of friendly diplomatic relations and played the two sides of the Taiwan Strait against each other, holding out for the highest bidder. The Taiwan government regrets and condemns this abrupt and hostile decision.

B. China often uses “checkbook diplomacy” in the international arena, manipulating the so-called “one-China principle” to induce countries like São Tomé and Príncipe to sever official ties with Taiwan. Under its “steadfast diplomacy” policy, however, Taiwan has not engaged China in a financial competition on the diplomatic front. China’s behavior thus harms its relationship with Taiwanese, undermines cross-strait stability, and contradicts the peaceful development of cross strait relations that it claims to advocate.

C. Taiwan has taken a consistent position and policy approach dedicated to helping its allies develop and contributing to the international community. Guided by the principles of “steadfast diplomacy”—equality, reciprocity and co-prosperity—the government will continue to review all of its diplomatic aid programs. Future international cooperation projects will continue to focus on public hygiene and health care, agriculture, infrastructure, energy and education to promote the overall development of the nation’s allies.


IV. Conclusion

Mainland China’s so-called “one-China principle” cannot unilaterally negate the fact that the Republic of China (Taiwan) is a sovereign independent country.

Taiwan’s commitment to expanding its participation in international affairs and steadfast diplomacy policy will not change. The nation will continue to contribute to the international community and work together with countries around the globe, fight to attain its rightful national status, enhance the welfare of its people, and advance the international values of freedom and equality.