Magazine article African Business

Defying China Is No Longer a Viable Option: Links with China Are Now So Valuable That African Countries Cannot Afford to Upset Beijing

Magazine article African Business

Defying China Is No Longer a Viable Option: Links with China Are Now So Valuable That African Countries Cannot Afford to Upset Beijing

Article excerpt

The diplomatic spat following the now infamous telephone call between then president-elect Donald Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen last December has thrust the long-running dispute over the island's international status back into the limelight.

At the heart of the matter is the so-called One-China policy. Beijing regards the island as a renegade province, and expects any country desiring to maintain relations to sever all ties with Taiwan.

The incident raises the wider issue of standing up to Beijing on core issues such as democracy and human rights. At worst, maintaining good relations with China can lead to kowtowing to, and by extension legitimising an authoritarian state at the expense of democratic norms.

The issue is highly relevant to Africa, where Chinese influence now permeates most aspects of economics and politics in many countries. South Africa, for example, has repeatedly denied the Dalai Lama a visa to visit the country, most recently resulting in the cancellation of a Nobel peace summit in 2014. The incident led to widespread criticism, especially given the history of South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle.

More recently, an unauthorised trip to the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, by the mayor of the South African municipality of Tshwane resulted in his being accused of treason by the ruling African National Congress. Nigeria has also faced some criticism for instructing Taiwan to move its trade mission to the country from its capital, Abuja, to the commercial centre, Lagos. …

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