Bucking The Trend, One Small African Region Is Taking Sides With Taiwan

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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As China’s economic ties to Africa entrench further, one small, semi-autonomous African region is resisting Chinese advances in a move that mirrors Taiwan’s efforts to maintain autonomy from China, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Somaliland, one of two remaining African political regions with formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, broke away from Somalia over 30 years ago but has yet to achieve recognition as an independent state at the United Nations, according to the WSJ. Beijing offered to build infrastructure projects in Somaliland if it would distance itself from Taiwan, but Somaliland refused, instead sending a delegation to Taiwan in February.

Somaliland is “open to all bilateral relations we can have with any country, but it has to be unconditional, no strings attached,” Essa Kayd, Somaliland’s foreign minister, told the WSJ. “We’re not going to allow anyone to dictate who we can have a relationship with.”

After a fire in April destroyed a Somaliland market, China’s ambassador to Somalia, Fei Shengchao, reached out to assist the breakaway state with economic recovery, the WSJ reported. He planned a visit to Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, including on his itinerary meetings with lawmakers, opposition leaders and students at local universities. (RELATED: China Walks Back Promise Not To Use Force In Taiwan ‘Reunification’)

“It was purely political,” Kayd told the WSJ.

Somaliland officials surmised that the Chinese government hoped Fei could recruit agents to sabotage Somaliland’s relationship with Taiwan, according to the WSJ. They turned down Fei’s offer of humanitarian assistance.

The parallels between Somaliland and Taiwan, a self-governing country, internationally considered part of broader China, place in stark relief China’s economic and cultural inroads with much of sub-Saharan Africa.

Somalia and China have deepened ties. Somalia’s state news organization published the Chinese ambassador to Somalia’s document, “One-China Won’t Change, Nor Will Taiwan’s Return to Motherland,” on Aug. 4, after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan triggered a spike in tensions between it and China, amplifying Somaliland’s connection to the conflict.

Somalia was also one of the first to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s signature project aimed at creating a global trading route, according to data from the Council on Foreign Relations. The U.S. and Western allies met in June to develop a Western-led alternative to the BRI, much of which will involve aid and development projects in sub-Saharan Africa.

Somalia “declares its full solidarity with the People’s Republic of China in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity… considering Taiwan an inalienable part of China’s territory,” the Somali foreign ministry said in a statement over the weekend, WSJ reported.

The Somaliland government, Chinese Embassy to Somalia and Somali Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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