Taiwan International and Cross-strait – March 2020

Vice President-elect Lai

VP-Elect Lai Makes U.S. Visit

When Vice President-elect William Lai visited the U.S. in early February, the highlight of the trip was his attendance at the invitation-only National Prayer Breakfast, an event that was also attended by President Trump. Although Lai stressed that his trip was made in a personal capacity, he is the highest-ranking Taiwanese leader to visit Washington, D.C. since diplomatic relations were cut in 1978. During his visit, Lai also met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as Senators Marco Rubio, Jim Risch, Robert Menendez, and Cory Gardner, all known for their support for Taiwan.

China Puts Pressure on Eswatini

China is ramping up political and economic pressure against Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), a small absolute monarchy in southern Africa that is Taiwan’s sole remaining diplomatic ally on the continent. On February 1, the country’s news outlets published a strongly worded statement by the Chinese ambassador to South Africa, outlining a policy closing off visa services to Eswatini citizens at all PRC embassies and consulates-general except for the one in Pretoria, South Africa.

The statement, titled “No Diplomatic Relations, No Business Benefits,” said the policy was a response to Eswatini’s continuation of official ties with “the Taiwan authorities, a province of the PRC.” It characterized the Taiwan-Eswatini relationship as “immoral and abnormal” and a violation of the “One-China Principle or policy.”

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on February 3 responded that it had been in contact with top Eswatini officials over the matter, and that the kingdom remains a staunch ally of Taiwan. In a statement, Ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou said that “Eswatini has reiterated its firm intentions to deepen its diplomatic relations with Taiwan, even in the face of pressure from China.”