Bucking the trend, a small African region occupies Taiwan’s side

As China’s economic ties with Africa deepen, one small, semi-autonomous African region is resisting Chinese advances in a move that reflects 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 more than 30 years ago but has yet to receive recognition as an independent country at the United Nations, according to the WSJ. Beijing offered to build infrastructure projects in Somaliland if it distanced itself from Taiwan, but Somaliland declined and instead sent a delegation to Taiwan in February.

Somaliland is “open to any bilateral relationship we can have with any country, but it has to be unconditional, without any strings attached,” Essa Kaid, Somaliland’s foreign minister, told the WSJ. “We will not allow anyone to dictate who we can have a relationship with.”

After a fire in April destroyed a market in Somaliland, China’s ambassador to Somalia, Fei Shengchao, reached out to help the breakaway country’s economic recovery, the WSJ reported. He plans a visit to Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, including meetings with lawmakers, opposition leaders and students at local universities in his schedule. (RELATED: China reneges on pledge not to use force in Taiwan ‘unification’)

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

Somaliland officials suggested that the Chinese government hoped Fei would hire agents to sabotage Somaliland’s relations with Taiwan, according to the WSJ. They rejected Fay’s offer of humanitarian aid.

The parallels between Somaliland and Taiwan, a self-governing state internationally considered part of a wider China, make clear China’s economic and cultural inroads into much of sub-Saharan Africa.

Somalia and China have deepened their ties. Somalia’s state news organization published the document by the Chinese ambassador to Somalia, “One China will not change, nor will the return of Taiwan to the motherland,” on Aug. 4, after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan sparked a spike in tensions between him and China, deepening 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 flagship project aimed at creating a global trade route, according to data from the Council on Foreign Relations. The US and Western allies met in June to develop a Western-led alternative to the BRI, much of which would include 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,” Somalia’s foreign ministry said in a statement over the weekend, the WSJ reported.

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

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