Last week, Taiwan became more isolated than ever. Panama is the latest country to break relations with Taiwan, known officially as the Republic of China, and instead recognize Beijing, the People’s Republic of China, leaving the island nation only 20 countries that recognize its legitimacy. This trend is not new: The two Chinas have battled for recognition since they separated after the Second World War. Yet this holdover conflict from the Cold War really only matters today for Taiwan and mainland China. For those countries that receive economic benefits for recognizing one over the other, it is only a matter of who offers more investment, aid, and infrastructure.
This game of winning over countries with aid and infrastructure has been the norm since mainland China and Taiwan separated in the 1950s, following China’s brutal civil war. After being run out of the country by Mao Zedong’s Communist Party, the nationalist Kuomintang led by Chiang Kai-shek established their government in Taipei, declaring Taiwan to be the “real China.” The People’s Republic of China, on the other hand, sees Taiwan as a renegade province and has as its ultimate goal its reunification with the rest of China — their so-called One-China Policy. Since then, the two nations have been fighting over who is the “real” China by obtaining the recognition of other countries.
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