The president of Sao Tome and Principe, a small nation off
the coast of Africa, is presumed to be traveling in China this month. As
ordinary as that sounds, the visit by the leader of a diplomatic ally of Taiwan
has set off sirens in Taipei’s foreign ministry. Sao Tome may be sniffing
around for an alliance with Taiwan’s political rival China instead, the fear
goes. That would leave Taiwan with 21 allies and China, a global economic
magnet, more than 170.
“As a practical matter, there are lots of countries that
value Taiwan’s participation in international activities, and as long as that
can be preserved, most of them don’t really care about the diplomatic
formalities,” says Alan Romberg, East Asia Program director of The Stimson
Centre, a Washington-based think tank.
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