Taiwan has 22 diplomatic allies, mostly small countries that look to it for development aid. China and Taiwan, political rivals of seven decades, used to play checkbook diplomacy to buy off each other’s friends and Taiwan with bigger aid packages, and Taiwan came out the net loser before the two sides called a truce in 2008 to pursue stronger relations with each other. China sees self-ruled Taiwan as part of its own turf rather than as a country entitled to foreign relations, hence the fighting. More countries, about 170, recognize China largely because of its global economic clout.
The Vatican matters to Taiwan because it’s the only ally from a developed part of the world and represents confirmation for Taiwan’s democracy along with a “rebuke” to its old rival China, notes Alan Romberg, East Asia Program director with Washington think tank the Stimson Center.
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