Eighteen countries and the Vatican still recognize Taiwan. The Vatican in particular has been watched closely for signs it could switch, as China’s historically confrontational ties with the Catholic Church have eased somewhat in recent months.
“Today’s event will create a stream of diplomatic switching from Taipei in a matter of months, if not in years,” Richard W. Hu, a professor of politics at the University of Hong Kong, said in an email. Beijing no longer observes the “diplomatic truce” of the Ma Ying-jeou era, and “will continue to pull Taiwan’s diplomatic partners away in years to come.”
China has made blunt shows of force, including military drills in the Taiwan Strait last month that officials said were planned with Taiwan in mind.
But the Dominican Republic’s switch shows that China has the diplomatic means to pressure Taiwan as well, said Ross Feingold, a Taipei-based senior adviser at DC International Advisory, a political risk consultancy.
“We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that China can be a bully, but they also have their legal channels as well to make the point about their claims to sovereignty over this island,” he said.
Ms. Tsai tweeted Tuesday that Taiwan would “never bow to pressure from Beijing.”
“I want to make clear: We will continue to safeguard our #freedom & #democracy,” she wrote on Twitter. “We will defend our own national interests.”