With No Military, Small Country Palau Stands Up to China
Palau is the 16th smallest country in the world. It has a population of only 21,000, and has no military force to protect itself from foreign aggression. And yet, it had the courage to stand up to China.
Palau’s President Surangel Whipps rejected China’s demands that the country stop talking to Taiwan. In a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP), Whipps says Palau will not be bullied by anyone, least of all by China.
“We shouldn’t be told we can’t be friends with so and so,” Whipps told AFP. “I’ve had meetings with them and the first thing they said to me before, on a phone call, was, ‘What you’re doing is illegal, recognizing Taiwan is illegal. You need to stop it,’” he said.
Why China Pressured Palau Over Taiwan
The United Nations implements the One China Policy, which asserts there is only one official country under the name “China.” Both the governments in Taipei and Beijing assert themselves as the rightful leaders of China.
Taiwan was once recognized as a sovereign state and had a seat in the United Nations until it was kicked out in 1971 in favor of China.
The majority of the world’s countries maintain relations with Taiwan, even though it is technically considered a part of China. The United States—Taiwan’s most powerful strategic ally—recognizes the One China Policy in principle, but maintains military agreements with Taiwan. It provides missiles and other hardware to the island to defend against possible attacks from the mainland.
China’s Charm Offensives
Since 1971, China has been working the diplomatic networks to persuade countries to drop their recognition of Taiwan as an independent state. Today, very few countries have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
In 2019, China managed to persuade Kiribati and the Solomons—two island nations near the Philippines—to drop relations with Taiwan. The switching of sides was lubricated using economic carrots.
Today, a string of small island nations remain as the last diplomatic allies of Taiwan. They are the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu.
The Philippines maintains informal relations with Taiwan through the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Makati. This functions as Taiwan's de facto consular office or embassy.