Taiwan’s Protracted Caribbean Battle Finally Nets St. Lucia

Taiwan’s Protracted Caribbean Battle Finally Nets St. Lucia

"St. Lucia is a sovereign state; an independent nation; we're a democratic country, therefore what is the fuss all about? China or Taiwan, which one should it be? Which one should we tie? We must tie-one. I say we must tie-one."

-- Edmund Estaphane, St. Lucian MP, speaking to parliament, April 30

SHENZHEN, China -- Two different tussles took place in the Caribbean in the months of March and April; both involved the island-nation of St. Lucia to some degree, and both had such an air of inevitability that the final result elicited few gasps of surprise. One was the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, global cricket's quadrennial centerpiece, an event so bloated that it required nearly two months to complete and was played in a number of Caribbean cities, including Castries in St. Lucia. Almost as a matter of course, the winners of that tournament were the Australians, a brutally strong and frighteningly committed band of men dressed in yellow, who ripped to pieces all before them. Victory in the second tussle had been looming in the horizon for more than four months, but was obtained in far more cloak-and-dagger fashion. When St. Lucia announced resumption of diplomatic ties with Taiwan on April 30, it brought to a climax to weeks of secret visits, newspaper speculation and, inevitably, public pronouncements from China -- first insecure pleas for reassurance, and then angry denunciations. On May 5, the PRC finally cut diplomatic ties with the West Indian nation, ending a 10-year period of friendship.
For those who had been following St. Lucia's (and China-Taiwan) politics closely, none of the events were particularly shocking. When the party of Sir John Compton, "father of St. Lucia's independence," came back to power in December 2006, many had expected the resumption of ties with Taiwan. After all, it was Compton, "Papa" to St. Lucians and "old friend" to Taiwan foreign minister James Huang, who had established ties with the ROC in 1984. The nation switched allegiance to China when the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP), led by Kenny Anthony, won the elections in 1997. Last year, when Compton's United Workers Party (UWP) returned to power, it assured Chinese Ambassador Gu Huaming that it would not resume diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Less than five months later, it went ahead and did exactly that. This long-awaited diplomatic victory for Taiwan came after a protracted struggle in the West Indies, and took its total number of allies to 25.

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