Written by By By Patrick White, CNN
China’s expanding diplomatic reach has taken another step forward with Nicaragua announcing that it will officially sever ties with Taiwan in April.
An expert on Taiwan from the University of Pennsylvania said the move showed Beijing’s efforts to assert its claims over Taiwan had paid off.
“This is probably the most important diplomatic defeat of Taiwan,” said Douglas Paal, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Asia Program.
“This clearly means that Beijing is closing the political door on the island in a way it has never done before.”
The Central American country becomes the first country to follow China’s example, cementing the Chinese Communist Party’s hegemony over the former Nationalist State.
The news comes on the same day that Nicaragua announced it will be severing diplomatic ties with the Vatican, joining a growing list of countries to cut ties with Rome.
One official said Nicaragua’s president Daniel Ortega, who wants to bolster relations with China, had made the decision while viewing a map with China’s red cross and Taiwan’s yellow cross on it.
Significantly, Taiwan was not included in the map.
‘Potentially the biggest blow’
Both decisions — the Vatican and Nicaragua’s — were made after a deadline for governments to switch their diplomatic relations to Beijing set by the Chinese and Vatican governments passed.
China’s embassy in Colombia made a similar announcement on Friday. Earlier in January, Namibia also said it would end ties with Taiwan.
The diplomatic shift, which comes after more than six decades of formal links, is a major win for Beijing.
Paal said in terms of sheer numbers it was significant, but far from a game-changer.
“This is the largest number of countries in the world to completely sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan,” he said.
However, Paal said he believed China would continue to work in other countries’ favor, urging other countries to do the same.
“This is a big win, but it’s also potentially the biggest blow that Taiwan’s political future has faced in the past six decades.”