The Gambia gambit
TAIWAN and China, which claims the independent island-nation as part of the motherland, used to play a joyless slogging game called “dollar diplomacy”. In it each side competed with lorry-loads of cash and other inducements to get small, impoverished and often ill-run nations to switch their diplomatic allegiance. It was a game that Taiwan was steadily losing until, as a gesture of goodwill on the ascension of a China-friendly president in Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, China suddenly suspended it in 2008. The score: Taiwan 22, China 172.
Yet on March 17th China suddenly resumed play, by establishing diplomatic ties with Gambia, once a Taiwan ally. Mr Ma was on a state visit to Belize, one of Taiwan’s surviving friends, when the news broke. He said it was very wrong. In Taiwan there was outrage. The mainland affairs ministry said China’s move ran contrary to the mutual trust that Taiwan and China had built up over eight years.
But the game is being played not against him, but rather against his successor, Tsai Ing-wen, who takes office on May 20th. So far as China is concerned, the trouble with Ms Tsai is that she heads a party, the...