Should the next president of Haiti, Jovenel Moise, break off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of China?

Posted by on Monday, December 5, 2016 Under: Diplomacy

Never in our history have we, as a nation, been obliged to re-evaluate one of our most delicate diplomatic relationships with one of our strongest and most important allies: The Republic of China, known as Taiwan.  However, the current legal status of Taiwan combined with our present socio-economic situation, the rapid globalization of the world and, the rise of the People's Republic of China as the globe's second largest economy and perhaps soon-to-be the world's largest, cannot leave Haiti indifferent to realities and opportunities, as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. 

Haiti, one of just 23 countries that recognize Taiwan as an independent state, has been one of Taipei strongest allies since establishing relations in1956; the second in Latin America to do so after Panama in 1954.  

Current Political Status of Taiwan

The People's Republic of China and Taiwan split six decades ago amid a civil war. The position of the People's Republic of China, commonly referred to simply as China, is that the Chinese Civil War never legally ended, therefore both fractions of the war belongs to the same sovereign country- China.

China also argues that the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758 passed on October 25, 1971, recognized the People's Republic of China as the "only legitimate representation of China(Taiwan) to the United Nations." Which means that China has legal authorities over Taiwan.

Taiwan on the other hand, believes that it is an independent, sovereign state because it possesses all the characteristics to legally defined itself as such.  

According to the Montevideo Convention of 1933, the most cited source for the definition of statehood, a state must possess a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. Taiwan meets all these criteria as it possesses a government exercising effective jurisdiction over well-defined territories with over 23 million permanent residents and a full-fledged foreign ministry.

Taiwan however has never outrightly declared its independence and China maintains that it would use military force, if ever necessary, and has adopted a
"One China policy."

Haiti-Taiwan Relation

Haiti is one of Taiwan most important allies, and the two have maintained very friendly relations over the past 60 years. Taiwan is one of Haiti's main trading partners and remains its dominant donor. During some years, Taiwanese aides represent a fifth of the Haitian government's budget. Examples of Aid packages include the improvement of infrastructures, construction of the Haitian supreme court, paying the salaries of police officers, providing training and materials to Haiti's rice farmers, the occasional tons of rice. Taiwanese presidents have visited Haiti, and so have Haitian president.

In a move that made China furious, Haitian President Michel Martelly on April 21, 2014, was in Taipei to celebrate 58 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. He was warmly welcomed by his homologue  M. Ying-Jeou MA  with Military Honor and a State Dinner was held later for him.


Haiti- China Relation

Since Haiti recognized Taiwan as an independent country, China and Haiti do not have diplomatic relations. Beijing has since, been diplomatically and economically pressuring Haiti into accepting Taiwan as part of China, and the two have clashed publicly numerous times over the sensitive issue.

- In 1996, Beijing, angry because the vice-president of Taiwan had been invited to Rene Preval's Presidential inauguration, threatened to use Its veto in the United Nations Security Council to end a peacekeeping operation in Haiti.  

 "It is unacceptable that cold-war games should be played again on this continent," Emilio J. Cardenas, Argentina's representative at the United Nations, said during during an interview about China's threat.  "This mandate must be renewed because it is what Haiti needs. Haiti has to be judged on its own merits and not because of a bilateral issue like its relations with Taiwan. It is for Haiti to decide in a sovereign fashion how to handle that."

Angered by Chinese efforts to cut back or stall the extension of a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti because of its relations with Taiwan, all the Latin American and Caribbean nations demanded immediate Security Council action and a rejection of China's demands.
Even Cuba, which at the time didn't have diplomatic relations with Haiti, joined the other regional nations and asked the Security Council members to end further Chinese obstruction of the proposed resolution that would station a peacekeeping force of about 2,000 troops and police officers in Haiti for another six months, as the Haitian Government requested. Haiti would reestablished diplomatic ties with Cuba that same month. 

- In 2004, following the ousting of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide, China quietly sent 125 riot police to Haiti as part of the UN force in the country. The deployment put heavy pressure on the Haitian government to break with Taipei and establish relations with Beijing.

-On March 27, 2006 then president-elect of Haiti Rene Garcia Preval, went to the United Nations to present the situation of his country after two years of political crisis and a provisional government.  
Ambassador Wang Guangya, Permanent Representative of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations, at the Open Debate of the Security Council on the Question of Haiti, addressed the assembly:

"Mr. President,
The Chinese delegation would like to welcome Your Excellency the Foreign Minister to the Council to personally preside over today's important open debate. We would also like to welcome His Excellency the president-elect of Haiti, Mr. Rene Garcia Preval, who has traveled here specifically to attend this meeting and make the important statement.  

Mr. President,
Since the 1990s, the situation of Haiti has been a focus of attention of the international community. Having lived through untold sufferings brought about by the turmoil in Haiti, the Haitian people yearn for peace and stability.

 ...China has an ancient saying that goes: "Rather than giving a man a fish, it's better to teach him how to fish". I think that the international community, in providing help to Haiti, should heed its concerns and ideas, continuously enhance Haiti's sense of ownership in the reconstruction process, and improve its "blood generating" capability. In view of the fact the Peace Building Commission has been established and will start functioning soon, we can consider listing Haiti as one of the candidates for consideration by the Commission in due time.

Mr. President,

Although China does not have diplomatic relations with Haiti for now, the Chinese people have always felt friendly and close to the Haitian people. China supports that the Security Council continue to watch closely the situation in Haiti and looks forward to an early submission by the Secretary-General, after consultations with Haitian leaders, of recommendations regarding the structure and mandate of MINUSTAH in the next stage. China also hopes that the political conditions for MINUSTAH to stay on will always be present. "

- In 2007, China again threatened to not renew the Security Council mandate for MINUSTAH, because Haiti's ambassador to the UN asked the General Assembly to consider Taiwan for permanent UN membership.    

-Following a catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, all eyes were on China to see if it was going to provide humanitarian assistance to Haiti despite not having diplomatic relations, and that the Taiwanese president was going to personally delivered a cargo with tons of aides and pledge $5 million. The Chinese government however wasted no time in dispatching a team of 15 rescuers along with several millions of dollars in aid, and later sent 45 or so medical staff.  At the same time, the PRC found a valuable opportunity to engender good will with Haiti, a country whose historically close relations with Taiwan have stood in the way of formal diplomatic relations.

Most of the Chinese peacekeeping police who were stationed in Haiti, died during the collapsed of the UN headquarters in Port-au-Prince during the quake. A burial ceremony was held at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing, an honor bestowed only upon those of national importance. The ceremony was also attended by top Chinese officials, including then President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

- In a dramatic move in 2013, China kept Haiti out of the U$ 3 billion support fund in the form of concessional loans to those Caribbean Community countries that support the One China Policy of the People's Republic of China.

Consequences of changing diplomatic relations with Taiwan

A change in the diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Haiti would have global consequences. First, it would be a catastrophic diplomatic loss for Taiwan. 

Second, Haiti, the oldest republic in Latin American and the Caribbean does wield some influence over its neighbors, severing its relations with Taiwan in favor of China could provoke a chain reactions among the other 11 Caribbean and Latin America countries that recognize Taiwan.

Such a move would also require Haiti to violate one of its most cherished core values. Haiti as the first black republic, throughout centuries has always maintained a firm policy of open arms to all territories fighting for self-determination.

It was under that policy that Haiti provided military and monetary aides to Simon Bolivar that would later help him liberate numerous Latin American countries. (click here) That same policy was invoked in 1821 when helping Greece in its war for independence.

How Haiti helped Greece in its fight for independence

Haiti also continues to recognize Palestine as an independent country under the same policy, as it has done after World War II for Algeria, Ethiopia, Libya and many other African nations.

Should the next president of Haiti change the diplomatic relations with Taiwan?

Last November 20th presidential elections in Haiti, saw Jovenel Moise, the businessman, elected as President with 55.67% of the votes. His pledge to open Haiti to international investments, will make it even harder for his business friendly administration to continue to ignore China as the latter investments in the region widens.  Even if the next president of Haiti doesn't change the relations with Taiwan, sooner or later Haitian officials will have to decide if not having diplomatic ties with China is in their economic interest.

Perhaps, Haiti should take a closer look at how Chinese investments in African countries with the same cultural and socio-economic attributes as itself, have alleviated millions out of poverty.

In : Diplomacy