Somaliland: Burial Site for China’s Bullying

Somaliland and China to Establish Relations based on Mutual Respect
A new norm welcome for the chinese in Somaliland

Somalilandsun: The rising reputation of the Somaliland Republic as a functioning and viable state is beyond the bullying, the persuasion, and the pressure of China’s Dollar Diplomacy as the supreme decision makers and the ultimate driving force behind that success, in its entirety, rests with the Somaliland people, unlike many countries in Africa – a concept that is foreing to Beijing.

China has so far been unable to swallow Somaliland position on her new relationship with Taiwan, and is puzzled on how to go about resolving this issue with her. The relationship between Somaliland and Taiwan suddenly came to light on July 1, 2020, while the signing of the agreement took place way back in December 2019. The Somali and Chinese governments immediately reacted negatively, with each invoking the so-called doctrine of territorial integrity for the sake of justifying their claims over the respective countries.

China's Dollar Diplomacy suffered a devastating blow in a mission tasked to dissuade the Somaliland Republic from going ahead to forge diplomatic ties with Taiwan
China’s Dollar Diplomacy suffered a devastating blow in a mission tasked to dissuade the Somaliland Republic from going ahead to forge diplomatic ties with Taiwan

In the past 29 years, the Chinese government has not had direct contact with Somaliland Republic as a sovereign state for obvious reasons, and mainly its engagement and aid have been limited to Somalia, considering Somaliland Republic as part and parcel of Somali Federal Government based in Mogadishu by consciously choosing to believe the rhetoric of Villa Somalia without paying close attention to the realities on the ground in both countries.

Their perception of Somaliland hasn’t changed immediately, even after Somaliland responded with a strong and clear statement as to the remarks jointly made by China and Somalia. 

However, the attitude of Beijing abruptly softened when the White House’s National Security Council praised the bilateral relationship betweenTaiwan and Somaliland and the unexpected ensuing high level delegations that descended in Hargeisa from two political powerhouses in African content – Ethiopia and Egypt, both of which have been already in bed with Somalia and did not show much interest for the Somaliland case. 

Such developments have sparked debate and serious suspicions within the Chinese Foreign Ministry, with an assumption that the United States could have pushed the relationship between Taiwan and Somaliland, as well as delegates rushing from Egypt and Ethiopia. The sudden visit of the Chinese Ambassador to Somalia and the reinforcement from the Chinese foreign ministry reflect such sentiment.

China has created machinery to fulfill its ambitions in many parts of the world, for example the Forum on China and Africa Cooperation is designed to spearhead her soft power and influence in Africa. That mission is almost accomplished as only country that is not a member of this forum is Eswatini which has diplomatic relations with Taiwan.The bullying mentality that served China well in other parts of the world is in direct collision with the core democratic values of free market, freedom of speech, minority rights, and citizens civic duties which are the cornerstone of Somaliland’s journey to full-fledged statehood

Although neither side has offered any briefing or commented on the issues in question, few Somaliland websites have published reports from credible sources that indicated the Somaliland government has completely rejected the Chinese delegation’s demand.

Somaliland came out victorious at the end by strongly turning down the Chinese enticing goodies and cookies for mega projects in exchange of dumping Taiwan, and rather choosing to stay on the course of preserving and strengthening the democratic ideals and principles.

The nation of Somaliland has been around for some time and China never expressed interest whatsoever in it, but today the reason China eagerly and hastily engaging with Somaliland is very obvious – it does not want Taiwan to set foot in this Red Sea region.

Since 2016, few countries -The Solomon Islands,  the Republic of Kiribati, El Salvador, Panama, Sao Tome and Principe, the Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso – have severed ties with Taiwan, after China waged a well financed campaign isolating Taiwan diplomatically when the current president, a hardliner for Taiwan’s independence, won the election.

Somaliland and China to Establish Relations based on Mutual Respect
Somaliland President hosts a High Level Chinese Delegation

Taiwan maintains diplomatic relationship with only 14 out of 193 United Nations member states: Belize, Eswatini, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Nicaragua, Palau, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Tuvalu. These countries are either small Island countries with tiny populations mainly in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans or others in Latin America, all of which are far from the most crucial maritime route for global trade and commerce.

Deeply diving into this, China sees this relationship between Taiwan and Somaliland as a move emboldening people’s right to self-determination, and that is what worries her the most – an endeavor that is so dear to both the people in Somaliland and Taiwan.

Another dimension of this ball game forcing China to stand in the way of this relationship between Taiwan and Somaliland is a piece of legislation, the US Taipei Act, which offers Somaliland as well as any other country that forges ties with Taiwan many benefits. Below quoted excerpt just details that:

“Section 3, Item 2 of the US TAIPEI ACT, states that the U.S. should consider “increasing its economic, security, and diplomatic engagement with nations that have demonstrably strengthened, enhanced, or upgraded relations with Taiwan”

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and his Somaliland counterart Prof Yasin Faraton in Taipei

The notion that the Somaliland quest for recognition could be hampered by China and the decision to reach out Taiwan was a misguided step in the wrong direction at this time  ignores the potential benefits Somaliland can reap from the United States and Western European countries that side with Taiwan because of this bold move.

Since also the neighboring Djibouti is another theater for the contest between US and China, that in turn adds an interesting different flavor to the aggressive approach of China on Somaliland-Taiwan partnership.

Despite camping in Hargeisa for several days Chinese envoy to Somalia Amb Qin Jian failed to convince Somaliland to ditch Taiwan

No doubt that China’s Dollar Diplomacy suffered a devastating blow in a mission tasked to dissuade the Somaliland Republic from going ahead to forge diplomatic ties with Taiwan. For Somaliland Republic, this is a testimony of her commitment for pursuing and preserving the democratic values, and for the African continent and elsewhere, it is warning shots to reexamine their engagements and dealings with China 

By: Ahmed J Yassin 

Clinical Laboratory Professionals MT(ASCP)

Jacksonville, Florida USA