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African Region Stands Up to China in Amazing Way

  As China’s economic ties to Africa entrench further, one small, semi-autonomous African region is resisting Chinese advances in a move tha...

 As China’s economic ties to Africa entrench further, one small, semi-autonomous African region is resisting Chinese advances in a move that mirrors Taiwan’s efforts to maintain autonomy from China.

Somaliland, one of two African political regions with formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, broke away from Somalia over 30 years ago but has yet to achieve recognition as an independent state at the United Nations, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Beijing offered to build infrastructure projects in Somaliland if it would distance itself from Taiwan, but Somaliland refused, instead sending a delegation to Taiwan in February.

Somaliland is “open to all bilateral relations we can have with any country, but it has to be unconditional, no strings attached,” Essa Kayd, Somaliland’s foreign minister, told the Journal. “We’re not going to allow anyone to dictate who we can have a relationship with.”

After a fire in April destroyed a Somaliland market, China’s ambassador to Somalia, Fei Shengchao, reached out to assist the breakaway state with economic recovery, the Journal reported. He planned a visit to Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, to meet with lawmakers, opposition leaders and students at local universities. 

“It was purely political,” Kayd told the Journal.

Somaliland officials surmised that the Chinese government hoped Fei could recruit agents to sabotage Somaliland’s relationship with Taiwan, according to the Journal. They turned down Fei’s offer of humanitarian assistance.

The parallels between Somaliland and Taiwan, a self-governing country China considers part of its own territory, place in stark relief China’s economic and cultural inroads with much of sub-Saharan Africa.

Somalia and China have deepened ties.

Somalia’s state news organization published a document by Fei titled “One-China Won’t Change, Nor Will Taiwan’s Return to Motherland” on Aug. 4 after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan triggered a spike in tensions between the island nation and China.

Somalia was also one of the first to join the Belt and Road Initiative, a Chinese project aimed at creating a global trading route, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The U.S. and Western allies met in June to develop a Western-led alternative to the BRI, much of which will involve aid and development projects in sub-Saharan Africa.

Somalia “declares its full solidarity with the People’s Republic of China in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity … considering Taiwan an inalienable part of China’s territory,” the Somali foreign ministry said in a statement over the weekend, the Journal reported.

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