China puts pressure on Somaliland over Taiwan relations
HARGEISA, Somalia - China dispatched her envoy to Somalia on Sunday to Hargeisa, the capital of secessionist Somaliland, a move which comes amid booming diplomatic ties between Taiwan and Somaliland, following the signing of a cooperation deal between the two parties.
Ambassador Qin Jian arrived in Hargeisa on Sunday and sources intimate that he's set to meet top officials from Somaliland, but it's not clear whether he will be meeting President Muse Bihi Abdi, as China shifts focus on reigning over Taiwan following recent diplomatic missions aimed at pushing for her recognition.
Taiwan, commonly known as The Republic of China, runs a parallel government despite China's persistent claim that the region belongs to her territory. Both Beijing and Taipei have been at loggerheads for several decades now, a move that has derailed international recognition of the latter.
According to classified reports, the chief envoy will hold talks with Somaliland's Foreign Affairs department and would discuss the recent cooperation between Hargeisa and Taipei, which has since been disapproved by both Beijing and Mogadishu. Somalia also claims the Somaliland region, which seceded almost three decades ago.
Jian's trip to Hargeisa comes days after Taiwan's Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Wu revealed the pact between Somaliland and Taiwan, which was first signed in February 2020. The cooperation saw the two regions dispatching representatives in their capitals to "boost" diplomatic ties.
Before the pact was made public last month, Ambassador Quin Jian is said to have visited Somaliland where he persuaded Bihi Abdi to cut links with Taiwan. However, the envoy's trips have been largely a disappointment after the two nations signed the deals and established consulates in both Hargeisa and Taipei.
On July 4, Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo had held talks with Chinese Ambassador to Somalia Qin Jian, focusing on the need for respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the two countries. Taiwan and Somaliland's quest for recognition also featured in the meetings.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian recently said China firmly opposes the establishment of official institutions or any form of official cooperation between the Taiwan authorities and Somaliland because they are "not recognized" entities.
“We noticed and appreciate that the Somali government reaffirmed its adherence to the One-China principle and condemned Taiwan for undermining Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said. "There is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. The one-China principle is a universally recognized norm governing international relations and an international consensus."
But the US through the White House National Security Council recently approved the cooperation between Hargeisa and Taipei, another move which could further complicate the matter. Both US and China are members of the United Nations Security Council, which approves the creation of new sovereign states.
Najah Adam, an analyst, says that: "President Muse Bihi and Ambassador Qin Jian are less likely to agree on a way forward. Positions held by the two parties are irreconcilable. Beijing’s package can’t be swallowed in Hargeisa. The price to expel Taiwan is unaffordable for both sides."
But Abdirashid Hashi, the Director Heritage Institute of Policy Studies, a Mogadishu-based, think tank, believes that Somaliland cannot afford to ignore China because "These days the whole world needs China". China is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, putting it at unprecedented rivalry with the US in the process.
"Between China and Taiwan Somaliland needs China [even for recognition purposes as a Permanent Security Council member]; In the eyes of China ‘recognition’ of Taiwan is registered as a violation of her sovereignty and is seen as a redline," he argues.
However, Rashid Abdi, another Horn of Africa security and political analyst, dismisses China's dominance assertions, arguing that "Somaliland will gain nothing from China except a lot of pain. Ask the rest of East Africa. Better stick with Taiwan President Bihi".
Somaliland is keen to get international recognition and has recently been reaching out to the US, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Egypt in a series of shuttle diplomatic trips. However, Ethiopia and Egypt have taken their differences to Hargeisa, after the latter expressed interests to establish a military base in Somaliland.