Xi’s growing list of allies MAPPED as China’s Taiwan takeover looms

Russia: Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Xi Jinping

Few could have foreseen just over a year ago that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine would empower China to make a serious challenge to the Western-led world order. Over the past decade, President Xi Jinping has leveraged his country’s economic might into a geopolitical giant, leaving very few who dare oppose its territorial ambitions. Check Express.co.uk’s interactive map below to see the nations most likely to take China’s side.

Last week, Xi spent three days as Putin’s guest in Moscow, promoting the “friendship” between the two leaders as well as the “no limits” partnership between the countries they rule.

China had abstained from both UN votes condemning the invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of the country’s eastern regions. Yet, it and Russia’s relationship still remained under scrutiny, with hints that Xi may be moving away from Putin in the early days of the war — something that has all but changed now.

Economically, Beijing has pounced on the cheap Siberian crude exports that would have found their way to the EU were sanctions not in place – up eight percent on the year. Geopolitically, president Xi is looking to gain far more.

Having only emerged from the self-isolation of harsh coronavirus lockdowns in the past few months, it has quickly become clear that China intends to seize on the opportunities of the Ukraine war to take on the US’ authority on the global stage.

While Washington throws ever more lethal military hardware at the conflict – totalling roughly £40billion after just over a year of fighting – Beijing has sought to frame itself as the chief peace broker, presenting Moscow with a 12-point drawdown plan.

In October 2017, President Xi told his Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that it was time for them to “take centre stage in the world.” Since then the country has consolidated its grip on vital trade routes by peppering the South China Sea with military bases.

More recently, it has upped the ante in its ambition to bring the small island democracy of Taiwan – separated by less than 100 miles of water – back into the mainland’s fold. China’s international allegiances may be commerce-focused in practice, but it has long maintained a policy of refusing to engage with any country that recognises the government in Taipei.

As part of its decade-old Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing has poured billions into infrastructure megaprojects from Montenegro to Mombasa. Africa has been an especially popular target, with Chinese loans to African governments peaking at $28.4billion (£22.9billion) in 2016, according to Chatham House. Only the small landlocked nation of Eswatini still has full diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

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Earlier this month, Honduras became the latest entry on a long and growing list of countries to have ditched the independent island state in favour of trading with Asia’s economic behemoth. 

Beijing has successfully converted a number of Taipei’s allies in Central America and the Caribbean – including Nicaragua as recently as 2021 – leaving it with just 13 sovereign backers.

Having long maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity”, the US appeared to informally make its bed on the side of Taiwan – the dominant player in the global semiconductor industry – with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi making an official visit last August. Tensions between the powers have been close to boiling point ever since.

In February, the US obtained permission to use an additional four military bases in the Philippines to complete its chain of Pacific alliances stretching from Australia to South Korea.

Washington also appears to have responded to its loss of influence in Africa – laid bare by its decreasing willingness to side with the West against Russia – as it dispatched Vice President Kamala Harris to the continent on a nine-day tour.

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