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Pacific Island argument costs scholarships

Students from the Pacific island nations of the Solomon Islands and Kiribati studying in Taiwan on government-funded scholarships will likely see their studies cut short after both governments severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan earlier this month.

TaiwanKiribati and Solomon Islands students in Taiwan will likely be unable to complete their studies. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Taiwan specifically earmarks some for students from countries with which it has diplomatic ties

The two governments are now in the process of establishing diplomatic links with the People’s Republic of China. Due to a 70-year debate between the island and the mainland regarding who is the “real” China, Beijing will not maintain relations with any country that recognises Taiwan as a sovereign nation.

Taiwan offers a variety of scholarships to international students but specifically earmarks some for students from countries with which it has diplomatic ties.

“Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also committed to fly the students back to Solomon Islands at the end of the semester”

In recent years, several nations have defected from Taiwan’s side, leaving it with just a handful of allies, mostly among the Pacific Island nations and in South America.

Taiwan and China are currently engaged in a race in these regions to shore up support by offering funding for infrastructure development, community projects and scholarships.

Taiwan has condemned the decision of the two governments, accusing the Solomon Islands of accepting bribes and Kiribati of severing ties over Taiwan’s refusal to help them “purchase commercial aeroplanes”.

“According to information obtained by Taiwan, the Chinese government has already promised to provide full funds for the procurement of several aeroplanes and commercial ferries, thus luring Kiribati into switching diplomatic relations,” the Taiwanese government said in a recent press release.

China has advised Taiwan not to “presume others’ behaviour by their own pattern”.

Tamkang University in Taiwan currently has 18 students from the Solomon Islands and 20 students from Kiribati taking courses, most of whom are receiving scholarships from the Taiwanese government.

“After the severing of the relationship, the students usually, based on previous experiences, will be arranged by their country to either bring them home or transfer to mainland China and continue the study there,” a spokesperson from the university told The PIE News.

“If they are allowed to stay, our government and university will do everything possible to help them to complete their studies in Taiwan.”

The government of the Solomon Islands was quick to reassure those affected.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade wishes to assure all parents and guardians of students studying in Taiwan that Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has assured our office in Taiwan that the ministry will continue to fund all sponsored students’ education for this semester,” the government assured citizens via a press release on its website.

“Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also committed to fly the students back to Solomon Islands at the end of the semester.”

The 2018/2019 academic year saw the number of international students studying in Taiwan hit almost 57,000 – equivalent to almost half the entire population of Kiribati.

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