Timor-Leste The Dragon’s Newest Friend

“On May 20, 2002 Timor-Leste (leste means ‘East’ in Portuguese) commonly referred to in the English language as East Timor became an independent and sovereign state. China became the first country to establish diplomatic relations with the newly established nation and has since maintained a growing presence on the island. On May 22, 2002, just two days after the country’s independence, China became the first country to establish diplomatic ties with East Timor followed by India a few hours later.1 Since the establishment of diplomatic ties, (bi-lateral) relations have developed smoothly. Three main factors have driven Beijing’s policy towards East Timor: Firstly, China’s growing engagement with Timor-Leste is part of its overall expansion into Southeast Asia and its strategy to balance the United States’ influence in the region. Secondly, Timor is likely to become an ASEAN member in 2012 which adds further incentives. The country’s potentially large oil and gas reserves are unlikely to have gone unnoticed to an energy- thirsty China. Thirdly, China remains preoccupied with the possibility of Taiwan co-opting the fledging state into its camp. While the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) presence in Timor pales in comparison to its presence in other Southeast Asian countries, it has grown rapidly and in a very short period of time. From a position of marginality in Timor’s affairs just five years ago, China has grown to become a major player in the territory causing some apprehension in Australia which tends to view Timor as its exclusive patch.”

Click to read the full article Timor-Leste The Dragon’s Newest Friend, Loro Horta, 2009.

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