Beijing (CNN)The Dominican Republic has announced it has severed ties with Taiwan and switched its allegiance to China, reducing the number of countries with formal relations with the government in Taipei to fewer than 20.
China snatches Dominican Republic from Taiwan in diplomatic blow
In a hastily arranged ceremony, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his counterpart from the Caribbean country signed an agreement after the Dominican Republic moved to formally cut ties with the government in Tapei.
"Establishing diplomatic ties with China means unprecedented huge potential opportunities for the Dominican Republic's development," Wang said.
China refuses to maintain diplomatic relations with any country that recognizes Taiwan, a self-governed and democratic island off China's southeastern coast that Beijing considers an integral part of its territory.
Taipei reacted angrily to the news, which left the island with 19 diplomatic allies around the world -- mostly small and poor countries in the Pacific and the Caribbean, with the Dominican Republic being the largest before the latest development.
"The Dominican Republic has ignored our long-term partnership, the wishes of the people of the Dominican Republic and the years of development assistance provided by Taiwan to accept false promises of investment and aid by China," Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters.
Beijing and Taipei have a long history of rivalry in their efforts to gain economic opportunities and diplomatic support from governments around the world. With China's rapidly rising economic and political might, however, the race is increasingly tilting in China's favor.
Last year, in another major blow to Taiwan, Panama switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. There also have been strong indications that the Vatican -- Taiwan's most symbolically important remaining ally -- may follow suit in the near future.
China and Taiwan -- officially the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China, respectively -- separated in 1949 following the Communist victory on the mainland after a civil war.
The two sides have been governed separately since, though a shared cultural and linguistic heritage mostly endures -- with Mandarin spoken as the official language in both places.
Although both Beijing and Taipei view the island as part of China, neither government recognizes the legitimacy of the opposing side.
There is a strong pro-independe