And then there were 19. The Dominican Republic on Tuesday severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan and established relations with China, tracking regional neighbors Panama (June 2017), and African nation São Tomé and Príncipe (December 2016), in succumbing to the lure of red dollar diplomacy.

Reuters reported that China offered US$3.1 billion worth of investments and cut-price loans to entice Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina to turn his back on Taiwan, a sum that Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) referred to as "an astronomical number" while expressing Taiwan's deep sadness at the move.

The Reuters report, which cited an unnamed Taiwanese official as a source, added that the package included promises to build a US$400-million freeway, as well as US$1.6 billion for infrastructure projects and US$300 million for a new natural gas power plant. These investments would supplement a US$10-million aluminium tubing facility that opened in April, the first Chinese plant to break ground in the Caribbean country.

In any case, Santo Domingo had been inching away from Taiwan for several years, and perhaps the departure of such fickle friends is no great loss to Taiwan, even as the ongoing boxing of its interests by Beijing, spurred by the Communist Party's antipathy to the administration of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), is hard to stomach.

Foreign Affairs Minister Wu issued a warning that similar Chinese promises of financial aggrandizement in Costa Rica have failed to materialize, but amid suggestions that Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, could be the next to abandon Taiwan, the writing is on the wall -- Taiwan cannot compete with China's economic incentives.

In the long-term, this leaves morality as Taiwan's sole reliable counterweight to Chinese pressure, and the Vatican is by far the most important domino yet to fall to Beijing's lure.

But led by pro-Beijing Pope Francis and amid recent signs of rapprochement after the Holy See bowed to Beijing on the issue of the appointment of bishops in China, even the Catholic Church itself may abdicate moral responsibility in return for improved access for the world's largest market for souls.

We can but pray for the contrary.

Read Next: CARTOON: Xi Whistles in the Wind

Editor: David Green