Despite the post-World War II emergence of many small states and growing economic interdependence, small state foreign policy still gets short shrift in international studies. This article seeks to enhance our understanding of the subject by examining the diplomatic recognition of Taiwan. At the time of writing, 23 countries in the world have picked Taiwan over China. This is puzzling at first sight, since China is much more powerful than Taiwan, and a vast majority of countries pick China over Taiwan. This article shows that a full understanding must simultaneously take into account the systemic, domestic and individual levels of analysis. This research lends itself to structural realism, which stresses the role of structural factors in foreign policies, especially among small states. On the domestic level of analysis, this study identifies three important factors: ideology, economy and geography. For structural and cultural reasons, major leaders of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies are found to have loomed large in the diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.