MEXICO CITY – Honduras’ decision to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China is another sign of growing Chinese influence in Latin America.
For decades, the Asian superpower has poured billions of dollars into capital and infrastructure projects across the region. Now that geopolitical tensions between China and the Biden administration are simmering, that spending has paid off.
Honduras’ decision was the second foreign policy coup in a week for China, which negotiated an Iran-Saudi Arabia deal last week to resume diplomatic ties.
Honduran Foreign Minister Enrique Reina told the AP on Wednesday that Hondurans are “grateful” for their past ties with Taiwan, but that their economic ties with China ultimately prompted their government to sever diplomatic ties.
“These are political decisions. The world has moved in that direction,” said Reina. “It is a complex decision, as we understand, but Honduras’ foreign policy should aim to benefit the people. We believe this move will benefit the country.”
The Central American nation follows the steps of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic in turning its back on Taiwan.
Tuesday’s Honduras announcement comes as a blow to the Biden administration, which has been trying rather unsuccessfully to persuade countries in the region to stick with Taiwan. Taiwan, a US ally, has been pushing for sovereignty, while Chinese President Xi Jinping has insisted the island is firmly under his control.
In that sense, Tuesday’s announcement is also an example of the American government “losing sight of Latin America,” said David Castrillon-Kerrigan, research professor of China-related issues at Colombia’s Externado University.
“For countries like Honduras, failure to recognize the government in Beijing has meant missing opportunities,” Castrillon-Kerrigan said. The United States is “definitely losing influence on all fronts, especially on the economic front, but also diplomatically, politically and culturally”.
While some, like Paraguay, have told the AP they remain firmly on Taiwan’s side, the island is left with a dwindling number of allies. Reina told the AP that the Biden administration must “understand and respect the needs of Honduras and the decisions that we are sovereign in making.”
Over the past two decades, China has slowly carved its place in Latin America by pumping money into the region and investing in major infrastructure, energy and space projects.
According to the United States Institute of Peace, the Chinese invested more than $130 billion in Latin America between 2005 and 2020. Trade between China and the region has also skyrocketed and is expected to reach more than $700 billion by 2035.
This investment has led to growing Chinese power and a growing number of allies.
In Honduras, this took the form of the construction of a hydroelectric dam project in central Honduras, built by the Chinese firm SINOHYDRO with about $300 million in Chinese government funding.
In the meantime, the US government has not come up with similarly large projects in many countries.
While many view the investment as a positive move for nations that often struggle to pool funds for development, some, like June Teufel, a professor of political science at the University of Miami, worry about the long-term implications of China’s rise could .
Teufel said China is wielding this new influence as a “diplomatic weapon.”
In many countries in Africa and Latin America, Chinese investments have been hampered by the increasing debt of developing countries. In many cases, infrastructure projects could only be repaired by Chinese companies, causing a higher bill, Teufel said.
“It’s a bit like the drug dealer saying to the potential customer that the first dose is free,” says Teufel. “It makes another country leave Taiwan, which it has long wanted to do, and deprive Taiwan of all its remaining allies.”
Associated Press correspondent Daniel Politi contributed to this report from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2023/03/15/honduras-ditching-taiwan-raises-larger-geopolitical-concerns/ Honduras’ abandonment of Taiwan raises major geopolitical concerns