Honduras becomes the new front on the US-China Taiwan issue

Taiwanese diplomats ride a roller coaster.When they are intoxicated from Japan With the West, they are worried about Honduras’ allegiance-one of the few countries that ignores China’s diplomatic relations with Taipei.

Left-wing politician Xiomara Castro (Xiomara Castro) elected president Last week, during the election campaign to establish diplomatic relations with China, it was promised that Taipei’s diplomatic allies would be reduced to 14.

Alliance partners and Castro’s aides subsequently gave up this promise, but many observers believe that Honduras will eventually stand on China’s side.

The tug of war between the United States and China for influence in Central America—Washington has long dominated political and economic positions and regarded as its strategic backyard—has shrouded the ever-changing relationship.

Evan Ellis said: “The end of the diplomatic truce between Beijing and Taipei, the financial needs of Central American governments, China’s growing economic importance, and vaccine diplomacy are all pushing these countries away from the United States and turning to China as a partner. “Professor of the U.S. Army War College, studying the relationship between Latin America and China. “Another reason is the resurgence of populist leaders in the region.”

In the past five years, Beijing has poached three of Taipei’s allies in Central America and the Caribbean: El Salvador, Panama, and the Dominican Republic.

4%

Honduras owes China’s foreign debt, 0.01% to the United States

But since El Salvador made the transition in 2018, the United States has PostponeWashington has recalled its ambassador and included Salvadoran officials accused by it of supporting Beijing’s corrupt and undemocratic practices on the sanctions list. Some analysts believe that the United States will prevent Honduras from approaching China at all costs.

Washington had to deal with the massive wave of immigrants from the country.almost 320,000 Between October 2020 and September 2021, US law enforcement agencies encountered Hondurans at the southern border, equivalent to more than 3% of the country’s population.

Honduras is also of strategic importance to the United States because it owns the Joint Task Force Bravo Air Base, which is Washington’s most important military unit in the fight against Latin American drug networks.

“The United States will not let Honduras leave because it is vital to homeland security,” said Antonio Young, an expert on Latin America in Taiwan and an emeritus professor at Tegucigalpa National Defense University.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian Nichols, traveled to Honduras at the last minute before the election and met with Castro. Analysts said the meeting was partly to prevent her from accepting China. A spokesperson for Castro did not respond to a request for comment.

The United States remains an important partner and largest market for Honduras. Honduras is a fragile democracy threatened by drug trafficking, corruption and gang violence. Its economy shrank by 9% last year. One-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product comes from remittances, mainly from the United States, while nearly one-third of exports, including coffee, bananas and sugar, come from the United States.

Honduras, as the host of the joint task force Bravo, is of strategic importance to the United States. It is the most important military unit in Washington’s fight against the Latin American drug network ©Orlando Sierra/AFP via Getty Images

But China has become more and more active. Last year, a state-owned enterprise completed the construction of a 105 MW hydroelectric dam in Honduras. According to data from the World Bank, the country owes 4% of its foreign debt China And only 0.01% US.

Margaret Myers of the Washington think tank Dialogue Organization of the Americas said: “China has a wide range of participation at the local level, just like in all of Latin America, including trade promotion and sister city activities.” “We also see the Chinese Communist Party. The International Liaison Department aims to promote formal relations activities.”

Castro said in her speech Activity The shift to China’s relationship will give Honduras economic opportunities, Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccines and low-cost drugs.

But most business elites in Honduras are keen to keep in touch with Taiwan, worrying about harming American relations that they consider vital.

Luis Larach, who owns tourism, energy, and real estate businesses, believes that Honduras should focus on nearshore businesses—trying to attract US companies to move factories from Asia to the region—to drive economic growth.

“You don’t need a lot of information to determine our huge development potential in the United States,” he said. “The historic diplomatic relationship with Taiwan is good for our country and our region, and I think it should continue.”

But Taiwanese analysts worry about Beijing’s growing economic influence.

“Of course, the influence of the United States is waning, while the influence of China is increasing,” said Antonio Hsiang, a Taiwan professor at the Chilean National Institute of Political and Strategic Studies and the editor of a new book on relations between Taiwan and Latin America. “Although the United States is the main aid country of Honduras, the corruption is so serious that the Honduran people are rare.”

Some people believe that history can help influence Castro. Her husband, Manuel Zelaya, was deposed as the president in a coup in 2009. Many analysts believe that the United States acquiesced in the coup. “Castro will definitely remember this, and Taiwan may have to pay for it,” Xiang said.

Honduran scholars played down this point and emphasized that the relationship between the two countries may remain strong given that the United States needs reliable allies in the region.

“It’s really hard to know what will happen,” said Julio Laudales, vice president of the National Autonomous University of Honduras. “It will depend on how effective the negotiations with the United States are.”

Analysts believe that regardless of the final decision, postponing the discussion is in Castro’s interest.

Myers said: “Their recognition of Taiwan is a useful leverage point to attract support or at least less criticism from Washington.” “Once diplomatic relations are established, Honduras’ importance to China will diminish. This is their only bargaining chip. They use it and it disappears.”

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