In August 2013, Reuters reported that Beijing had been gaining soft power with investment commitments and trade with countries in Latin America.
However, instead of jumping on the chance to make new allies, China stalled requests to establish diplomatic relations with the countries to avoid galling Taiwanese voters.
Beijing was also courting then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), and the tactic left China with a trump card if cross-strait relations turned cool.
China had rebuffed at least five countries’ requests to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing, the report said, quoting a China analyst.
Honduras could become the ninth diplomatic ally, and also the fifth country in Latin America, that Taipei has lost to Beijing since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office, following Nicaragua in 2021, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic in 2018, and Panama in 2017.
Rather than blame Tsai’s government for losing allies because of failed diplomacy, the more likely possibility is that those diplomatic allies already showed signs of switching allegiance during Ma’s administration, and were just waiting for Beijing’s cue to jump ship.
Rather, the efforts of Tsai’s administration meant that diplomatic relations continued for several more years.
In the face of Beijing’s silver bullets, and a diplomatic policy that has the long game in mind, the decreasing number of Latin American allies proves that the “diplomatic truce” policy adopted by Ma’s administration is one based on wishful thinking and sticking one’s head in the sand. It has left a severe string of repercussions in its wake.
Huang Wei-ping is a former think tank researcher and a resident of Kaohsiung.
Translated by Rita Wang
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