In the end, the old game of checkbook diplomacy is like a big auction where the one who is willing to make the most non-refundable investments wins. For example, Honduras, drowning in debt and in need of infrastructure, asked its traditional ally Taiwan for a $2.4 billion aid package to build a hospital, a dam and repay a loan. Taiwan did not respond and Honduras decided to break diplomatic relations with the Asian island and establish them with China, which is going to build a gigantic hydroelectric dam in the east of the Central American country.
Taiwan, in its fight for more international recognition of its sovereignty, has always been one of the regular players in this checkbook diplomacy, especially in its bonanza past, when it was one of the most prosperous and advanced nations in Asia. But its economy gradually fell into the shadow of China, which has also been its main trading partner for almost two decades. It is dangerous for any nation if its trade becomes totally dependent on its greatest threat. If Beijing cut off the tap tomorrow, Taipei would be very thirsty.
Taiwanese discourses on freedom and democracy in the face of repression and authoritarianism were deflating all over the country because Beijing, the second world economy and the first exporter, was knocking on the doors pulling an investment checkbook much larger than that of Taipei.
Honduras has been the latest to fall in a battle for diplomatic recognition that China and Taiwan have been locked in since the two sides broke up during the civil war in 1949. Honduras' rupture of relations with Taipei became official on Sunday, that right now it only has 13 formal diplomatic allies left.
That means there are only 13 countries in the world that recognize the sovereignty of the island in the face of pressure from China, which considers it part of its territory as a breakaway province, even though it functions de facto independently with its own government, constitution and army.
Since President Tsai Ing-wen, of independence, took office in May 2016, there are already nine countries that have exchanged Taiwan for China. "The government of the Republic of Honduras recognizes the existence of only one China in the world and that the government of the People's Republic of China is the only legitimate government that represents all of China," read the statement from the Honduran Foreign Ministry.
Right now, the largest nation, by GDP, with which Taiwan maintains formal diplomatic relations, is Guatemala. The rest are small island states in the Caribbean and Oceania, a tiny African state, in Europe it only has Vatican City and in South America Paraguay, whose alliance could also change in favor of China if the opposition party wins the elections. upcoming presidential elections to be held at the end of April.
Beijing does not allow the countries with which it maintains diplomatic relations to also maintain official ties with Taiwan, which it has also banned from participating in international organizations, as could be seen during the pandemic in the debates at the WHO, despite international praise. which was initially won by Taipei for its agile strategy to control outbreaks.
"In recent years, China has continuously used various methods to suppress Taiwan's international involvement and intensified military invasion, damaging regional peace and stability," President Tsai Ing-wen said in a video on Sunday. "Taiwan will not engage in a meaningless diplomatic competition for money with China," she continued.
The diplomatic break in Honduras has been used by the island's opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), to launch a campaign against the foreign policy of Tsai, of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, ahead of the upcoming 2024 presidential elections. "Since the Tsai administration came to power, a wrong and radical foreign policy has been adopted. Taiwan's morale continues to weaken," the opposition said.
Precisely, the former leader of the KMT and former president of Taiwan between 2008 and 2016, Ma Ying-jeou, travels to China this Monday, which is a historic event because it is the first visit by a Taiwanese leader -or former leader- since the defeated Chinese nationalist government fled to the island at the end of the civil war.
The KMT has traditionally always been closest to Beijing, but it is also opposed to China's proposed reunification. Ma's trip will also coincide with a tour that President Tsai has scheduled for the United States, which, despite not maintaining formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, is its main international supporter and arms supplier.
According to the criteria of The Trust Project