Honduras announced it is cutting its long-standing diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favour of establishing relations with China, as it seeks to address its economic needs. The decision highlights China’s growing influence in Latin America, leaving the United States to grapple with waning power in the region.
Honduras President Xiomara Castro directed Eduardo Reina, Honduras’s Foreign Minister, on Wednesday to “undertake the official opening of relations” with China, ending over 80 years of diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Reina revealed that economic necessity and Taiwan’s refusal to increase financial aid prompted the Central American country’s decision.
He instruido al Canciller Eduardo Reina, para que gestione la apertura de relaciones oficiales con la República Popular China, como muestra de mi determinación para cumplir el Plan de Gobierno y expandir las fronteras con libertad en el concierto de las naciones del mundo.
— Xiomara Castro de Zelaya (@XiomaraCastroZ) March 14, 2023
The decision highlights China’s growing influence in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), leaving the United States to grapple with waning power in the region.
Beijing views LAC as a pivotal player in its geopolitical competition with the United States. China’s presence in LAC encroaches on the U.S. sphere of influence, forcing Washington to divert strategic attention from the Western Pacific to the Americas.
One of the main tools China employs is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. LAC was included in the BRI in 2017, and 20 of the 33 LAC countries have joined it. Beijing has spent an estimated US$180 billion on projects in the region.
Honduras faces a severe political, economic, and social crisis. The country struggles with a foreign debt of US$9.2 billion and an internal debt of US$7.5 billion. Widespread poverty, high levels of violent crime, natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of stable employment, and educational opportunities have driven more than 680,000 Hondurans to the United States in the past 3.5 years.
Honduras had requested that Taiwan double its US$50 million annual aid and explore the possibility of “realigning” its US$600 million debt to the island nation but was denied.
China’s “One China” principle prevents any country from maintaining official diplomatic relations with both China and Taiwan. Honduras is now among the 171 countries that have established relations with mainland China, leaving Taiwan with only 14 official allies.
This decision follows a regional trend, with Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica all switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing. Honduras’s move is a blow to the Biden administration, which has struggled to convince countries in the region to maintain ties with Taiwan, a U.S. ally seeking sovereignty.
As China continues to expand its presence in LAC through initiatives like the BRI, the United States faces increasing challenges to its influence in the region.
Honduras’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China is yet another sign of growing Chinese influence in Latin America, amid the nation’s ongoing economic and social crisis.