China opens embassy in Nicaragua for first time since 1990 after severance of relations with Taiwan

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Opinion

AUSTRALIA, January 10, 2022 (IPS) – For the first time since 1990, China has (re) opened an embassy in Managua, Nicaragua, less than a month later Nicaragua cuts off relations with Taiwan. The (re) opening of the embassy on January 1, 2022 comes against a backdrop of American-Chinese tensions, specifically on trade and Taiwan, as good as deterioration Cross-strait relations.

Genevieve Donnellon-May

China and Nicaragua officially (r) established diplomatic relations last month. On December 10, Asian Time, diplomatic relations between China and Nicaragua were officially established. The “Joint Communiqué on the Resumption of Diplomatic Relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Nicaragua” was signed in Tianjin, China, by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu and Laureano Ortega, investment, trade and international cooperation adviser to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega – and, most importantly, the president’s son. In accordance with the joint communiqué, Nicaragua acknowledges that Taiwan is part of Chinese territory.

In response, the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) responded by stating that Taiwan “deeply regrets” that President Daniel Ortega ignored the long-standing friendship between the two countries. MOFA said it had worked with the Central American countries for many years to promote cooperation which “is beneficial to the livelihoods of the people and contributes to the overall development of the country,” according to a press release from MOFA. MOFA also reaffirmed that “Taiwan is not part of the People’s Republic of China and the The PRC has never ruled Taiwan. Taiwanese people will not give in to pressure from China. “

days after (r) establishment of China-Nicaragua relations, China sent 200,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines in Nicaragua as part of its vaccine diplomacy. The 2,000,000 doses, which were the first of 1 million, were accompanied by a Nicaraguan delegation headed by President Ortega’s son, Laureano Ortega Murillo. Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, thanked China for donating vaccine and noted it was “ideological affinity” between the two countries.

China and Nicaragua initially established formal relations nearly forty years ago. In 1985, the Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega established relations with China. After losing the 1990 elections, President Violeta Chamorro recognized Taiwan. In 2007, however, Ortega returned to power and was re-elected in November 2021 for a fourth term. A month after its re-election, Nicaragua severed its relations with Taiwan, following months of degraded relationships between Ortega and the administration of US President Biden.

In addition, Nicaragua’s decision to establish formal relations with Beijing means that the number of diplomatic allies of Taiwan increased to 14, compared to 22 when President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016. Previously, China and Taiwan observed a so-called “diplomatic truceIn place during the previous Ma Ying-jeou and Kuomintang (KMT) administration where China has not made diplomatic overtures to Taiwan’s diplomatic partners.

Due to the change of notoriety and the incursions of China in Central America, Taiwan appears more and more isolated on the international scene. Most countries transferred to Beijing in the late 1970s, after Taiwan (as the Republic of China or ROC) lost its seat at the United Nations in 1971 to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Apart from Nicaragua, recent reconnaissance transfers from Taipei to Beijing have been undertaken by the following countries: Solomon Islands (2019), Kiribati (2019), El Salvador (2018), Dominican Republic (2018), Panama (2017), Gambia (2016), and Sao Tome and Principe (2016).

After Nicaragua, many eyes are now on Honduras, a small country in Central America, and its newly elected president, Xiomara Castro. In November 2021, the outgoing Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez started a three day surprise visit in Taiwan. The visit has come in the midst of worries from Taiwanese officials in Honduras that the next Honduran president could sever ties with Taipei and establish formal diplomatic relations with Beijing.

Forging links with Beijing was one of the commitments made by Castro during his presidential campaign in 2021. A shift in relations from Taipei to Beijing, she declared, would give Honduras access to economic opportunities as well as Covid-19 vaccines made in China and low cost drugs. Although Castro won’t be sworn in as president until later this month, his pledge could put Honduras in the middle of a intensify the diplomatic standoff between Taiwan and China and to become the new facade vs intensification of the global confrontation between the two superpowers. Those geopolitical tensions combined with the financial needs of Central American governments, the resurgence of populist leaders in the region and China growing economic importance, combined with China’s vaccine diplomacy and the lack of a truce between Taipei and Beijing influence all of Central America’s relations with the United States and China. And currently, they are the driving factors that push the countries of Central America “away from the United States and towards China, ”as Evan Ellis noted, professor at the US Army War College who studies Latin America’s relations with China.

At the same time, the idea of ​​establishing diplomatic relations with China could be partly motivated by a desire to counter American hegemony in the country and region. Washington has long dominated Central America both economically and politically, consider it as its strategic backyard. Before the presidential election, China accused the United States of “”arm-twisting and bullying behaviorAfter Washington reiterated that it wanted Honduras to maintain its long-standing diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, the United States has a considerable grip on Honduras. In particular, remittances, mostly people living in the United States, represent more than 20% of the gross domestic product of Honduras, according to the Brookings Institute. This economic reality, combined with significant US aid to Honduras, also means that Washington has influence over local politics.

However, in recent years, Honduras has experienced a rapid increase in inequality, corruption, violence, and poverty further stimulated migration to the United States. Unemployment has passed above 10% while major hurricanes devastated northern Honduras in 2020. Honduras is now the third poorest country in the Americas: over 66% of the population Living in poverty. According to the world bank, the pandemic has significantly impacted the country’s economy, with the national GDP expected to contract by 9% in 2020.

Nevertheless, China’s influence in Honduras keep growing. In 2020, Chinese state-owned enterprises completed the construction of 105 MW hydroelectric dam in the country. In addition, a higher external debt is due to China that in the United States According to World Bank data, 4% of Honduras’ outstanding external debt is owed to China, while only 0.01% in the United States. In addition, China already represents up to a fifth Honduran imports. In this way, everything potential financial benefits, such as loans and investments to establish formal ties with China, or even to play Washington and Beijing against each other, may be seen as too important to ignore.

Genevieve Donnellon-May is a research assistant at the Institute of Water Policy (IWP) at the National University of Singapore. His research interests include China, Africa, cross-border governance, and the food-energy-water nexus. Geneviève’s work has been published by The Diplomat and the China Environment Forum at the Wilson Center.

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