The left-wing government of Honduras formally established diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on Sunday after abandoning eight decades of support for Taiwan.
The Chinese Communist government gloated over the announcement and warned that its campaign to diplomatically isolate Taiwan is not over.
The PRC launched an aggressive campaign to strip Taiwan of allies after current President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016. Honduras is the ninth nation targeted by China during those seven years, following Nicaragua in 2021.
There are still 13 nations that have full relations with Taiwan, including Belize, Guatemala, and Paraguay in Latin America, plus a number of island nations in the Caribbean and Pacific.
Tsai will visit Guatemala and Belize as part of a ten-day overseas trip that begins on Wednesday. Some observers, including Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, suspect the Honduras announcement was timed to coincide with Tsai’s trip for maximum political impact.
The Honduran Foreign Ministry parroted China’s imperialist rhetoric in its statement on the change of diplomatic recognition, saluting the tyranny in Beijing as the “only legitimate government that represents all of China.”
“Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory, and as of today, the Honduran government has informed Taiwan of the severance of diplomatic relations, pledging not to have any official relationship or contact with Taiwan,” the Honduran Foreign Ministry said.
“The Castro government dismissed our nation’s longstanding assistance and relations and carried out talks to form diplomatic ties with China. Our government feels pained and regretful,” Wu responded, referring to Honduran President Xiomara Castro.
Wu suggested China simply bought Honduras off by pledging billions of dollars in investments. The Castro government denied a report last week that the decision to switch to China was made after Taiwan declined a demand for $2.5 billion in aid.
Castro announced her decision to open relations with China the day after the funding demand was formally made, and before Taiwan had a chance to formally refuse, but Honduran officials said they had “verbally” informed Taiwan several times that they required extensive “refinancing” of Honduras’ $600 million in Taiwanese debts, and the response from Taipei was not enthusiastic.
Wu said on Sunday that Honduras desired not only debt restructuring, but new loans plus Taiwanese financing for a hospital and a dam. According to Wu, the hospital and dam projects would have cost up to $440 million combined. The fund Taiwan established in 1998 to aid its allies in Latin America contained only $240 million to be spread between all of them.
The Tsai administration warned Honduras not to trust China’s “empty promises,” but also said it would not enter a checkbook-diplomacy bidding war for Honduras’ allegiance.
Honduran Secretary of State Rodolfo Pastor de Maria y Campos openly stated last week that financial considerations were involved in the decision, alluding to hopes that China will spend more money on Honduran infrastructure as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
“What we are seeking to establish through the relationship with China is to achieve investment to overcome the challenges facing the country,” Campos said.
Honduran Deputy Foreign Minister Antonio Garcia confirmed that his government asked for over $2 billion in loans from Taiwan on at least four occasions, and while he said Taiwanese officials “listened attentively” to these requests, they were unwilling to make a commitment.
Garcia denied these requests constituted Honduras demanding a payoff to remain loyal.
“The approach was: ‘Help us, we have to deliver results, it’s going to be a relief. We are not asking you to give us anything for free; we are going to pay you back,” he said.
Chinese state media celebrated the Honduras switch as a sign of the PRC’s growing global influence and diplomatic skill, and a terrible setback for both Taiwan and the United States.
China’s state-run Global Times on Sunday promoted the loss of Honduras as a “slap in the face” to both “independence”-minded members of Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Biden administration.
“Honduras has decided to stand with 181 other countries around the world and adhere to the one-China principle, establishing diplomatic relations with China without any preconditions, which suits the fundamental and long-term interests of Honduras and its people,” gloated Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang.
“It fully proves that the adherence to the one-China principle is a global responsibility and the correct choice echoing the trend and times. We must tell the DPP authorities that any ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist activities go against the will and benefit of the nation, which will lead to a dead end,” Qin said.
The Global Times quoted “Chinese experts” who said the Honduras switch was an “inevitable event echoing the changes at the regional and global scale, driven by the rise of China’s comprehensive national strength.”
Another “Chinese expert,” Li Haidong of China Foreign Affairs University, noted that Honduras ignored pleas from the Biden State Department and warnings that China’s promises could not be trusted.
“Such response only reflects the helpless sentiment of the U.S., which also has not given up manipulating the Taiwan question at the global stage,” Li asserted.
Zheng Jian of Xiamen University said the timing of Honduras’ announcement, delivered on the eve of Tsai visiting Central America with planned stopovers in New York and Los Angeles, was intended as a “direct taunt and mockery to the U.S.”
A Global Times editorial on Monday stressed the importance of Honduras abandoning Taiwan as a milestone in declining American influence and growing Chinese strength, asserting that “most countries generally hope to have good relations with China” – and, like Honduras, they will ignore U.S. demands to turn their backs on Beijing:
According to reports, the US exerted diplomatic pressure on Honduras when the latter signaled its intention to establish diplomatic relations with China, with an attempt to “reverse” and “prevent” Honduras’ decision. It needs to be noted that it’s an independent act of a sovereign country to choose with whom it would establish diplomatic relations, and Washington and the Taiwan authorities have no right to intervene. Some countries choose to establish diplomatic relations with the Chinese mainland independently because they see the positive effects on their economic and social development that the decision will bring and believe it is also beneficial for enhancing their political status and image in the region and international politics. Whether Washington and the DPP authorities “throw mud at” or try to “morally abduct” others, they are merely attempting to “salvage their dignity” and cannot cover up their political decline.
The Global Times concluded that Tsai and her party “tight latching onto” the fading United States would only “accelerate the historical wheel of reunification of the motherland” and wake Taiwan from its “sleepwalking” dreams of independence.