Xiomara Castro ditches Cold War legacy, Honduras to establish relations with China

Honduras was one of the 13 remaining nations that recognized the Republic of China in Taiwan. The switch marks further reinforcement of the One-China consensus

March 16, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Xiomara Castro had indicated over the course of her presidential campaign that she planned to establish relations with China.

Honduras has announced plans to establish relations with the People’s Republic of China, in yet another blow to Taiwan. The move was announced by leftist president Xiomara Castro on Tuesday, March 14 on Twitter. Castro stated that she instructed her foreign minister to begin negotiations with Beijing, in a move that would implicitly cut ties with the self-proclaimed Republic of China (ROC), based in Taiwan.

“I have instructed [foreign minister Eduardo Enrique Reina] to manage the opening of official relations with the People’s Republic of China, as a sign of my determination to comply with the Government Plan and expand the borders freely in concert with the nations of the world,” Castro tweeted.

Castro had indicated over the course of her presidential campaign that she planned to establish relations with China. After she took over the presidency in 2022, riding on the back of an emphatic electoral victory, Castro’s administration enacted the Government Plan which included establishing diplomatic ties with the PRC.

“We will seek to establish the most cordial and friendly diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China and with the communities of Asian and African countries that want to interact with us,” read the Government Plan.

Elaborating on the Honduran president’s announcement, Reina asserted in a statement made on Wednesday, March 15, that the decision was “pragmatism, not ideology.” He also indicated that the move was part of the government’s plan to establish close relations with major economies both in the region and around the world. “The global situation is complicated, we need to open up,” Reina added.

Since the arrival of the progressive government of Xiomara Castro, the Central American country has moved further away from US foreign policy orientations and closer to its regional counterparts. During the government of conservative President Juan Orlando Hernández, Honduras broke off diplomatic relations with Venezuela and expelled the Cuban doctors working in the country, moves which were reversed in the first six months of Xiomara Castro’s government.

Her decision regarding China will put Honduras in league with the growing number of nations in Latin America that recently switched their diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China. Since 2017, Panama, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua severed their ties with Taiwan.

Honduras was one of the last 13 sovereign nations that holds official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, eight of which are in Latin America and the Caribbean.

These countries have a long history of right-wing and US-supported governments and as a result still hold onto a Cold War legacy of refusing to recognize the PRC as the authority over the whole of China. Even as the US itself began recognizing the PRC in 1979, many right-wing governments have continued the policy of shutting out the People’s Republic.

While Reina insists that President Castro’s decision was not ideological, domestic politics have often influenced relations with China and the rest of the world. South Korea recognized the PRC after its democratization in 1988 and South Africa did the same after the fall of apartheid. In Latvia, the fall of socialism and the nation’s exit from the Soviet Union in 1991 resulted in briefly cutting ties with China under a conservative and right-wing government.

Nicaragua, the latest country to cut ties with Taiwan in 2021, has a more dramatic history when it comes to its relations with China. The country had first recognized the PRC over the ROC in Taiwan in 1985, shortly after leftist Daniel Ortega first came to power as president. But right after Ortega lost to a conservative-backed administration under Violeta Chamorro, Nicaragua reverted to maintaining full diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

China has welcomed the Honduran government’s decision. “On the basis of the one-China principle, China is willing to develop amicable and cooperative relationships with all countries around the world, including Honduras,” said China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.