TAIPEI – Honduran President Xiomara Castro arrived in Shanghai on Friday on her first visit since China established ties with her nation, pulling it away from former diplomatic ally Taiwan.
Castro will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping “to jointly plan for the future development” of ties, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said. She will also attend the inauguration of Honduras’ embassy in Beijing, according to state media.
Honduras established formal relations with China in March, becoming the latest in a string of countries to break diplomatic ties with Taiwan. China sees self-governed Taiwan as a breakaway province, to be retaken by force if necessary, and prohibits its own diplomatic partners from having formal ties with Taipei.
Beijing has intensified its battle to win away Taiwan's diplomatic allies since independence-leaning Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016. Since then, China has managed to lure away nine of Taiwan’s former partners with a campaign involving billions of dollars of investments.
Beijing’s latest victory comes as tensions have risen with the United States in recent months, including over China’s increasing assertiveness toward Taiwan and growing influence in Latin America.
“Taiwan is always at the core of U.S.-China tensions,” said Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore who focuses on Greater China governance. “(President) Xi Jinping and his team will … spare no efforts, particularly on Taiwan.”
China sees pulling diplomatic allies away from Taiwan as worthwhile regardless of the cost, Wu added. Beijing also sees the efforts as a way to counteract increasingly frequent trips by European and U.S. lawmakers to Taiwan. Such visits, including a visit last August by former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, usually trigger angry responses from Beijing.
Taiwan has only 13 diplomatic partners left: Belize, Paraguay and Guatemala in Latin America, Vatican City, Eswatini in southern Africa, and several nations in the Caribbean and South Pacific.
When Honduras considered the switch to China, its government said it wanted new investment and less debt. The country’s foreign minister, Eduardo Enrique Reina, told local media in March that Honduras had asked Taiwan to renegotiate debt worth $600 million and for Taipei to double its annual aid to Honduras. Taiwan said it had continuously cooperated with Honduras to address the nation’s needs.
Experts say Honduras is eyeing large investments from China in infrastructure projects including a new hydroelectric dam, part of a larger plan to construct three dams along the Patuca River. China already invested almost $300 million in the first dam, inaugurated in January 2021.
Castro’s first stop on her six-day visit to China -– the financial hub of Shanghai -– is another indication the two countries will likely announce fresh economic deals. She is to spend two days in Shanghai, during which she is to visit a Huawei research center and the headquarters of the New Development Bank -– a project by the BRICS developing nations -– before going to Beijing, according to Phoenix TV.