China wants Guatemala to cut ties with Taiwan?

China has set its eyes on Guatemala which continues to recognise Taiwan. It is leaving no stone unturned to influence the most populous country in Central America as latter does not maintain diplomatic ties with Beijing.

The recent explusion of Taiwan by the Central American Parliament more than two decades as a permanent observer, for China, has given a lot of hope to President Xi Jinping that he would be able to influence Guatemala now.

The six-nation parliament, known as Parlacen, cited the United Nations’ 1971 expulsion of Taiwan in favour of China, saying this deemed Taiwan to be a “province of mainland China, which disqualifies it from participating as an independent country”. Convened in the Nicaraguan capital Managuarecently , local legislators proposed adding China instead of Taiwan. The development clearly indicated how China managed to influence local legislators and all member countries of  Parlacen.

It alsoindicated China’s growing economic influence in Latin America that has increasingly marginalized Taipei.Parlacen members are  Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and the Dominican Republic which have broken diplomatic relations with Taiwan in recent years. Guatemala, the most populous country in Central America, is the only Parlacen member that still recognizes Taiwan.

China strongly hopes that it would be able to manipulate the Central American country to cut ties with Taiwanespeciall after Anti corruption crusader Arevalo made his intension clear about China. In June, he had said he would pursue closer relations with China if he wins.”We need to work on our trade relations and expand them in the case of China,” said Bernardo Arevalo in an interview with the Con Criterio radio program.Guatemala, has for decades opted for ties with Taiwan instead of the Asian giant.

Arevalo’s comments followed China’s success in recent years peeling off one-time allies of Taipei.Experts said that If China manages to persuade Arevalo to cut ties with Taiwan that it would be a major victory for China which succeeded in persuading Houndrus to sever ties with Taiwan in March this year.

In fact, China is very keen to persuade the dwindling number of countries that still treat Taiwan as the legitimate Republic of China to align instead with the communist power that overthrew the nationalists and forced them to flee across the Taiwan Strait.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin chose to give a balanced view. “We hope that the new government of Guatemala will make the right decision in the fundamental and long-term interests of its country and its people,”

Why China keen on Gautemala?

According to experts,Guatemala is the largest country, population-wise, that still recognizes Taiwan in the world.” The rest of the countries are all far smaller than that. And if Guatemala were to flip to the PRC as its neighbour Honduras did earlier this year, it’d be a big deal. It would be a huge deal for the region, especially given Guatemala’s size and historic importance.

A shift would enhance Chinese Communist influence in the Western Hemisphere while possibly lowering the potential diplomatic costs of military aggression against Taiwan.

Meanwhile Taiwan has reacted strongly against the parliament stating that the decision is a proof of the expansion of authoritarianism in Central America, as well as an attack on Taiwan and the global democratic camp, he said, adding: “We are highly worried about the future of Central America.”

Pro-China members on the PARLACEN “ignored Taiwan’s long-term contributions to the parliament and the integration and development of the Central American region,” the ministry said.

Experts however do not rule out the possibility of China pressurising Guatemala to cut ties after Parlacen’s decision.Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping’s regime has an intention to persuade Guatemala to cut ties with Taiwan as part of a sustained effort to isolate the island democracy and enhance Beijing’s geopolitical clout in Central America.“China’s going to be moving aggressively on Guatemala, that’s for sure,” Heritage Foundation visiting fellow Joseph Humire told the Washington Examiner. “I’m concerned that they’re gonna flip.”

It may be noted here that China had warned Guatemala against helping Taiwan. China had said that  one-China principle was “the overriding trend in the world” ahead of the Latin American nation’s president announcing a two-day visit to Taipei.Guatemala is only one of the 13 remaining diplomatic allies the self-governing island has. The list mostly includes small nations in the Caribbean, the Pacific and Latin America.In March, China called on Guatemala, Central America without diplomatic relations with Beijing, to make the “right choice” by shifting formal ties. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning had made the remarks ahead of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to Guatemala.

It is too early to conclude that Arevalo would switch loyalty towards China. because  the Biden administration has provided valuable indirect assistance to Arevalo by playing an outspoken part in pressuring the Guatemalan authorities to restrain their penchant for disqualifying potential rivals from the election. But Washington still has its work cut out for it, stated Washington

“It’s not a foregone conclusion that Arevalo is going to abandon Taiwan,” Humire said. “But it definitely would follow a trend that’s happening in Latin America.”However, all eyes are on Guatemala leader and his next move on China?