The United States recalled three chief diplomats to El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Panama on Sept. 7, 2018. This move came in response to the governments of those countries severing ties with Taiwan, an American ally, in favor of Chinese claims to the island.
The larger issue lies within America’s relations with China and Taiwan. Although the United States formally recognizes Beijing, it maintains an embassy-like institute in Taiwan. Ties between the United States and Taiwan continue to grow under the Trump administration, reflecting American goals to restrict Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
As Western nations continue to break ties with Taiwan in spite of U.S. foreign policy interests, analysts agree that relations with China offer greater incentives in comparison to Taiwan. While recognition of China may lead to monetary aid for Latin American nations, it raises concerns for the United States and breaks historical precedents.
“It has become clear that severing ties with Taiwan is a precondition for Chinese investment,” said Professor of Political Science Ken Gilmore. “As the Monroe Doctrine is indicative of the relationship between the United States and Latin American nations, the growth of Chinese influence has caused an escalation of diplomatic tensions.”
However, the benefits for Latin American nations to favor China remain substantial. As China continues to grow as an economic superpower, the nation is able to allocate greater sums to foreign aid in comparison to Taiwan. Monetary aid from China can be used to improve infrastructure and public health in Latin American countries.
“By comparing the Chinese and Taiwanese patterns of economic aid, it is evident that aids from China are infrastructural. Finances are provided for the construction of hospitals and transport routes, as well as the extraction of clean water,” said Professor of Political Science George Guo. “Aids from Taiwan are primarily personal, and display Taiwan’s inability to compete with China.”
The recall of American diplomats comes amidst other tensions in Latin America. As China has gained access to an area in close range with the Panama Canal and Venezuela continues to dive further into debt, Chinese economic aids have become a symbol of growing political influence outside of the Asia-Pacific sphere. Some politicians and analysts have indicated that Venezuela, which continues to accept monetary aid from China, will sink into a system of mercantilism, or even colonialism.
“The International Monetary Fund exists to help out in crises such as the one in Venezuela,” Gilmore said. “The nation needs to seek multilateral rather than bilateral solutions, which would place fewer national interests at stake. The interior benefits for China are profit and influence, rather than altruism. China continues to ignore human rights abuses for profit, and places economic nationalism and mercantilism over economic liberalism.”
Guo questions whether the relations between Venezuela and China are colonialist.
“We should not term the situation as colonialism,” said Guo. “There are similar patterns; however, political influence and money have been used to gain power, rather than force.”
As Latin American nations continue to recognize China in spite of American foreign policy, it has become important for residents in the United States to be aware of the ongoing issue. Civilians should be aware of the shift in Latin American foreign policy and its impact on diplomacy with the United States.
“I didn’t hear about the issue until now,” stated Ayah Wahab, a student of the Early College at Guilford. “To me, the withdrawal of diplomats symbolizes the removal of U.S. support from those Latin American countries. I feel like Trump is trying to drive us into isolation and Latin America is only the beginning.”
The recall of diplomats by the United States is a sign of discontent with the decisions made by El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Panama. In spite of this, the Trump administration has indicated that the diplomats would be reinstated by Sept. 14.
“Diplomacy is a dance of symbolism,” Gilmore said. “At a time when the United States should be strengthening relations, we seem to be doing the exact opposite.”