Paraguay in the Forefront of the China-Taiwan Conflict

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryNobody imagined that Paraguay would become a significant player in the China-Taiwan conflict until the most recent presidential election there. Paraguay’s president-elect Santiago Pena stated that he will keep relations with Taiwan and further strengthen those ties. He faces considerable opposition from a number of sectors in Paraguay, especially among the country’s farmers who wanted Paraguay to establish ties with China so that they could easily sell their produce to China. The left-leaning opposition candidate, Efrain Alegre, wanted to break relations with Taiwan and establish full diplomatic relations with China. The election of Pena means that this will not happen.

Paraguay is the only country in South America that still recognizes Taiwan and has no diplomatic relations with China. Since the end of the Chinese Civil War (1946-1949), Communists in China established the People’s Republic of China in China, while the defeated Chinese Nationalist government established a rival government (officially called the Republic of China) on the island of Taiwan. It has largely been this way since. China has made it clear that any official recognition of Taiwan means there can be no formal recognition of China. Currently, there are only 13 countries in the world that officially recognize Taiwan (the United States, sadly, is not one of them). Taiwan, however, tries to get around the lack of official diplomatic relations with other countries by having unofficial trade missions with most countries which act as de facto diplomatic offices for it.

This year alone, China was able to persuade Honduras to break off diplomatic relations with Taiwan and establish diplomatic relations with China after that country elected a left-leaning president in its presidential election. This has also affected diplomatic relations between Honduras and the United States which views any establishment of diplomatic relations between China and any country in Central America with suspicion. There is no question that the Chinese government is using newly established relations to make any country in the Third World dependent on its economy and eventually put in Chinese military bases into that country. This is something the U.S. government does not want to see in the Americas.

For now, this will not happen in Paraguay. I suspect that Pena saw this danger to his country, and wanted to steer clear of any relations with China for these reasons. Still, he will face considerable pressure to change course. There is no question that Taiwan’s economy cannot match that of China’s. The problem is that there are way too many strings attached to Chinese trade, and there is a conscious plan by the Chinese government to put a physical military presence into countries it deems of strategic value. This is something the United States and its allies in the Americas are trying to avoid. The conflict between China and Taiwan is not being fought on the ground between the two in Asia but all across the world. It is a conflict that has been raging for decades since 1949, and show no sign it will end anytime soon.

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