- Why is Santiago Peña visiting Taiwan?
Santiago Peña, Paraguay’s new prescient-elect, is visiting Taiwan from July 11 until July 16. So far, Peña has met with President Tsai Ing-wen, Vice President William Lai, and various business leaders to increase economic and political cooperation. Paraguay is one of only twelve that has retained formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Peña’s Taiwan visit symbolizes Paraguay’s continued support for Taiwan, despite mounting pressure from China to end relations with Taiwan.
- What is the One China? What role does Paraguay play?
The One China Policy is a position that differs between the People’s Republic of China (PRC), mainland China, and the Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan. The PRC and ROC claim they are the legitimate sovereign state in all of China. After the Chinese Civil War, countries worldwide shifted their formal diplomatic ties from the ROC to the PRC. Meanwhile, Paraguay has maintained its formal relations with Taiwan. While Paraguay is a small country with limited economic and military power, its continued formal support validates the ROC’s position in an international setting.
- Has the PRC pressured Paraguay into changing its allegiance with the ROC?
From an economic perspective, the PRC has indirectly pressured Paraguay to switch its allegiance. The Paraguayan agricultural sector wants to open up to the lucrative mainland Chinese market by trading soybeans and beef. Efraín Alegre, Peña’s chief political opponent for the 2023 Paraguayan general elections, wanted to shift diplomatic relations to the PRC in response to the agricultural sector’s demands. Considering that Alegre’s party is the main opposition to Peña’s, this was an enormous worry for Taiwan leading up to the election.
- How has the PRC swayed other Latin American countries towards their side?
Since 2017, Latin American countries such as the Dominican Republic, Panama, Nicaragua, and Honduras have shifted their views on the One China policy. The main factor influencing said changes were the vast economic incentives the PRC offered these Latin American countries: investments, loans, and trade. At the same time, the PRC has threatened to withhold investments and trade if they do not switch their allegiances. Financial benefits are fundamental for these developing countries. Therefore, Latin American governments may be more inclined to accept the PRC’s terms by abandoning their recognition of Taiwan.
- Why has Paraguay continued supporting the ROC?
Paraguay has maintained diplomatic ties with the ROC since 1957. An enormous driving force keeping this tie is both historical and political. In the 19th century, Paraguay went to war with its neighbors leaving it politically isolated for various years. Combined with Paraguay’s historical anti-communist stance, Paraguay is a unique country in the region that understands Taiwan’s perspective and will continue to support the ROC. Another vital factor in maintaining the status quo is the vast amount of economic assistance that Taiwan has provided Paraguay. Considering that the ROC is losing more international support, this will give Paraguay more financial leverage to maintain its relations.
Peña’s visit to Taiwan demonstrates the adamant efforts by both Paraguay and the ROC to continue growing their diplomatic relations. Paraguay’s actions are a significant setback for the PRC as it is on a continual mission to eliminate all international support towards the ROC. Thus, Paraguay’s actions remind Taiwan that it is not alone in its fight for independence; and countries are willing to fight against the PRC’s pressure.
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