Paraguay could loosen ties with Taiwan in favor of China: Americas Quarterly

Paraguayan beef and soy exporters eye the Chinese market

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Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez (right) with President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei in 2018 

Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez (right) with President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei in 2018  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Paraguay's Senate defeated a motion to switch recognition from Taiwan to China just last month, but pressure for a change is mounting from farmers and businesses in the Latin American country, according to an article published in Americas Quarterly Thursday (May 7).

In their article, Tom Long and Francisco Urdinez note how the recent vote was pushed by politicians arguing that China is better situated to help Paraguay weather the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Taiwan’s supporters won the vote 25 to 16, and the island has donated 280,000 face masks and other items to the South American nation.

However, the enormous appeal of the Chinese market for Paraguay’s beef and soy industries may yet lead to a switch. At present, the products might reach China through an indirect route but without the return of loans, credits, and investments.

Until now, the links between Taiwan and Paraguay produce mutual but asymmetrical benefits, the authors argue. The island’s only remaining South American ally backs its case at international bodies, such as the United Nations General Assembly and the World Health Assembly, and it sympathizes with Taiwan because of its own history of being bullied by larger neighbors.

As Taiwan’s only ally in the region, Paraguay can play a unique role that it could not if it were one of China's many diplomatic partners, according to Long and Urdinez. In the end, China is succeeding in fracturing Paraguay’s once-unified elites, making some wonder why they should ignore the most populous nation in the world when it offers great financial and economic benefits, the authors said.

Long, an associate professor at the University of Warwick in Great Britain, and Urdinez, an assistant professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica in Chile, last month published “Status at the Margins: Why Paraguay Recognizes Taiwan and Shuns China” in the journal Foreign Policy Analysis.