By: Omar Silva, NP Editor
Belize City: Saturday 18th March 2023
Belize, a small Central American country and a member of the Caribbean Community, has long maintained diplomatic ties with Taiwan. However, with the changing dynamics of global politics, it is time for Belize to consider ties with mainland China. The move by Honduran President to switch diplomatic ties was not about ideology but out of pragmatism, as stated by their Foreign Minister. Similarly, Belize should also factor in the economic reality affecting its people and take a pragmatic decision for the growth and development of the country.
Belize's external debt, social policies, and energy needs are putting a significant strain on the country's infrastructure, which is vital for economic growth. Therefore, any intention by Belize to switch diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China could bring prosperity to the masses. Considering Belize's geographical location on the Central American mainland and in the Caribbean, it could find prosperity in the world of trade by having diplomatic relations with mainland China.
Partnering with mainland China could fulfill the electoral promises of Plan Belize in the true sense of interpretation and an opportunity to industrialize Belize. It is time for the Belize government to see the bigger picture and take into consideration the country's needs while trying to service external debt.
There are 171 countries in the world that enjoy relations with continental China, and Belize should also take a decision in this regard. It is time to look for mechanisms for greater investment, commerce, and industry that would provide Belize with an opportunity for global export. With mainland China, Belize can establish "friendly and cooperative relations" with a country that is looking to expand its global reach.
Even though Latin America has been a source of tensions between Beijing and Taipei, Belize must prioritize the growth and development of its people. Aligned with Washington, all Central American countries had maintained ties with Taiwan for decades. But with the dynamics shifting to Beijing, only Belize, Guatemala, and Paraguay on the Latin American mainland have formal relations with Taipei. The remaining 10 nations from the Caribbean comprises the 13 allies. Paraguay's opposition says it will switch ties to Beijing if it wins the election in April.
Over the past decade, Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, and Nicaragua severed ties with Taipei and established relations with Beijing, which had for years lobbied Taipei's diplomatic allies. Therefore, Belize should also consider the long-term benefits of having diplomatic relations with mainland China.
According to Timothy Rich, an analyst at the Global Taiwan Institute, the "substantive effects" of Honduras switching ties from Taipei to Beijing "should be limited assuming Taiwan avoids knee-jerk reactions." Taiwan cannot compete on aid packages alone and should not myopically focus on formal diplomatic partners that cannot aid its economic or security concerns.
The move by Honduras comes ahead of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's planned trip to Central America next month, where she is expected to visit Guatemala and Belize. More sensitively, she is to transit the US and meet the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, which is likely to anger China.
China sees Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy run independently from Beijing, as a renegade province that must "unify" with China and has not ruled out the use of force against the island. Beijing reacts aggressively to attempts by governments to engage with Taipei, lashing out at diplomatic delegations to Taiwan.
Therefore, it is time for Belize to look at "pragmatism, not ideology" and take into consideration its external debt, energy needs, social policies, and the development of its people. By having diplomatic relations with mainland China, Belize could open doors to greater investment, commerce, and industry, providing an opportunity for global export. It is time to make a pragmatic decision that can bring prosperity and development to the country.