The Republic of China (Taiwan) provides development assistance and disaster relief programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. The island faces a growing challenge as the number of countries that extend it formal diplomatic recognition continues to shrink as a result of China's influence. This report considers how Taiwan can optimize its help to this region to maximize the prospects of retaining diplomatic recognition from recipient countries.
Countering China's Efforts to Isolate Taiwan Diplomatically in Latin America and the Caribbean
The Role of Development Assistance and Disaster Relief
- How can Taiwan optimize its development assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean to ensure that it gets the maximum diplomatic value out of its generosity?
- What aid programs does Taiwan currently undertake in the region, and what does it get from its efforts?
- How does Taiwan's assistance fit with U.S. policy goals and giving in the region?
- Are there areas where Taiwan could make adjustments that would produce synergies with U.S. efforts while also reducing the temptation on the part of regional governments to de-recognize Taipei and switch ties to Beijing?
The Republic of China (Taiwan) faces a growing challenge as the number of countries that extend it formal diplomatic recognition continues to shrink. In the past, Taiwan was able to expend substantial amounts of money in competition with China for global diplomatic recognition. Today, however, as China has grown richer and more influential, Taipei has to spend smarter and tailor its giving more strategically if it wants to continue to leverage development assistance as an incentive for countries to refrain from swapping recognition of Beijing in exchange for economic rewards.
How can Taiwan optimize its development assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean to ensure that it gets the maximum diplomatic value out of its generosity? What aid programs does Taiwan currently undertake in the region, and what does it get from its efforts? How does Taiwan's assistance fit with U.S. policy goals and giving in the region? Are there areas where adjustments could be made that would produce synergies between Taiwan and U.S. efforts while also reducing the temptation on the part of regional governments to de-recognize Taipei and switch ties to Beijing?
This report explores these questions and finds that, on the whole, Taiwan's assistance to the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean is well-received, improving desired outcomes such as enhancing local livelihoods and contributing to greater resilience and more rapid disaster recovery and relief.
- Continued substantial funding and high-level leadership attention from Taiwan is critical to the effective employment of aid and assistance as a tool in Taipei's foreign policy kit.
- It is important for Taiwan to emphasize repeatedly that it offers assistance as a partnership with recipient countries, not a top-down transfer of infrastructure (which is more characteristic of China's approach to development aid).
- The effectiveness of Taipei's aid and assistance programs would be bolstered by more explicitly building these into a framework that recognizes that such aid programs are merely one component of the broader relationships Taiwan has with its diplomatic partners in the region.
- Taiwan cannot be certain that under all circumstances will it be able to successfully hold onto its diplomatic partnerships in Latin America and the Caribbean.
- Taiwan must be careful to protect its image against the perception — deserved or not — that it is merely "buying" (or worse, "renting") friendship from its diplomatic partners.
- Partnerships with recipient countries will be critical in helping partner nations see that Taiwan is committed to their well-being over the long run and that Taiwan sees itself as a peer and a partner, not a distant power using them for its own purposes.
- Diplomatic recognition must be embedded in a broader, more meaningful, and more politically resilient bilateral relationship that includes Taiwan's investors and businesses as well as civil society actors.
- Taiwan can employ key financial, human capital, reputational, trade and investment, and informal diplomatic resources to preserve its international status and recognition in the region.
Table of Contents
Understanding Taiwan's Aid and Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean
U.S. Aid to Latin America and the Caribbean and U.S. Views of Taiwan's Role in the Region
Conclusion: Optimizing Taiwan's Aid and Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean