Washington has recalled diplomatic envoys from the Dominican Republic, Panama, and El Salvador in light of their recently adopted formal recognition of China — instead of Taiwan. For the United States, this just another indication of China’s growing influence in the region typically thought of as “America’s backyard.”
“It started when El Salvador made a decision. In August, its government switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, prompting the White House to issue a statement that the change would result in a “reevaluation of our relationship with El Salvador.” U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) took to Twitter several times to denounce San Salvador’s move and called to cut U.S. aid.
On the other hand, this isn’t something new: China has been drawing away Taiwan’s diplomatic allies for years. Still, two other countries in the Americas—the Dominican Republic in May 2018 and Panama in June 2017—also switched recognition in the time since Donald Trump took over the Oval Office. On September 7, the U.S. State Department called back its top envoys from all three Latin American nations “for consultations related to recent decisions to no longer recognize Taiwan.” Two days earlier, U.S. senators, including Rubio, introduced bipartisan legislation dubbed the TAIPEI Actto “strengthen Taiwan’s standing around the world” and allow the State Department to end or amend U.S. aid to countries “that take adverse actions with regard to Taiwan.”
The withdrawal of diplomats may well turn out to be temporary, but it drew attention to Washington’s concern over an increasingly isolated Taiwan and more strategically positioned China, particularly at the hands of countries in the Americas, at a time of tensions with Beijing.“