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Iran is not the only 'pariah' looking to Latin America

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For this reason, the trip may signal a renewed battle after several quiet years. Following the flipped recognitions of St Lucia and Costa Rica, China and Taiwan called an unwritten truce on their checkbook diplomacy in the region. Mainland China has taken a fairly enlightened view that it can still manage some economic and even backroom political relations with the governments that recognize Taiwan. The PRC appears to be building up a soft power sell in places like Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Paraguay over several years rather than trying to force the hard and decisive switch as soon as possible. Taiwan has been happy to not have to actively defend their recognition in a few places remaining in the world where they can travel and have relations. Plus, it gives them an excuse to stop over in the US and Europe for informal discussions, which Yang will be doing on this trip as well. Taiwan does not want to lose that.

Taiwan knows it's tough being a state under international pressure from a much larger power with greater political, economic, and diplomatic leverage. In such a position, a country looks for recognition where they can find it. Taiwan needs the international visits and big photo ops to show the world that they are not universally rejected. They are willing to sign big economic agreements with the few countries willing to host them in exchange for getting support at the United Nations.

Everything written above is not to deny the important contrasts between Taiwan and that other pariah state whose leader is visiting Latin America this week and receiving far more attention (even though the media should treat China-LatAm issues as more important than Iran-LatAm issues, but I digress....). Taiwan is a democracy that is not trying to build a nuclear weapon or back a terrorist group or shut down a major international shipping lane. Its leader isn't a holocaust-denying idiot who has had his soldiers fire upon crowds of peaceful protesters after a rigged election or threatened to wipe out another country if he gets the chance.

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