Geopolitics in Central America: China and El Salvador in the 21st century

China and El Salvador in the 21 st century

Alvaro Mendez


At the beginning of the 21st century, the PRC interest in LAC was driven first by its thirst for natural resources, then by its obsession with national unity, advanced by stripping Taiwan of international recognition. In 2020 these motives were augmented by a third - geopolitical competition with the United States.

Central American countries have their own reasons for approaching the PRC (or Taiwan): their economic interest in development and political interest in relations with patrons alternative to the United States, with its chequered history especially in El Salvador. Excepting Costa Rica, which recognized the PRC in 2007, all other Central American countries - Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama - had recognized Taiwan as “China” before June 2017, when President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama recognized the PRC instead.[1]

A year later, on 21 August 2018, El Salvador became the second Central American countiy to follow suit. Taiwan still enjoys recognition from four Central America countries, nine in all of LAC (see Table 13.1). El Salvador is the smallest countiy in Central America and is locked out of the Caribbean. With Guatemala and Honduras, it forms the Northern Triangle, a sub-region plagued with gang violence, drug-trafficking and corruption, tempting its citizens to immigrate. The countiy has very few natural resources, so it is contended that Beijing’s interest lies in subverting Taiwan and, since Panama’s switch, contesting Washington’s influence.

The chapter is divided into four sections. The first reviews El Salvador’s economic and foreign relations. The second summarizes Taipei’s histoiy with El Salvador (1954-2018). The third examines PRC-E1 Salvador relations. The fourth concludes, prospecting future relations, and briefly assessing Washington’s reaction.

Table 13.1 Diplomatic allies of Taipei in LAC (as of February 2021)


Date diplomatic ties established


13 October 1989


15 June 1933


25 April 1956


6 November 1944


6 November 1990


8 July 1957

Saint Lucia

30 April 2007

St. Kitts and Nevis

9 October 1983

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

15 August 1981

Source: Author’s table, dates from Esteban (2008).

investment and (5) Salvadorans living overseas. Prioritizing agendas differently in different parts of the world, it gives top priority overall to trade; partly explaining the shift to Beijing, as the PRC looms ever larger as a trading partner.

2 El Salvador economic relations

The latest COMTRADE 2018 figures show that El Salvador’s top import source is the United States, followed by Guatemala, then China. It exports, first, to the United States, second to Honduras, then Guatemala. China in seventh place is insignificant, but Salvadorans hope their new relations with the PRC may change now this.2 The data indicate significant trade imbalances (see Table 13.2).

El Salvador’s development has been painfully slow, a trend likely to continue through the next few years. Hobbled by fiscal constraints and low domestic savings, the economy can sustain only moderate credit growth. The country is a member of the Central American Economic Integration System (SICA) and hosts its Secretariat General. In 2018 El Salvador joined Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama in an FTA with South Korea. Salvadoran ratification should happen under the pro-business President Bukele, as relations with Korea are viewed positively by all political factions.

3 El Salvador and Taipei

Esteban reports El Salvador established official diplomatic ties with Taipei on 9 December 1954.3 There was apparently no mission; rather, in 1955 “Dr. Kidding Wang was concurrently the Minister to Honduras, El Salvador and Lebanon”.4 In 1957, Taipei opened a Diplomatic Legation in San Salvador, elevated to the rank of Embassy in 1961.5

The early years

During the 1960s Taipei concentrated on thwarting the PRC’s attempts to unseat it in the UN General Assembly, and relations with LAC were about rallying support

Table 13.2 Top ten trading partners of El Salvador in 2018 (US$ thousand)


Balance in value in 201S

Exported value in 2018

Imported value in 2018

United States
























Costa Rica
















Source: ITC, 2019.

Table 13.3 LAC countries vote for UN Resolution 275S in favour of seating the PRC at the UN in 1971 (only LAC countries with diplomatic ties to Beijing are included)

Votes in favour (7 of 76)

Votes against (12 of 35)

Abstained (5 of 17)







Trinidad and Tobago

El Salvador



Costa Rica

Dominican Republic













Source: Author’s compilation from UN, 1971.

for this effort. Taipei felt secure in Washington's recognition, knowing that most of LAC would follow its lead. This suddenly and dramatically changed in 1971, when 76 countries voted for Beijing, with only 35 supporting Taiwan, including El Salvador. Seventeen countries abstained and three were absent.6 This landmark UN Resolution enshrined the One-China Policy "to restore all its rights to the People’s Republic of China and to recognize the representatives of its Government as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations”.7 LAC did not tip the balance in this contest, but it represented an important voting bloc that triggered a diplomatic offensive by Beijing (see Table 13.3).

El Salvador and Taiwan from 1971 to the present

"Nixon’s visit to the PRC in 1972, Japan’s recognition of the mainland government in the same year, and Washington’s termination of diplomatic ties with

Taipei, enabling to establish official relations with [the PRC on January 1] 1979” further set back Taipei’s caused Thereafter, Beijing became proactive in LAC. Several LAC states switched to the PRC at this time (more subsequently). The upshot was that Taipei paid more heed to the region. Central Americans soon realized they could benefit. In March 1973 a mission of businessmen from El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama arrived in Taipei, headed by El Salvador’s Ambassador to Taipei, Walter Beneke, who stated “the purpose of the trip was to get to know Taiwan. ... the mission said they had heard of Taiwan’s economic development and wanted to see it for themselves”.9

A few years later, in May 2000 Chen Shui-bian from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the political party championing independence from the PRC, was elected Taiwan’s President. He held office until 2008 and was significant for El Salvador and Central America in general because he "made yearly state visits to [the region] during his tenure and attended almost all of the swearing in sessions for new Central American Presidents”.10 In May 2001, he attended the second Summit of Central American Presidents in El Salvador, organized to strengthen economic ties between Taiwan and Central America. It was during this visit that Chen broached the idea of an FTA with El Salvador. Taiwan had in mind closer ties with the United States at that time, and in this context, Chen thought it a good idea to treat with El Salvador. Taipei wanted to safeguard its interests, fully aware that the PRC was at the stage of finalizing its negotiations for entry into the WTO. Shortly thereafter, China acceded to that organization on 10 November 2001 (effective 10 December 2001). The PRC’s membership was “one of the most difficult to date... [it] spanned 185 months, which is one of the longest accessions to ever take place in the history of the GATT/WTO”.11

It was so difficult partly because Beijing did not anticipate the fierce opposition from countries like Mexico which opposed until the very end out of worry over the effect on their national economy of the privileges to be accorded to one of their fiercest direct competitors. El Salvador went one step farther to become the only country “to officially oppose China’s membership by invoking the nonapplication clause ... In so doing, El Salvador was not bound to treat China as a member of the WTO”.12 El Salvador’s move did not prevent the PRC’s membership of the WTO but did slightly delay the signing approval ceremony because Taiwan and El Salvador were concerned that Beijing could stop Taipei’s accession once it was admitted. Taiwan became a member of the WTO on 11 November 2001 (effective 1 January 2002).13 Not surprisingly, a few months later Taiwan delivered an official proposal to advance FTA negotiations with El Salvador. Taipei’s Ambassador made a statement on 26 November 2001 that they had been interested for some time but that Taiwan had been waiting for membership of the WTO.

In September 2005, President Chen came back to the region for a state visit to El Salvador along with Panama and Guatemala. During this trip, he launched “the so-called ’Jung Pang,’ or ‘co-prosperity’ initiative, consisting of a $250 million fund set aside to encourage investment by Taiwanese companies in allied countries”.14 The following year (2006) El Salvador started FTA negotiations with

Taipei. After four rounds it signed the agreement with Taiwan in May 2007, which entered into force in March 2008. It was negotiated and signed in conjunction with Honduras, and so it is often referred to as the “Trilateral Agreement” but its content “enshrines two separate bilateral treaty relations”.15 Experts argue that this FTA is superficial; Wise, for instance, excludes it from her analysis of transpacific trade agreements “because the coverage [was] so limited and the commitments so shallow that they fail to approximate the minimal necessary standards at the World Trade Organization (WTO)”.16

The Beijing drain gets started - El Salvador and Taipei from 2007 to 2018

In mid-2007 Taipei took a massive blow to its quest for international recognition when Costa Rica, an important country in Central America, on 1 June 2007 decided to switch from Taipei to Beijing.17 Not surprisingly, President Chen came to El Salvador as well as Honduras and Nicaragua the following month, in August 2007, “then to Guatemala and St. Lucia in January 2008, with the purpose of securing diplomatic support”.18

In early 2008, Ma Ying-jeou was elected Taiwan’s President for the Kuomintang (KMT), the political party that stands with Beijing on a “one China” policy.19 During his presidency (2008-2016) Beijing and Taipei kept a gentlemen’s agreement that the PRC would not seek to subvert Taiwan’s international recognition. Visits from Taipei to the region continued, mostly for presidential inaugurations (e.g. President Ma visited El Salvador to attend the inauguration of President Mauricio Funes), and Taipei did not feel entirely under threat.

But then, in early 2016, the Taiwanese elected Tsai Ing-wen President, the leader of the DPP which, as noted previously, is the party championing independence from the PRC. This ended the gentlemen’s agreement that had lasted through the Ma Administration. On 13 January 2017, President Tsai visited El Salvador for the first time, which President Sanchez C'eren celebrated by awarding her the countiy’s highest distinction. This visit was part of a larger strategy to cut a high profile in the region to keep its allies there faithful to Taipei amid fears that Beijing could begin wooing them away. The fear proved prescient. Six months later, in June 2017, Panama switched to Beijing, a move imitated by the Dominican Republic in May 2018 and by El Salvador itself in August 2018.20

4 El Salvador and Beijing - the birth of a new relationship

As the 24th country in LAC to recognize the PRC, El Salvador has been advancing relations with Beijing as much as it can. El Salvador showed agency in shifting recognition to the PRC, but in truth the decision was not entirely San Salvador’s. It takes two to tango and the tempo and timing were Beijing’s alone. Beijing’s motives were obvious. Panama’s decision to establish ties with the PRC in 2017 had the most impact on the Salvadoran decision to abandon Taiwan, as it highlighted the clear economic benefits that could flow to the region as a whole.

Early encounters with Beijing - people-to-people diplomacy and friendship associations

In October 1952, El Salvador had an early encounter with the PRC, when it sent a delegation of three to the Asian and Pacific Regions Peace Conference in Beijing. There were hundreds of delegates attending this meeting, including a total of 110 delegates from twelve LAC countries.21 The Conference is an early example of cultural diplomacy by the PRC to promote its agenda and ideas.

In 1954, the PRC created the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) a putatively unofficial agency "to carry out foreign relations work . . . [and to] serve as a link in the friendly relations between the Chinese people and ... the world”.22 The work of CPAFFC was effective all over the world because it enabled China to promote its official agenda in a manner that would not have created frictions if it had happened in countries with diplomatic recognition of the PRC. Six years after its creation, CPAFFC sponsored the inauguration of the China-Latin America and Caribbean Friendship Association (CHILAC) on 6 March I960.23

At this juncture not a single country in LAC recognized the PRC diplomatically, a situation that was to change on 28 September I960, when Cuba became the first country in the region to recognize Beijing. Subsequent years saw the founding of chapters in almost every LAC country, including El Salvador, and these Friendship Associations played an important role in driving private and public sector interest towards Beijing, and was also therefore not the only factor, certainly, but an important one in Beijing's winning diplomatic recognition of many countries in the region. A total of 24 LAC countries have diplomatic ties with Beijing as at the time of publication (see Table 13.4).

Table 13.4 PRC - diplomatic relations with LAC (1960-2019)


Countiy's leader

China’s PCC leader



Fidel Castro

Mao Zedong

28 September i960


Salvador Allende

Mao Zedong

15 December 1970


Juan Velasco

Mao Zedong

02 November 1971


Luis Echeverria

Mao Zedong

14 February 1972





Mao Zedong

19 February 1972


Linden Forbes Burnham

Mao Zedong

27 June 1972


Michael Manley

Mao Zedong

21 November 1972

Trinidad and Tobago

Eric Eustace Williams

Mao Zedong

20 June 1974


Carlos Andres Perez

Mao Zedong

28 June 1974


Ernesto Geisel

Mao Zedong

15 August 1974


Johan Ferrier

Mao Zedong

28 May 1976


Country's leader

China's PCC leader



Jon Michael Geoffrey

Hua Guofeng

30 May 1977


Jaime Roldos Aguilera

Hua Guofeng

02 January 1980


Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala

Hua Guofeng

07 February 1980

Antigua and Barbuda

Vere Bird

Hu Yaobang

01 January 1983


Hernan Siles Zuazo

Hu Yaobang

09 July 1985


Herbert Bleize

Hu Yaobang

01 October 1985+


Julio Maria Sanguinetti

Zhao Ziyang

03 February 1988


Hubert Ingraham

Jiang Zemin

23 May 1997


Roosevelt Skerrit

Hu Jintao

23 March 2004

Costa Rica

Oscar Arias

Hu Jintao

01 June 2007


Juan Carlos Varela

Xi Jinping

12 June 2017

Dominican Republic

Danilo Medina

Xi Jinping

01 May 2018

El Salvador

Salvador Sanchez Ceren

Xi Jinping

21 August 2018

Source: Author’s table from multiple sources.

r Grenada first established diplomatic relations with the PRC on 1 October 19S5, but because Grenada also reached out to Taiwan in 1989, the PRC severed relations with it on 7 August 1989. Both sides resumed relations much later, on 20 January 2005, see Fomes and Mendez (2018).

In 2007, CHILAC joined forces with its parent organization CPAFFC and the PRC to host the First China-Latin American People-to-People Friendship Forum in 2007 in Chongqing, China. A year later, Beijing published its First White Paper on China and LAC.24 In 2009, the Second Friendship Forum was celebrated in Havana, which was followed in 2011 by a Third Friendship Forum in Fuzhou. At this third one, Juan Manuel Flores of El Salvador was appointed Vice-President of CHILAC.25 With the simultaneous creation in 2011 of the China-CELAC Forum (CCF) - a globalization gambit in which China tried to enter into the governance of CELAC, the Community of Latin American and the Caribbean States founded by political leaders of the left, - the Friendship Forum became even more political, as “it was incorporated as a subforum of CCF”.26 This ostensibly non-governmental forum started to have an official flavour. Subsequent forums were held in San Jose, Costa Rica (2013) and most recently in Hangzhou, China (2015).

In this context, Expo-Shanghai in September 2010 was turned into an opportunity by Beijing to facilitate rapprochement with El Salvador. At this trade fair held in Shanghai, businessmen and policymakers from El Salvador met with representatives of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce as well as the Friendship Association of China and Latin America. Flores attended as head of AASC and as an FMLN politician. Local newspapers reported that this was the first time the Salvadoran flag had waved alongside the PRC flag.27

A few months later, on 25 October 2010, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce opened its first office in El Salvador to provide advice and information and to foster trade relations between the countries. A China Expo in El Salvador took place in November 2010.28 The founding of the Salvadoran-China Chamber of Commerce was important in initiating a thaw between Beijing and El Salvador, because one of the problems was the massive trade deficit El Salvador had developed with China. Only 1% of El Salvador’s exports went to China in 2012. It has been argued as well that San Salvador was interested in letting Beijing open a commercial office in El Salvador in 2013 to break their dependency on the commercial offices in Costa Rica.29

In 2015, San Salvador opened an official commercial office in Shanghai, which moved to Beijing in mid-2017, more than a year before the establishment of diplomatic ties.30 Both countries seem to have been preparing for the switch. This illustrates the importance of informal acts and unofficial instruments in the foreign policy-making process, even such things as friendship associations and chambers of commerce.31 Scholars have long argued that these kinds of associations have been historically important to the Chinese diaspora as “self-help organizations to deal with an uncertain or even hostile new environment”.32 In the case of El Salvador it seems that they are also useful as soft power and public diplomacy tools in the hands of either Taipei or Beijing.

It is sometimes assumed that Beijing has to work hard to convince conservative policy-makers in traditional Latin American societies to abandon Taipei, but in reality, most countries in the region are eager to switch. According to an ex- President of the Dominican Republic, which also switched from Taipei to Beijing in 2018, they would have switched a long time ago, but

It is not up to them: ‘the decision is made by Beijing’. . . Panama tried fox- years to convince Beijing to open the door to them but China refused it and several other nations in order to avoid precipitating a diplomatic crisis by stripping Taipei of international personhood.33

This seemingly counterintuitive finding is consistent with the story of El Salvador. 5 Current state of affairs

The mutual diplomatic recognition of El Salvador and China was announced on 21 August 2018 from Beijing, where the Foreign Minister of El Salvador and his Chinese counterpaxt со-signed the official communique. President Sanchez Ceren axmounced it via televised speech.34 The demarche was deeply criticized by members of the opposition who disagreed with the decision. Matters were rushed along and the first official delegation from El Salvador travelled to Beijing in mid-September 2018. The meetings were deeply criticized for failure to involve the private sector. Critics remarked how unusual it was that the talks did not “include representatives that can contribute more on the subject of a commercial relationship with China”.35 But El Salvador’s Finance Minister dismissed these complaints, arguing that not including business this time was the right decision because it was the first official visit.36

In November 2018, ex-President Sanchez Ceren on a State Visit to China met with President Xi Jinping, who publicly reminded him “to stick to the one China principle”.37 A total of 13 agreements were signed during this visit ranging from bank cooperation and embassage to transport connectivity.38 One of the most significant agreements was the one endorsing the BRI,39 but it remains unclear how El Salvador would be supposed to implement it. Sanchez Ceren then travelled to Shanghai to attend the first China International Import Expo (CUE), which Beijing set up to facilitate trade flows between Belt and Road countries around the world. On 17 December 2018, Sanchez Ceren accredited the first PRC Ambassador to San Salvador, OuJianhong, whom Xi had appointed in early December.40

The first month of 2019 was fairly quiet in terms of diplomatic developments in the tun-up to the Presidential election on 3 February. It was won by Niyab Bukele, an inexperienced and outsider politician member of the Gran Alianza por la Unidad Nacional (GANA) party. Both countries have hinted that they will study the possibility of an FTA, but it remains unclear whether conditions would allow either negotiation or implementation. This seems to have inspired in mid- February 2019 a move by Salvador’s Ministiy of Foreign Affairs to cancel the FTA with Taiwan, even to announcing it would terminate from 15 March 2019,41 but the Salvadoran Supreme Court reversed the cancellation shortly before the deadline.42 Although Taipei has never been a significant trading partners of El Salvador - in 2018 it was the 12th most significant trade partner in terms of exports and 13th most important one in terms of imports,43 - certain sectors would be badly affected if the trade terms were altered (sugar and coffee traders are the top exporters to Taiwan).

San Salvador opened its Embassy in Beijing on 29 April 2019, an event attended mostly by govermnent officials, including the Salvadoran Export and Investment Promotion Agency (PROESA).44 PROESA argues that El Salvador’s geographical location “in noith Central America, as well as port and airport infrastructure, could also make it a convenient hub for cargo arriving via the Pacific and heading towards the Atlantic coast, or to North or South America”.45 But this is not entirely accurate. El Salvador is the only countiy in Central America without access to the Atlantic and the rate of investment in infrastructure as a percentage of GDP has been way below the recommended 6.2% per year.46 The latest available figures are from 2015 and show El Salvador investing only 1.83% of GDP in infrastructure, which is even below the already low regional average.47

6 Geopolitics in play - flying to Washington, but

ending in Beijing

Reportedly, US National Security Advisor John Bolton, to warn him against switching from Taipei to Beijing, telephoned then-President Sanchez Ceren. who ignored him.48 Forty-eight hours later, Washington was reacting strongly. Administration press secretary Sanders denounced the decision as impacting “the economic health and security of the entire Americas region [and that it would] result in a re-evaluation of [the US] relationship with El Salvador”.49 Shortly thereafter, on 7 September 2018, Washington recalled its Ambassador to El Salvador, Jean Manes (and their top diplomats in Panama and the Dominican Republic), for consultations on how to move forward in the aftermath of San Salvador’s de-recognition of Taiwan.50

On 12 February 2019, John Bolton made a second call to El Salvador, this time to speak to President-elect Bukele. Bolton tweeted that they "discussed ways to strengthen the U.S.-E1 Salvador friendship and to collaborate to restore democracy in Venezuela and counter Chinese predatory practices in the hemisphere”.51 In mid-March 2019 President-elect Bukele travelled to Washington and made his first public remarks regarding Beijing since the election, stating, “China does not respect the rules of commerce, manipulates its currency and meddles into other countries’ democracies”.52 Beijing immediately pushed back, stating that China is not meddling in the internal affairs of El Salvador.53 Bukele reiterated at the 49th Washington Conference on the Americas on 7 May 2019, one of the most important yearly political events in the Western Hemisphere, that the diplomatic switch from Taipei to Beijing was not a transparent decision. He also stated.

I’ll be frank, we’re not going to do what’s most convenient for America or China [PRC]. We’re going to do what’s best for El Salvador. That could mean being back with Taiwan, [or it] could be staying with China. It’s an ongoing discussion.54

Bukele took office on 1 June 2019 and undertook an ambitious demarche of rapprochement with Washington instead of Beijing. He entered on his country’s Presidency with what scholars have called "fantasy agency” - the idea that “something will turn up” to save the day.55 In an incredibly naive manoeuvre, Bukele wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post on 23 July 2019 in which he appealed to the United States for more foreign direct investment in El Salvador.56 Certainly, the United States is the country’s foremost trading partner for both exports and imports, but it is a fraught relationship - more so now that Trump has announced an end of aid to El Salvador as well as Guatemala and Honduras, because of the deep-rooted belief that the three are boosting illegal immigration to the United States.57

While campaigning in 2018, Bukele chid his predecessor for suddenly switching to the PRC. Right after the election in February 2019, his spokesman promised that relations with China would be scrutinized.55 But walking away from China is easier said than done. Other Latin American leaders have failed before, from Argentine Presidential candidate Macri campaigning to lessen his country’s dependency on China,59 to Lenin Moreno censuring his predecessor for engaging Ecuador too deeply in debt to China.60 Once in power, they realize China's embeddedness in their economies entangles any pushback. Even Brazil's Bolsonaro had to warm up to Beijing and accept the Chinese ambassador’s public invitation to visit China.61 He completed this in October 2019 and immediately welcomed Xi Jinping to Brazil the next month, in November 2019.

Bukele has confronted the very same issues. He began his Presidency hoping in Washington, but by December 2019 he had run to Beijing on a state visit, obliged by US neglect to go begging. He obtained a number of “gigantic” non-refundable pledges from Xi Jinping (Beijing did not disclose the amount); viz., the usual football stadium, library and water plant.62 Regardless of size, these projects are hardly what El Salvador needs for its long-term economic development. Small states like El Salvador “welcome China’s liberal internationalist grand bargain, which purports to converge on their development preferences”.63 Bukele has shown very little agency in obtaining these deals. He may be doing it to win favour from a clueless public for his political party to gain seats in the parliamentary elections of March 2021, but he is advancing no foreign policy strategy. The country’s “GDP growth will fall to 1% in 2020, given the cancellation of TPS [Temporary Protected Status] and a weak US economy”.64 A rebound had been projected for 2024, but this is far from certain under Bukele’s leadership, which shows lixuited capacity for innovation, strategy and knowhow in matters of international affairs, so far.


  • 1 Mendez and Alden (2019).
  • 2 ITC (2019).
  • 3 Esteban (2008).
  • 4 Klein (1963:65).
  • 5 MOFA-Taiwan (2016).
  • 6 UN (1971).
  • 7 Idem, p. 2.
  • 8 Wang (1990:155).
  • 9 Reuters cited in British Pathe (1973).
  • 10 Alexander (2014:208).
  • 11 Scalera (2017:41).
  • 12 Idem, p. 40.
  • 13 WTO (2019).
  • 14 Erikson and Chen (2007:78).
  • 15 Chen (2007:91).
  • 16 Wise (2016:76).
  • 17 Fornes and Mendez (2018).
  • 18 Alexander (2014:208).
  • 19 Tang et al. (2017).
  • 20 Mendez and Alden (2019).
  • 21 Ratliff (1969:58).
  • 22 Sutter (2011:70).
  • 23 Gonzales (2011).
  • 24 Tsai and Liu (2012).
  • 25 Gonzales (2011).
  • 26 MOFA-China (2016:32).
  • 27 El Pais (2010).
  • 28 La Prensa (2010).
  • 29 Sandi Meza (2015).
  • 30 Pino (2017).
  • 31 Mendez (2018), see also Jing et al. (2020).
  • 32 Backman and Butler (2004).
  • 33 Fornes and Mendez (2018:57-58).
  • 34 RREE (2018).
  • 35 Cited in Campos Madrid (2018).
  • 36 El Diario de Hoy (2018).
  • 37 Ng (2018).
  • 38 Morales (2019).
  • 39 Mendez and Alden (2019).
  • 40 Morales (2019).
  • 41 Guzman (2019).
  • 42 Webber (2019).
  • 43 ITC (2019).
  • 44 RREE (2019).
  • 45 Xinhua (2018).
  • 46 Mendez (2019).
  • 47 INFRALATAM (2019).
  • 48 Harris (2018).
  • 49 Sanders (2018).
  • 50 Nauert (2018); Wong (2018).
  • 51 Cited in Gao (2019).
  • 52 Cited in SCMP (2019b).
  • 53 Renteria (2019).
  • 54 Bukele cited in Pacheco (2019).
  • 55 Mendez and Turzi (2020); Mendez (2017).
  • 56 Bukele (2019).
  • 57 Reuters (2019).
  • 58 Lo (2019).
  • 59 Curia (2015).
  • 60 Casey and Krauss (2018).
  • 61 Brito (2019).
  • 62 SCMP (2019a).
  • 63 Mendez and Alden (2019:5).
  • 64 EIU (2019).


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  • [1] Economic and foreign relations To contextualize its new ties with Beijing, El Salvador’s historical economic relations overall are first examined. The country’s foreign policy turns on: (1) regionalintegration; (2) national sovereignty; (3) development cooperation; (4) trade and
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