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Economy & Business - February 2020

The new face of China's chequebook diplomacy in Central America

On his 1-6 December 2019 visit to China, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele announced the latest infrastructure investment from the country’s new Asian benefactor would be “gigantic” and “non-refundable”. Ambiguous in his stance on China prior to his predecessor Salvador Sánchez Cerén (2014-2019) severing ties with Taiwan in August 2018, Bukele’s newly unequivocal support for the ‘One China Policy’ won him a water treatment plant and a new sports arena. Such investment harks back to the decades-old ‘stadium diplomacy’ that won China allies worldwide, including Costa Rica in 2007 and various Caribbean nations between the 1980s and early 2000s.

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