China stays close to El Salvador
El Salvador broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established diplomatic ties with the Peoples Republic of China in 2018 during the FMLN administration of Salvador Sanchez Ceren. The Chinese promised $150 million in donations and were pushing forward to acquire rights to manage the port of La Union.
The El Salvador-China relationship was reset after Nayib Bukele defeated the FMLN to become president. At the outset, as he wooed the US, Bukele appeared to favor a more distant relationship with China. Shortly after his election, he spoke to Trump administration advisor John Bolton who warned Bukele of "Chinese predatory practices" to which Bukele responded in a tweet that the US would find in El Salvador "not just an ally, but a friend."
A short time later, in a speech at the Heritage Foundation, before he took office, Bukele stated that China "does not play by the rules," was “not a democracy” and “meddles” in the democracies of other nations. He said that he would want El Salvador and China to maintain friendly relations, based not on “money or investment, but respect”. He also said that “They develop projects that are not feasible, leaving countries with huge debt that cannot be paid back and use that as financial leverage.”
On April 1, 2019, Bukele tweeted that China was making a “grave error” by inviting FMLN legislative deputies to come visit the country.
But after Bukele took over as president, however, he quickly warmed to what China was offering to provide El Salvador. Bukele made a state visit to Beijing in December 2019. where China promised El Salvador $500 million in development projects, including a sports stadium and a new $40 million national library in San Salvador, a new tourist pier in La Libertad, $85 million to improve water treatment facilities in La Libertad and Ilopango, and $200 million to support Bukele’s “Surf City” project.
Progress on many of those projects would soon be slowed, however, by the global coronavirus pandemic. Bukele was one of the early world leaders to ban all travel from China at the end of January 2020 because of early impact of the coronavirus in the Asian country.
The projects promised during Bukele's trip to China are still on the way. In early March of this year, it was announced in El Salvador that China would be investing $4 million in the tourism development at the pier in Puerto de La Libertad, and would be donating five amusement park rides for the development including a roller coaster and carousel.
|Chinese ambassador to El Salvador Ou Jianhong|
The virus knows no borders and is the common enemy of all humanity. Chinese medical experts have shared the experiences and the diagnosis and treatment plan on covid-19 with their Salvadoran counterparts on two occasions. China has also offered urgent cash humanitarian assistance and three donations of medical supplies. The recent cooperation on vaccines is yet another manifestation. China is in a position to maintain its close collaboration with El Salvador, in order to bring more benefits to the Salvadoran people, and to continue taking our relationship of friendship to a new level.