Xi meets Castro, guiding China-Honduras relations to new high level
Significant step taken in setting tone for bilateral cooperation with various documents signed including on Belt and Road
Published: Jun 12, 2023 11:13 PM
Chinese President Xi Jinping holds a welcoming ceremony for visiting President of the Republic of Honduras Iris Xiomara Castro Sarmiento in Beijing on June 12, 2023, before their talks in the Great Hall of the People. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping holds a welcoming ceremony for visiting President of the Republic of Honduras Iris Xiomara Castro Sarmiento in Beijing on June 12, 2023, before their talks in the Great Hall of the People. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping held a meeting with visiting Honduran President Iris Xiomara Castro Sarmiento in the Great Hall of the People on Monday, as Castro became the first Honduran president to make a state visit to China, opening a new historical chapter in China-Honduras relations. Officials and experts hailed the meeting as significant as it set the tone for bilateral relations and injected new momentum into bilateral cooperation, bringing it to a higher level. 

President Xi extended a warm welcome to Castro and hailed her visit as one of special significance as it opens a new chapter in the annals of the China-Honduras relationship. Xi commended her unwavering political will as evidenced by the historic decision she made to fulfill her campaign promise of establishing diplomatic relations with China.

Honduras officially inaugurated its embassy in Beijing on Sunday three months after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Central American country severed its so-called "diplomatic" relations with Taiwan island on March 25. 

Xi underscored the immediate and long-term significance of the establishment of diplomatic ties, saying the bilateral relationship has got off to a good and speedy start and enjoys great dynamism and promise. 

China will remain committed to developing friendly relations with Honduras, firmly support economic and social development in the country, and forge a good friendship and partnership with Honduras featuring mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit, and common development, Xi said during the meeting. 

The Chinese top leader also expressed his readiness to work with the Honduran president from a strategic and long-term perspective to steer the bilateral relationship toward greater development and to turn the vision of cooperation into tangible results to the greater benefit of the two peoples. 

Following the meeting, the two sides signed a number of cooperation documents including those related to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), quality inspection, trade, agriculture, tech, culture and education. 

In the initial stage of China-Honduras relations, the two sides reached consensus on negotiating a free trade agreement and promoting practical cooperation in various fields, according to a joint statement released following the meeting.

The meeting between Chinese and Honduran leaders set the tone for China-Honduras relations, reflecting the high level of political mutual trust and respect for each other's development path, Pan Deng, executive director of the Latin American and Caribbean Region Law Center of China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times on Monday. 

"While the two leaders pointed out the future direction for diplomatic relations, those positive outcomes in the political field will soon be turned into full-scale cooperation between the two countries," Pan said. 

During Castro's state visit to China, some senior officials from the Honduran delegation expressed high expectations for Honduras-China relations, which have been developing at a very fast pace, and more Honduran enterprises and people are willing to share the opportunities of the giant Chinese market.

Over the past week, a Honduran business delegation has visited various provinces in China and negotiated with local entrepreneurs, with cooperation intentions being reached in exporting Honduran products such as coffee, white shrimp and melon. 

'Good friend, good partner' 

The one-China principle is the first premise and political foundation of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Honduras and the development of bilateral ties, and it's believed that Honduras will fully meet its commitment, Xi told Castro during the meeting. 

China firmly supports Honduras in safeguarding its national sovereignty, independence and its efforts in promoting development and improving livelihoods, supporting it to independently choose development paths suited to its national conditions and opposing interference of any foreign forces in Honduras' internal affairs, Xi said. 

With the shift in its own strategic focus, the US has made many "empty promises" to Honduras in recent years, which prompted it to stand up to the pressure from Washington and establish diplomatic relations with China, Pan noted. "Compared with the empty promises from the US, China can provide pragmatic cooperation that benefits its development, which has become a consensus within political and business circles in Honduras," he said.  

Castro said during the meeting that the establishment of diplomatic relations with China is a decision made by the Honduran government that will go down in history. Honduras firmly supports and upholds the one-China principle, and firmly supports the Chinese government's efforts to achieve reunification. 

The Xi-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative and Global Civilization Initiative are conducive to building a safer and more secure world in line with people's expectations, which Honduras highly praises and will actively participate in, she noted. 

After joining Belt and Road, China's experience in poverty reduction, education, infrastructure, logistics, science and technology will provide a reference for Honduras to overcome many structural problems, bringing new development opportunities for the country to better integrate into an interconnected and interactive world, Cui Shoujun, professor of the school of international relations of Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Monday. 

Shortly after the establishment of diplomatic ties with China, Honduras expressed willingness to join the BRI, which shows that the initiative has shown a positive demonstration effect overseas, making other countries willing to take the express train of China's development, Pan noted. 

"Joining the initiative shows that it is now very popular overseas, especially when the US often smears the initiative in Latin America," he said. 

Furthermore, unlike other countries that previously established diplomatic relations with China, Honduras abolished the free trade agreement with China's Taiwan region while signing the joint communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations with China, which shows that Honduras attaches great importance and shares a bullish view on the Chinese market and economy, experts said. 

In the future, more Honduran agricultural products will no longer need Taiwan as a "middleman" and will be able to be sold more quickly and directly to the Chinese mainland and reach people's tables, Fredis Cerrato, Honduran Minister of Economic Development, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Sunday.

Direct exports of Honduran goods to the Chinese mainland also mean "lower costs, greater speed, and more opportunities," he said.