Bernardo Arevalosocial democrat candidate for the presidency of Guatemala which promises to fight against corruption and – to everyone’s surprise – passed on Sunday to the second round of the process (held on August 20).

Arevalo said yesterday Tuesday that if he is elected head of state, he will pursue it establishing relations with China.

“We have to work on our trade relations and expand them in the case of China,” Mr. Arevalo told the country’s radio station.

Guatemala, the most populous Central American state, has for decades maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan, not the Asian giant.

Mr. Arevalo’s statement comes against the backdrop of China’s diplomatic successes in recent years in trying to become allies of Taipei.

Guatemala is among only 12 countries – 13 if the Vatican is added – that diplomatically recognize the island, which Beijing describes as a Chinese province.

In March, its president Honduran Xiomara Castro decided to establish relations with China and break them with Taiwan.

Bernardo Arevalo, 64, a member of Congress and son of former President Juan José Arevalo (1945-1951), came in second, behind Sandra Torres, also a center-left politician, the ex-wife of President Alvaro Colomb (2008-2012).

The candidate emphasized that he believes that Guatemala’s foreign policy should serve its own interests.

“Let’s become the owners of our foreign policy,” insisted Mr. Arevalo, for whom no one can dictate to the country which positions to adopt.

Ms. Torres, who she will face in August, has pledged to maintain Guatemala’s relations with Taiwan.

In April, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited Guatemala, a week after cutting ties with Honduras. Outgoing Guatemalan President Alejandro Yamate (right) then retaliated, making an official visit to the island, promising to deepen the bilateral relationship.

The US, Guatemala’s biggest trading partner, is trying to stem Taiwan’s diplomatic bleeding in the Latin American region.

In case the Guatemala indeed ceased to recognize the island, Taiwan’s only remaining ally in the Central American region would be tiny Belize.