China vs. the USA

Xi Jinping’s first visit to Latin America and the Caribbean as China’s President took place between May 31st to June 6th.  On June 2nd, the Chinese President met with the heads of 9 of 14 independent Caribbean territories in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago’s capital.  Each of the 9 leaders made statements after individual short meetings with the Chinese President.  From the media reports, 8 leaders praised China for the loans and assistance the Chinese government is giving.  President Jinping announced an additional $3 billion financial package for the region.  Only the Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart, raised with the Chinese President the need to improve China’s imports.  China enjoys a significant trade surplus with the Caribbean.

For the most part, I thought that mainstream media coverage of the event lacked any real substance.  Aside from the Economist, there was painfully little analysis of this historic visit’s possible geopolitical implications.  The Caribbean media focused on the $3 billion financial packages from the Chinese.  The Chinese media (at least the English language sites I found) continue to paint their first lady as some celebrity, and the highlight of the trip was her attempt at playing a steel pan (or steel drum).  The Trinidad media focused on certain diplomatic faux pas that is said to have occurred.

I am concerned about the potential geopolitical implications for Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) because it could be argued that that the present administration has adopted a decidedly anti-American stance since taking power in 2010.  I say this for 4 reasons.  Firstly, two financiers of the ruling political party are still wanted by the US authorities “on numerous fraud and money laundering charges.”  Secondly, the T&T government did not succumb to the US’s usual diplomatic overtures to secure the extradition, which appears to have been frustrated by the direct intervention of members of the T&T Prime Minister’s Cabinet.  As such, the US government had to resort to rather undiplomatic public statements on the matter.  Thirdly, T&T is viewed as still not doing enough to tighten the loopholes in its financial system and control money laundering.  It is a system that allowed the two financiers to carry-out their alleged crimes and a system that both French and Canadian authorities have pointed out as having inadequate controls.

Fourthly, the T&T government is seen as playing a leadership role in rallying 8 other independent Caribbean territories in supporting China’s claim of complete sovereignty over Taiwan as a renegade province at a time when the US administration has pivoted to the Pacific, and the relationship with China becomes more tense by the day.  On June 8th, President Barack Obama told President Jinping during their summit in California that the U.S. clearly understood its commitment to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, including its obligation to provide Taiwan with arms to protect itself.  Not to mention the proxy standoff with China via the Philippines with which the United States has a mutual defense treaty (since 1951).

In short, I wonder whether the Caribbean has yet again demonstrated concise term thinking by cozying up to China in exchange for a not so subtle bribe.

Escaped Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng was in London recently.  The blind civil rights activist was clear that the media has just scraped the surface of the injustice that exists within China.  As an example, he explained that “the one-child policy has been very, very, very bad throughout.” The dissident went on to explain in a recent interview with the Spectator magazine that he had recently received information from his home town of a woman who was nine months pregnant being dragged away and having her baby ‘forcefully aborted.’

Going into details, he said that the woman was dragged to the hospital and forced to sign a “consent” form for an abortion.  This is typically carried out in several ways.  One way is that they force the baby to be induced — born.  Usually, the baby is born alive, and then they would throw the baby into water and drown it.  The second way is they have some liquid poison dosage, and they directly inject the needle into the head of the baby and kill the baby directly and let the baby come out.’

What is the impact on society of decades of such a policy? ‘The largest impact I want to tell the international community about most is the bankruptcy of the culture of respect for human life. People do not respect life anymore. This is not just this policy. This evil practice has not just happened in my home town; it has been everywhere, all over China.’  It is a system of ‘family planning by violence.’ American Tax Singapore

Chen Guangcheng explained that he chose to seek asylum in the American embassy in Beijing because “America has more strength.”  I am wondering whether 9 Caribbean territories picked to support the wrong side?  Time will tell!


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