China’s new diplomatic footprints
CHINA’S PRESIDENT Xi Jinping last week embarked on a four-nation tour of the Caribbean and Americas involving Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States of America. The trip had more than symbolic significance.
Trinidad and Tobago, with its vast oil and gas resources, is an important cooperation partner of China in the Anglophone Caribbean, and the two countries have expanded political, economic, trade and cultural cooperation over recent years.
President Xi also met with the CARICOM leaders of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, The Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Suriname and Jamaica, all of which have diplomatic ties with China.
At the end of the summit, China announced that it was setting aside BDS$6 billion in concessionary facility for eight CARICOM countries and looks forward to discussing bilateral ties and exploring together ways to boost cooperation.
Over the past few years China has embarked on a strategy of buying up commodities, especially energy, to fuel its economic drive. It is therefore no coincidence that Trinidad and Tobago was targeted for this regional mini-summit.
One should not always look a gift horse in the mouth, but it is known that for the past decade China has embarked on an economic policy of exporting its labour when financing overseas projects. Though this development assistance is welcome, these kinds of strings are not in CARICOM’s best interests.
In the case of the United States, Presidents Barack Obama and Xi, who assumed office in March, ended their first US-China summit, forging a rapport and policy understandings on North Korea, climate and cyber issues.
Though there is much suspicion on both sides, each leader wanted to loosen the formality and seemed to have succeeded. At one point Obama and Xi, finding common ground as politicians, sketched respective visions for where they hoped to take their countries.
They agreed to work for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, following missile tests and wild warnings from North Korea. It was perhaps no coincidence that on Monday both North and South Korea announced plans to resume talks.
In less than three months since taking office, China’s new leaders would have left footprints on five out of the seven continents, and such intensity in top-level diplomacy and its vast geographic span are rare, even for the most active global players nowadays.
It is clear that despite its economic progress and growing influence in the world, China is not about to change its domestic political profile in an effort to court democratic principles being pushed by the United States.