In the United States, when we think of the Caribbean Sea, many of us think of beaches and wonderful music.
The music and the beaches still thrive. But a new Caribbean is emerging, with the construction of roads, port facilities, new government buildings, and cricket and soccer stadiums, all thanks to Chinese government donations, aid, loans, and investments.
According to the website Central America Link, as of 2015 while the United States remained the principal trading partner of the Caribbean, China and Venezuela had emerged as new challengers.
In earlier years, China had focused on encouraging Caribbean island and Central American nations that had diplomatic relations with Taiwan to break their ties with the self-ruling island.
On June 14 this year, China gained a diplomatic victory when Panama broke with the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC) and established relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
And given its current disagreements with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, China can be expected to continue its efforts to persuade the five nations in Central America and the six in the Caribbean that retain diplomatic ties to the ROC to cut those ties.
But Beijing shifted several years ago beyond concerns over Taiwan to a broader agenda. Aspiring to be recognized as a global power, China now gives a priority to Latin America and the Caribbean region that has to be seen in the context of China’s global rivalry with the United States.
A turning point for China followed the U.S. financial crisis in 2008 when U.S. private investment in the Caribbean declined even as Chinese investment surged.
A report published by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) in mid-May of 2014 explained that “Chinese companies since 2008 have been expanding investments, contracted projects and bilateral trade in the Caribbean.”
“This has been…enabled in large part,” the report said, “by China’s central government, which…