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China’s Belt And Road Initiative Snags Cuba On Christmas Day

My recent pair of articles based on an interview with Professor David Arase of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, published in Asia Times under the title Belt & Road Phase 2 moves beyond infrastructure and Greater Eurasia’: Belt & Road expands in Africa, detailed the evolution of China’s Belt & Road Initiative beyond large infrastructure projects and its expansion in Africa.

This article follows up with a review of the Chinese economic and strategic presence in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is attracting more and more attention from concerned US foreign policy specialists.

For one thing, as Arase points out, “The number and distribution of port investment projects is impressive and can make China’s Maritime Silk Road circumnavigate the globe, from the South Pacific to Latin America, through the Panama Canal and the Caribbean to Brazil, and then to Belt & Road ports in West Africa.”

Overall, what’s happening undermines the notion that Latin America is the United States’ “backyard.” Admiral Craig Faller, the head of US Southern Command, recently told NBC News: “Chinese influence is global, and it is everywhere in this hemisphere, and moving forward in alarming ways.”

China's Belt And Road Initiative Snags Cuba On Christmas Day

Cuba joins Belt and Road

On December 25, 2021, Cuba and China signed a “cooperation plan” for the joint promotion of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Call it a Christmas present for President Joe Biden, Senator Marco Rubio and others in Washington, D.C., who don’t like either country. Or a reminder that Taiwan is not the only offshore island of strategic interest.

Cuba joined Belt & Road in 2018 through a memorandum of understanding. The cooperation plan, in the words of China’s Global Times, clarifies the “key… projects for China and Cuba … including infrastructure, technology, culture, education, tourism, energy, communications and biotechnology, which are in line with Cuba’s development plans for the short and long term.”

Last October, Cuba became a member of Belt & Road’s Energy Partnership. Established in 2019 to promote cooperation in renewable energy, it now has 32 members in Asia-Pacific, Central and South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Along with communism, the U.S. trade embargo has held down the Cuban economy since 1960. As an instrument of regime change, the embargo has failed. As a means of forcing the Cuban people into poverty unless and until they kowtow to the US, it has so far succeeded.

But now China may give Cuba a chance for economic development without American participation.

China's Belt And Road Initiative Snags Cuba On Christmas Day

China – Latin America-Caribbean Forum

On December 3, 2021, the third ministers’ meeting of the China-CELAC Forum was held in the form of a video conference.

Founded in 2011, CELAC (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y del Caribe or, in English, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) is an association for dialogue among its 33 members and with other countries and regional groupings including the European Union, China, the Russian Federation, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Turkey, the Republic of Korea and Japan.

The ministers adopted the “China-CELAC Joint Action Plan for Cooperation in Key Areas (2022-2024)”, a long and detailed document covering:

  • Political and Security Cooperation
  • Trade and Investment
  • Finance
  • Agriculture and Food
  • Science and Technology Innovation
  • Industry and Information Technology
  • Aviation and Aerospace
  • Energy and Resources
  • Tourism
  • Customs and Taxes
  • Infrastructures in the Area of Quality
  • High-Quality Infrastructure Cooperation
  • Public Health
  • Sustainable Development and Eradication of Poverty
  • Culture, Art and Sports
  • Higher Education, Think Tanks and Young People
  • Media and Communications
  • Local and Community Exchanges
  • Sustainable Development
  • International Affairs and Subregional and Interregional Cooperation

Did they forget anything?

Hot-button issues for strategic thinkers in Washington, D.C., and Western European capitals include:

  • Continue holding the China-Latin America Superior Defense Forum. [The Fourth and most recent China-Latin America High-level Defense Forum was held in October 2018 at the International College of Defense Studies of the National Defense University of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Participants included the Bolivian defense minister, Costa Rican security minister, chief of Uruguay’s Defense General Staff and other defense and security officials from Latin America.]
  • Deepen cooperation among financial institutions, providing financial cooperation mechanisms for the development of trade and investment projects.
  • Strengthen exchanges between scientific and technological authorities, to increase synergies between the innovation, academic, and scientific sectors of the parties.
  • Strengthen exchanges and cooperation in the peaceful civilian use of nuclear energy and nuclear technology.
  • Strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation between governments, enterprises, and research institutions in digital infrastructure, telecommunications equipment, 5G, big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, internet of things, smart cities, internet+, universal telecommunication services, radio spectrum management and other areas of common interest, and explore the construction of joint laboratories.
  • Strengthen exchanges and cooperation in the field of aerospace, in matters of peaceful exploration of space, space science, satellite data sharing, satellite applications, construction of ground infrastructure, personnel training and education.
  • Work toward deeper cooperation in the fields of electricity, oil, gas, renewable energies, new energies, nuclear energy for civilian use, energy technology, electromobility and equipment, geological and energy mining resources.
  • With Chinese support conduct Chinese language education, to incorporate Chinese language into member states’ national education curricula and to open Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms.
China's Belt And Road Initiative Snags Cuba On Christmas Day

Economic and strategic challenges

China’s relations with Latin America and the Caribbean have evolved far beyond the point of being a mere incipient challenge to the existing order. In fact, China has already become a major investment partner for Latin America and the Caribbean, ranking with Europe and the United States.

According to the IMF Working Paper “Chinese Investment in Latin America: Sectoral Complementarity and the Impact of China’s Rebalancing”:

  • “Over the last decade China’s investment in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has increased substantially in volume and become more diversified.”
  • “Once heavily concentrated in fossil fuels, metals, agriculture and other natural resources, Chinese investment in LAC has increasingly tilted towards manufacturing and services industries such as transport, electricity, financial services and information and communication technology.”
  • “Asia – and particularly China – accounts for almost a third of LAC’s inward foreign direct investment stock, followed by Europe and the US, with shares of 30 and 20 percent, respectively.”

Brazil has received the most Chinese attention in the region, but investments and infrastructure project loans directed at Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico have also been significant.

Electric power has become a major target of Chinese investment, with more than a dozen acquisition deals across LAC with an average size of over US$1 billion. Negotiations to build a new nuclear power plant in Argentina are currently underway.

Sizeable investments in port and harbor facilities have also been made, with projects in Mexico and Central America, the Bahamas and Cuba, Panama, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile.

Geographically, these range from Ensenada, Mexico, about 100km from the US border, and the Bahamas, off the coast of Florida, to Punta Arenas at the southern tip of Chile.

Port and harbors, which could potentially be used by the Chinese navy, are of particular concern to the US government. In 2019, American and Japanese pressure put a stop to a project in El Salvador, but now it has reportedly been revived.

China has also built a radio astronomy and satellite tracking station in Argentina, about which a spokesman for the White House National Security Council stated: “The Patagonia ground station, agreed to in secret by a corrupt and financially vulnerable government a decade ago, is another example of opaque and predatory Chinese dealings that undermine the sovereignty of host nations.”

China's Belt And Road Initiative Snags Cuba On Christmas Day

In telecommunications, to take another example, despite the US government’s attempts to shut it down, Huawei’s market in Latin America begins in Mexico and extends to Venezuela, Brazil, Chile and Argentina. A Huawei-built undersea cable connects Brazil and Africa.

In addition, China Telecom Americas (CTA) proclaims on its website that it plans “to develop IP backbone infrastructure that connects its existing global network to new PoPs [Points of Presence, or network interface points] in Fortaleza, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; Lima, Peru; Panama City, Panama; and Mexico City, Mexico, over the next 3 years.”

This, it adds, will “enable us to offer new technologies like 5G, internet of things (IoT) and smart city technologies that will greatly benefit the region.”

CTA’s network also serves Sao Paulo, Brazil, Panama and the United States, and it connects to Europe and Africa.

As of December 2021, 19 out of 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean had signed up for the Belt and Road. In addition to Cuba, they include Jamaica and six other island states in the Caribbean; El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama in Central America; and Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Uruguay in South America.

But some of China’s biggest Latin American investment partners – notably Brazil, Argentina and Mexico – have not formally signed up to the Belt and Road.

Nevertheless, China is now the largest trading partner of Brazil, Argentina and most of the rest of South America – the exceptions being Colombia, Ecuador and the Guianas.

China's Belt And Road Initiative Snags Cuba On Christmas Day

America responds

In September, US President Joe Biden dispatched to Columbia, Ecuador and Panama a delegation consisting of: Daleep Singh, the deputy national security advisor for international economics; David Marchick, chief operating officer of the US International Development Finance Corporation; Ricardo Zúniga, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs; and officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Treasury and others.

Their mission: to hear directly from a range of Latin American stakeholders to better understand the infrastructure needs within these countries and around the region. 

This visit, the White House said, “demonstrated President Biden’s commitment to strengthening our ties with Latin America and to narrowing the massive global gaps in physical, digital, and human infrastructure that has been widened by the Covid-19 pandemic. The President’s vision for B3W is to work with partners that share our democratic values to finance and develop infrastructure in a manner that is transparent, sustainable, adheres to high standards, and catalyzes the private sector where possible.”

B3W is short for the Build Back Better World Initiative announced by the G7 in July 2021 to counter China’s Belt & Road Initiative.

The extent of the new US and G7 commitment to Latin America should become visible in the months ahead. At the very least, the competition should enable countries in the region to get better deals from the US, Europe, Japan and China.

Scott Foster is an analyst with LightStream Research, Tokyo. Follow him on Twitter: @ScottFo83517667

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Can The Caribbean and Latin America Really Trust China As A Business Partner?

On December 7, a few days after the third China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Forum, the Chinese Foreign Ministry released the China-CELAC Joint Action Plan for 2022-2024. It laid out Beijing’s plans to expand cooperation over a range of areas, including defense, finance, trade, public health, and cultural exchanges.

On that same day, the regional Latin American news website Infobae reported that the Ecuadorian government was suing Chinese company Sinohydro for shoddy work on the Coca Codo Sinclair dam, which has seriously harmed the Ecuadorian environment and economy. Constructed in 2016, the dam has over 7,000 cracks, is causing erosion along the Coca River, and is running well below its promised capacity. The erosion has also forced two of Ecuador’s most important gas pipelines to shut down, potentially threatening Ecuador’s ability to fulfill its export contracts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is now working with the Ecuadorian government to mitigate the effects of the erosion.

The juxtaposition of these two events highlights the conundrum facing Latin American and Caribbean governments: Their aspirations of leveraging Chinese resources to finance national development and other objectives versus the very real risks that engaging with Chinese entities can bring.

Ecuador’s Coca Codo Sinclair dam is just one example of a string of failed, problematic, or stalled Chinese infrastructure projects throughout the region. Is there something about PRC-funded or managed projects that leads to a disproportionate number of problems? There are three elements which contribute to an elevated risk of problems that can be highlighted by an in-depth examination of the Coca Codo Sinclair case: A lack of due diligence by the partner contracting the Chinese project; corruption; and disregard for indigenous rights and environmental protection.

Can The Caribbean and Latin America Really Trust China As A Business Partner?
Coca Codo Sinclair dam in Ecuador.

Lack of Due Diligence

In 1992, the Ecuadorian government commissioned two feasibility studies on the Coca Codo Sinclair dam. One of those studies pointed out that the project could adversely affect the Coca River water supply, which could in turn cause “regressive erosion,” eating away at the river bed and weakening land upstream. When the Chinese company Sinohydro began constructing the dam in 2010, it either did not follow through on due diligence to conduct a vulnerability or risk study, or it simply ignored the risks identified in the previous study.

In 2015, Ecuador’s comptroller found more than 7,000 cracks in the dam’s distributors, indicating that the work or materials used by Sinohydro were likely of poor quality. Similarly, due to Sinohydro’s failure to address the hydrological risks from the project identified by the earlier analysis, in 2020, the flow of the Coca River was severely impacted, causing the iconic San Rafael waterfall to dry up and both the Trans-Ecuadorian Oil Pipeline System and the Heavy Crude Oil Pipeline to rupture. These issues all resulted in environmental damage and temporarily affected Ecuador’s oil supply. As a consequence, as noted previously, in 2021, Ecuador decided to sue Sinohydro and bring the case to international arbitration.

Elsewhere in Ecuador, numerous other hydroelectric projects have faced problems. These have resulted in the Ecuadorian government fining China Water and Electric for non-compliance with contract commitments on the Toachi-Pilaton dam, the removal of China National Electric Equipment Corporation from the Quijos hydroelectric project for failure to complete the promised work, the cancellation of a project in Chone by the Chinese firm Tesijiu, and the deaths of three workers in a flooding accident in the Delsitsanisagua project, among others.

In Bolivia, the government has over the years rescinded the contracts of numerous Chinese companies for non-performance on infrastructure projects, including kicking Beijing Urban off Santa Cruz’s Viru Viru airport, and rescinding China Railway Road and CAMC Engineering’s contracts to build a railroad line from Montero to Bulo Bulo, among other incidents.

Over in the Caribbean, the sudden termination of Trinidad and Tobago’s $71.7 million project between China Gezhouba Group International Engineering Company and the Housing Development Corporation in 2019 highlighted a lack of transparency in the award of the contract and “overly generous concessions to the Chinese company,” according to the Caribbean Investigative Journalism Network. In Guyana, the minister of public works denied a request by China Harbor Engineering Company to extend the time of completion of an upgrade of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. This $150 million project remains incomplete after over a decade after it began due to various concerns over workmanship and other technical issues, although it is expected to be 65-70 percent complete by the end of the year.

These examples show a pattern of Chinese companies either not adequately conducting due diligence before a project commences or failing to follow through once the project begins. 

Can The Caribbean and Latin America Really Trust China As A Business Partner?

Corruption and Improper Chinese Influence

In 2018, the New York Times detailed the fact that almost all of the Ecuadorian government officials involved in the Coca Codo Sinclair dam project are now in jail or being investigated for bribery. While those bribery charges largely have to do with receiving funds from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, there was also a secretly recorded tape that was made public that suggested former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas had received bribes from the Chinese.

In Venezuela, there have been countless questionable, non-transparent projects in which it is not clear where the money went, but the projects were left uncompleted. One of the most glaring examples was a rice production facility contracted to China’s CAMC Engineering. In September 2018, an Andorran court found that the Chinese had paid at least $100 million in bribes to Venezuelan officials to secure the project, which ultimately never was completed or produced any rice.

Perhaps the most high-profile case is the “Nicaragua Canal,” a $100 billion project involving highly questionable non-transparent relationships between Nicaragua’s ruling Ortega family, including the president’s son Laureano, and Chinese telecommunication billionaire Wang Jing. In 2014, leveraging control of the Nicaraguan Congress by the Ortegas’ ruling Sandinista party, Wang Jing’s company HKND obtained broad authorization to construct a $100 billion canal across the country. The project ultimately vanished in 2016 after failing to attract outside investors, although in November 2021, just before Nicaragua’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC, Wang Jing curiously re-appeared in public to advocate the continuation of the project.

While these are the most overt examples of how Chinese companies use bribes and other improper influence to secure projects on terms to their advantage, there are other subtle ways. After Panama established diplomatic relations with the PRC in 2017, the administration of then-President Juan Carlos Varela negotiated agreements with China directly through the president’s office, prompting accusations of corruption.

In the Bahamas, local developer Sarkis Izmirlian has a pending $2.25 billion lawsuit against China Construction Americas for running that project into bankruptcy, leading him to ultimately lose control of the project. The lawsuit includes accusations that the firm submitted hundreds of millions of dollars in sham bills, intentionally understaffing the project and using it to train inexperienced workers for other construction projects in the region. Such corrupt activity isn’t just happening in the Western Hemisphere; around the world, 35 percent of China’s Belt and Road projects have encountered implementation problems, including corruption scandals, labor violations, environmental hazards, and public protests.

Disregard for the Community, Indigenous Peoples, and the Environment

Chinese projects across the region have repeatedly sparked protests by indigenous groups, environmentalists, and communities affected by their operations, for their manner of proceeding with respect to concerns over as the environment, land and water rights, and associated issues.

In 2018, the International Federation of Human Rights released a report finding that Chinese company BGP Bolivia broke its promise to the Tacana people of Bolivia, destroying a forest of chestnut trees, crucial to the local economy, and forcing animals to migrate. The collapse of a poorly constructed retaining wall in a Bolivian mining operation by the Chinese firm Jungie led to the injury of 18 workers and the contamination of the local community with metal tailings. In 2019, the Amazonian Community of the Cóndor Mirador Mountain Range in Ecuador demonstrated against a copper mining project by the Chinese company Tongguan, accusing the firm of violating national mining laws by not adequately consulting them about the project, and later forcibly evicting them from their land. 

In Peru, local protests over the impact of the Rio Blanco mine, developed by the Chinese company Zijin near Piura, ultimately brought the project to a standstill. Also in Peru, in the Las Bambas mine, repeated protests by the Chumbivilcas community at the entrance to the site finally obliged the Chinese operator Minmetals to cease production. In Argentina, operations by China Metallurgical Corporation (CMC) in the Campana Mahuida mine have been frozen since 2009 due to resistance over the impact of the operation on the local community and environment. In Brazil, Chinese companies’ soy cultivation, an extremely important commodity for China’s own food security, in biodiverse areas is threatening the ecosystem and contributing to deforestation.

Can the Region Really Trust China?

Admittedly, the Chinese government and Chinese companies are learning from past failures in the region and adapting their business practices, even if not fundamentally altering their behaviors. For instance, Margaret Myers of the Inter-American Dialogue has written extensively about how Chinese companies are “Going Local,” building hermanamiento – sister city relationships – with provincial and municipal governments, leveraging existing local Chinese diaspora communities, and relying less on policy bank loans and more on public-private partnerships to finance projects in the region.

But the persistent problems in Chinese funded or managed projects begs the question: How can Latin American and Caribbean countries trust China as a business partner? How does one do business with companies that all too often, if not closely supervised, don’t do adequate due diligence, engage in corruption, and don’t respect indigenous rights or the environment? How can regional governments trust companies that are connected in one way or another to an authoritarian regime that, just this month, was accused of hacking and spying on 29 countries, 17 of them in the region: Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States and Venezuela? With Chinese companies’ problematic track record, how can regional governments trust them as they expand their footprint in areas essential to national security, such as the electrical grid and telecommunications?

Of course, it isn’t feasible for Latin American and Caribbean countries to cut business ties with Chinese companies altogether, given the importance of the PRC as a purchaser of their commodities, and an increasingly important source of investment and credit for their countries. However, there are new ways for governments to further scrutinize possible Chinese projects, and to take advantage of alternatives provided by democratic partners.

Viable Alternatives

First, local governments can do more to leverage the resources available from the U.S. to strengthen their ability to engage with the Chinese in an effective, transparent way. This will allow regional governments to better leverage the potential of Chinese investments and projects, while mitigating the associated risks. For example, as mentioned in the beginning of this article, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is currently working with the Ecuadorian government to assess the environmental impact of the Coca Codo Sinclair dam and help draw up a plan to mitigate those impacts. USACE is providing technical support to Brazil on water management; with the Panama Canal Authority on consulting and technical advisory services for the Water Projects Program for a key waterway; with the Dominican Republic to expand and further develop the Manzanillo port; and with Honduras to discuss the design of a Flood Risk Management Plan for the Sula Valley. Any country’s ministry of public works can request assistance from USACE to conduct an adequate feasibility, vulnerability, and risk assessment before large infrastructure projects get underway.

Second, regional governments increasingly have alternatives to PRC-funded projects, involving greater transparency, safeguards by corporate and government practices against corruption, and strong corporate social responsibility track records in dealing with local communities, laws, and the environment. Representatives of the  Biden administration recently visited Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama to explore private investment opportunities as part of the Build Back Better World (B3W). This initiative, supported by the U.S. Development Finance Corporation, focuses on strengthening infrastructure in the areas of climate, health and health security, digital connectivity, and gender equity and equality. The European Union also recently announced Global Gateway, which mobilizes 300 billion euros for sustainable investments in digital, climate and energy, transport, health, education and research. Both B3W and Global Gateway aspire to support projects that uphold the highest standards of transparency and anticorruption, financial sustainability, labor protections, and environmental preservation. 

These tools and alternatives, offered by long standing democratic partners, will enable regional governments to allow projects that support economic growth in their countries without compromising their moral or environmental standards. And if regional governments still decide to work with potential Chinese bidders, they can hold those companies to high standards. It’s what the people of the region need, and deserve.

[wpedon id=23995]

The views expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States government.

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Will Caribbean Exchange Dollar Diplomacy For Renminbi Rebates? Expert Analysis

Can the Caribbean avoid being caught up in the accelerating east-west struggle for global influence? Is the region likely to find itself in a bidding war, “dancing to the rhythm of dollar diplomacy,” as Jamaica’s former Prime Minister Bruce Golding has suggested?

Reading the communiqué from the recently held G7 summit, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the consensus arrived at by wealthy western nations on relations with China and Russia, the promotion of shared values, and investment in post pandemic economic recovery, will not be used to attempt to seduce the region.

Although the meeting held in England’s far Southwest touched on multiple issues, it is the future approach agreed towards China and its Belt and Road Initiative, and on corporate taxation which will likely become the most complex future issues that Caribbean governments must now respond to.

Despite differences between the U.S. and EU about the detail, there was, according to U.S. officials, a common recognition of “the threat” China poses.

In the final communiqué and at subsequent press conferences, it was made clear by President Joe Biden and others that the G7 intend trying to counter China’s growing global influence.

Their objective is to offset its economic rise by offering developing nations an alternative infrastructure plan. This is intended to rival Beijing’s 2013 Belt and Road infrastructure and trade Initiative in which Jamaica, Trinidad, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and many other nations are already participating.

The plan, President Biden said, is to create “a values-driven, high-standard, transparent financing mechanism” that will provide and support projects in four key areas: climate, health, digital technology, and gender equity.

Reflecting this, the communiqué makes clear that the G7 will “continue to consult” with its international partners on what it describes as “competition in the global economy” and “collective approaches to challenging non-market policies and practices.” The document links such new initiatives to spelt out concerns about respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The approach is a belated recognition that China’s rise to global economic preeminence is likely, and a fear that its values, system of government, and growing military strength may eclipse the global reach and influence of the U.S. and its G7 partners: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan, plus the European Union.

Although the details of the G7’s proposed “Build Back Better World Partnership” initiative have yet to be spelt out, it would appear to involve in the first instance the creation of a high level G7 committee to consider according to President Biden, how to “meet the more than U.S. $40 trillion needed for infrastructure in the developing world.”

The emphasis will be on infrastructure investment in low- and middle-income countries and in Africa. It will also involve other nations in seeking to ‘orient development finance tools’ to address climate change; health systems and security; digital solutions; and advance gender equality and education.

It will involve, the communiqué suggests, ‘strategic partnerships’ that are market led, involve private sector capital, and support from national and development financing institutions.

After the summit, President Biden chose to place the initiative in the context of a contest “not with China per se,” but with “autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in the rapidly changing 21st century.”

The inference is that by placing support in the context of values and competition for influence, the G7’s leaders and those attending a subsequent NATO meeting have begun to frame the parameters of a new sort of cold war.

China’s response has been rapid and unequivocal. “As a group composed of developed countries, the G7 should contribute more to helping developing countries accelerate their development rather than drive conflicts and divergences to disrupt the process of global economic recovery,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, told a press briefing in Beijing.

“Any attempt to meddle in China’s internal affairs, undermine China’s sovereignty, or tarnish China’s image in disregard of basic norms of international relations is doomed to fail,” he added.

Writing recently in the Jamaica Observer about a coming cold war, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, recognized the problem the G7’s new thinking poses for the Caribbean. He noted that Washington is “almost certain to insist on loan, grant and investment conditions designed to discourage recipient countries from engagement with China’s Belt and Road.”

Observing the significantly greater leverage the U.S. has in the region, he suggested that the Caribbean needs to start thinking now about how it responds to “this new struggle between two economic superpowers with both of which we have comfortably enjoyed such good relations.”

At their meeting, the G7 also agreed to continue trying to reach consensus on a global minimum tax of at least 15% on a country-by-country basis through the G20 and OECD, with the objective of reaching agreement this July when G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meet.

The measure is aimed, the U.S. says, at “reversing a 40-year race to the bottom” in relation to where tax liability is due. However, the initiative potentially threatens to undercut Caribbean fiscal sovereignty, every economy in a region where countries attract investment through low corporate taxation and tax holidays, and end legitimate business structured through the region’s offshore financial centers.

In doing so, it raises serious questions about future Caribbean growth, sustainability, job creation and the ability to fund education, health care and social provision, at just the moment the region is struggling to address worsening pandemic related indebtedness.

How quickly any of what the G7 has proposed will materialize, remains to be seen. This is because of the sheer complexity of implementation, its financing, and maintaining unanimity, when a possible return to Trumpist, America-first unilateralism in 2025 has begun to be factored into medium term thinking in Europe about China, global trade, and U.S. reliability.

By virtue of its location, smallness and need for development, the Caribbean will continue to struggle to be the mistress of its own destiny unless it can achieve unity of purpose, new thinking, a clear vision, and real time execution. The coming chill in relations between the West and China will make finding solutions to the problems the region faces more challenging.

These are the themes that this column will now explore as after 26 years of continuous publication it moves from being weekly to monthly.

— David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at david.jessop@caribbean-council.org

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China Playing Long Game In The Caribbean Knowing It Is Vital To U.S. Strategic Interests

BRIDGETOWN — The Caribbean is vital to the strategic interests of the United States. It is the U.S. “front door” for maritime logistics, finance and tourism and generations of immigrants from the Caribbean that have helped shape U.S. society and culture

Given the strategic position of the Caribbean it is not surprising that China is also working to build its presence there, or that, with a relative dearth of U.S. resources, the region has been receptive.

China has thus far refrained from building expensive bases or engaging in provocative military alliances, yet it has built a no less significant web of influence through gifts, political courtship, loan-backed infrastructure projects, including strategically located ports, tourism and logistics-sector investments, as well as participation in the region’s bauxite, gold, timber and petroleum sectors.

An important part of that diversity is the region’s economic base. While tourism has played an important role in the livelihood of many Caribbean nations, in Guyana and Suriname, as in Trinidad and Tobago, the development of the nation’s oil wealth is key to the national economy and plans for development.

In Guyana, the discovery of at least 8 billion barrels of recoverable oil, whose commercial production came on-line in 2020, has begun to transform what was once one of the Caribbean basin’s poorest countries into what is expected to be one of its wealthiest. By 2025, according to the IMF, Guyana’s per capita GDP is set to pass $15,000, a four-fold jump in just a decade.

Guyana is also an important success story for the United States. During 2018-2019, as political actors within the country positioned themselves to control the nation’s expected oil bonanza, the U.S. gained an important, if unexpected friend. Standing for principle, it pressured the Partnership for National Unity (APNU) government of David Granger, with which it had had positive relations, to respect elections called for under the Guyanese constitution, and to honor their results, although the ultimate result was APNU’s defeat by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), with whom U.S. relations had previously been difficult.

The principled U.S. posture opened a door for the PPP to overcome mistrust of the U.S. rooted in a perceived U.S. historic role in the exclusion of PPP founding father Cheddi Jagan from power. In the process, the U.S. gained an important partner in the new PPP government of Irfaan Ali, which has supported Washington in the region on issues from Venezuela and Cuba to restraint in its dealings with the PRC, even as oil wealth began to transform the country.

The strategic importance of Guyana and its friendship with the United States is magnified by the advance of China in the Caribbean. China National Corporation for Exploration and Development of Oil and Gas (CNODC) has a 30 percent stake in the consortium developing the Stabroek Block. China-based companies such as Huawei and China Harbour are well established in the country, with longstanding relationships with the current government. As in other parts of the Caribbean, China has long donated needed equipment to the Guyana Defense Force and police, bringing their senior leaders to China for training and goodwill-building institutional visits.

It is thus remarkable that there has been no serious progress on projects in Guyana by the Development Finance Corporation, designed largely to provide vulnerable countries an alternative to predatory Chinese economic projects. One likely reason is that Guyana’s oil-driven miracle is inconveniently out of step with the “all green energy” framework driving concepts within the left in both the Biden administration and Capitol Hill.

While the image of gentle sea breezes and sun-drenched Caribbean islands makes wind and solar power seem a reasonable solution for Caribbean development, Guyana’s example highlights how overzealous application of environmental piety as a policy filter disrespects Caribbean diversity, with respect to the composition of its economies, the needs of its peoples and the strategic imperatives of China’s advance. The United States can and should pursue endeavors that support environmentally friendly energy in the countries and situations where they make sense, but not by expecting our partners to set aside their best short-term hope for economic development because it does not align with Washington’s current environmental piety.

However much the Ali government has sought, in good faith, to accommodate the U.S., It is unrealistic and arrogant to presume that Guyana would halt its dramatic and long-anticipated economic transformation mid-course, relegating itself to marginally productive sugar and rice farming while awaiting vague promises of alternative future “green development” options on the scale of its oil. The rapid rise in expected GDP per capita after decades of grinding poverty means Guyana is ready to seize the moment. For Guyana, the hypocrisy is deepened because the alternatives for a Guyana condemned to near-term poverty, including bauxite, gold mining and the timber industry, are even more damaging for the environment.

Despite the present government’s goodwill toward the U.S., if Washington refuses to work with Guyana because its economic miracle is based on oil, the most likely reaction of its leadership will be to shrug and work with the Chinese, unnecessarily deepening the influence of China in the country and the Caribbean and increasing potential governance problems. The U.S. has only to look to Guyana’s neighbor Venezuela, where “state-owned” PDVSA has China as its most important creditor.

Evan Ellis is Latin America studies professor with the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute.

Ryan C. Berg is senior fellow in the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Kristie Pellecchia is principal of Pellecchia International, an advisory firm focused on capital markets, policy and partnerships.

SOURCE: MSN News

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China Spying On United States Citizens Through Security-Lax Caribbean Mobile Phone Networks

BRIDGETOWN — China appears to have used mobile phone networks in the Caribbean to surveil United States mobile phone subscribers as part of its espionage campaign against Americans, according to a mobile network security expert who has analyzed sensitive signals data.

The findings paint an alarming picture of how China has allegedly exploited decades-old vulnerabilities in the global telecommunications network to route “active” surveillance attacks through telecommunications operators, as first reported in The Guardian.

The alleged attacks appear to be enabling China to target, track, and intercept phone communications of U.S. phone subscribers, according to research and analysis by Gary Miller, a Washington state-based former mobile network security executive.

Miller, who has spent years analyzing mobile threat intelligence reports and observations of signaling traffic between foreign and U.S .mobile operators, said in some cases China appeared to have used networks in the Caribbean to conduct its surveillance.

At the heart of the allegations are claims that China, using a state-controlled mobile phone operator, is directing signaling messages to U.S. subscribers, usually while they are travelling abroad.

Signaling messages are commands that are sent by a telecommunications operators across the global network, unbeknownst to a mobile phone user. They allow operators to locate mobile phones, connect mobile phone users to one another, and assess roaming charges. But some signaling messages can be used for illegitimate purposes, such as tracking, monitoring, or intercepting communications.

U.S. mobile phone operators can successfully block many such attempts, but Miller believes the United States has not gone far enough to protect mobile phone users, who he believes are not aware of how insecure their communications are.

Miller focused his research on messages that he said did not appear legitimate, either because they were “unauthorized” by the GSMA, an international standard-setting body for the telecommunications industry, or because the messages were sent from a location that did not match where a user was traveling.

Miller recently left a job at Mobileum, a mobile security company that tracks and reports threats to mobile operators, to start Exigent Media, a cyberthreat research and media firm. He said he was sharing his findings with the public to help expose “the severity of this activity” and to encourage the implementation of more effective countermeasures and security policies.

“Government agencies and Congress have been aware of public mobile network vulnerabilities for years,” he told the Guardian. “Security recommendations made by our government have not been followed and are not sufficient to stop attackers. No one in the industry wants the public to know the severity of ongoing surveillance attacks. I want the public to know about it.”

At Mobileum, Miller was vice-president of solutions for network security and risk products, a role he said gave him access to information about threats on mobile networks around the world.

Miller said that he found that in 2018 China had conducted the highest number of apparent surveillance attacks against US mobile phone subscribers over 3G and 4G networks. He said the vast majority of these apparent attacks were routed through a state-owned telecoms operator, China Unicom, which he said pointed in very high likelihood to a state-sponsored espionage campaign.

Overall, Miller said he believed tens of thousands of U.S. mobile users were affected by the alleged attacks emanating from China from 2018 to 2020.

“Once you get into the tens of thousands, the attacks qualify as mass surveillance, which is primarily for intelligence collection and not necessarily targeting high-profile targets. It might be that there are locations of interest, and these occur primarily while people are abroad,” Miller said. In other words, Miller said he believed the messages were indicative of surveillance of mass movement patterns and communication of US travellers.

Miller also found what he called unique cases in which the same mobile phone users who appear to have been targeted via China Unicom also appear to have been targeted simultaneously through two Caribbean operators: Cable & Wireless Communications (Flow) in Barbados and Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC).

The incidences, which occurred dozens of times over a four to eight-week period, were so unusual that Miller said they were a “strong and clear” indicator that these were coordinated attacks.

At the same time, Miller said that in 2019 most apparent attacks against US subscribers over the 3G network emanated from Barbados, while China significantly reduced the volume of messages to US subscribers.

“China reduced attack volumes in 2019, favoring more targeted espionage and likely using proxy networks in the Caribbean to conduct its attacks, having close ties in both trade and technology investment,” Miller said.

It is not clear whether any of the telecoms operators would have knowingly been involved in allegedly suspicious activity. In a statement, China Unicom said the company “strongly refutes the allegations that China Unicom has engaged in active surveillance attacks against U.S. mobile phone subscribers using access to international telecommunications networks.”

Meanwhile, the Chinese Embassy, in a statement, said: “It is not surprising to see another story on China’s network spying fabricated by an American expert. It’s also another attempt of U.S. to sow discord between China and Caribbean countries.

“Some western newspapers are really fans of such stories, even though they never reflect facts or show evidence.”

It added: “China and Caribbean countries have all along maintain friendly relations and mutual beneficial cooperation. We believe that after recognizing the truth, most countries will take an objective and impartial stand and make independent judgments. We are confident that the cooperation of the two sides will stand the test of time.”

Miller said he believed it was possible that a China entity directly or indirectly leased a network address from the Caribbean operators, allowing the messages to be coordinated and routed via the region’s telecoms firms without their knowledge. A spokeswoman for Cable & Wireless, which owns Flow in Barbados and BTC, declined to respond to the Guardian’s questions.

A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington said: “The Chinese government’s position on cybersecurity is consistent and clear. We firmly oppose and combat cyber-attacks of any kind. China is a staunch defender of cybersecurity.”

But the Federal Communications Commission in April issued an order warning that it might shut down the US operations of China Unicom and other China-controlled entities. At the time, Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman, said the commission was concerned about the companies’ vulnerability to the “control of the Chinese Communist party”.

China Unicom responded to the FCC, saying it had a good record of compliance and had shown a willingness to cooperate with US law enforcement agencies. In its statement to the Guardian, China Unicom added that its U.S. subsidiary operated “independently” in the United States and in accordance with U.S. laws. “China Unicom (Americas) has never been accused of misconduct and has never knowingly been the subject of investigation by any U.S. law enforcement agency,” it said.

“We have an illusion of security when we talk on our mobile phones,” said James Lewis, the director of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). “People don’t realize that we are under a sustained espionage attack on anything that connects to a network, and that this is just another example of a really aggressive and pretty sophisticated campaign.”

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Outgoing Lame Duck President Donald Trump Kowtows To China, COVID-19, On Tibet Issue

Ever wonder why you see those “Free Tibet” bumper stickers on peoples’ cars?

We have a few of them here — in St. Croix, the U.S. Virgin Islands — where I live.

For Liberals it used to be “End Apartheid” — a bumper sticker that you can still see on Danny Glover’s fridge in the movie “Lethal Weapon.”

But in the year of Nelson Mandela’s death — Apartheid was dead but the reason to “Free Tibet” is not.

One reason Tibet deserves to be a free and independent nation – free and apart from a China that controls it — is that it is the historical home of the Dalai Lama. A Dalai Lama who currently is forced to live in exile in northern India — and who has chosen his rightful successor — but now HE can’t be found — he was disappeared from Tibet nearly 20 years ago — and was last seen in the hands of the Chinese.

How could that possibly be? You might ask.

Well, six Nobel Laureates and four hundred celebrities can’t be wrong.

Or can they be?

A little background might help. The Dalai Lama is: the Buddhist spiritual leader from Tibet. More specifically — to about 20 million Buddhists — he is the “Pope” of their religion. They believe that he is the living reincarnation of the first Buddha, born Siddhartha Gautama.

Great Wall of China. So where’s the problem?

The problem is: The Dalai Lama (which means “High Priest” or literally “ocean guru” in Mongolian) chose his legitimate successor — and, uh, well — the Chinese government “vanished” him three days later.

Unbelievable you say.

Well, that was 1995 — when the once and future Dalai was just six years old — 26 years later nothing has changed. Or nearly nothing. At least as far as we know.

Because when it comes to “transparency,” the Chinese government is always on high smog toxic alert.

What do you mean by “nothing?” Well, you might say: “nothing” if you feel that the 376 million people worldwide who practice Buddhism don’t add up. It is only about one-third the size of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. And the number of Buddhists who follow Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama — could fit inside the New York City metropolitan area.

So we’re NOT talking about a lot of religious people here — only about 20 million — give or take a few.

But what if, prior to Pope Francis of Argentina succeeding Pope Benedict of Germany, the government of Italy decided to kidnap Jorge Mario Bergoglio from St. Peter’s Basilica inside Vatican City — and not only kidnap him and make him disappear — but also Jorge and all of his immediate Bergoglio family members?

Sounds like something out of “The Sopranos.” Or “The Gotti Files.” And that’s exactly the scenario the 85-year-old Dalai Lama (born Tenzin Gyatso) finds himself in today.

If you have seen the brilliant documentary “10 Questions for The Dalai Lama,” then you have a better understanding of what happened to six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima a person human rights experts used to call “the world’s youngest political prisoner” — only the movie suggests that neither he — nor his relatives — are still with us.

So they ended up like that guy who accidentally bumped his car into John Gotti’s school-age son in Howard Beach, Queens — and then disappeared in a van four months later — never to be heard from — or seen — again.

If you ask the Chinese government, as the United Nations Council on Human Rights did in 2007 — Beijing said that the then 12-year-old Panchen Lama — as the successor to the Dalai Lama is known — was a healthy and growing boy.

“Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is a perfectly ordinary Tibetan boy, in an excellent state of health, leading a normal, happy life and receiving a good education and cultural upbringing. He is currently in upper secondary school, he measures 165 cm in height and is easy-going by nature. He studies hard and his school results are very good. He likes Chinese traditional culture and has recently taken up calligraphy. His parents are both State employees, and his brothers and sisters are either already working or at university. The allegation that he disappeared together with his parents and that his whereabouts remain unknown is simply not true.”

The part about his brothers and sisters “EITHER WORKING OR AT UNIVERSITY” must be one of those lost in translation bits — because it reads ominously today as if what we suspect to be true — is true.

Seven years later — when “the boy” should be at least twenty-five years old — if he is still alive at all imprisoned somewhere — there is simply no credible report! Imagine if Italy had done the same thing with Pope Francis — can you imagine the uproar? It might have caused even Mussolini to turn over in his grave — and most certainly would have triggered a brief World War III — with Rome bearing the brunt of a few Tomahawk missiles.

Instead, because it is China – where the record on Human Rights — is, shall we say “compromised” at best — no one says nothin’ at all — and gets away with it! In fact, everyone right now was talking about the Olympics in Russia, another place that is a total stranger to the Rule of Law.

To make matters worse, the Chinese government, citing Emporer Qing from 1735 (when a Dalai Lama was once chosen by a lottery drawing the names written on barley leaves from a golden urn) installed their own Panchen Lama six months after they made the legitimate one disappear from Tibet — and his name is Gyaincain Norbu.

Some magic trick. So as it officially stands — who will be the next Dalai Lama is officially in “dispute.” Like what happened in Tiananmen Square that the Chinese people can’t read about because the government has whited out most of the Internet there.

This “dispute” was executed by the Chinese government in lands they control near the Himalaya Mountains — where they allegedly kidhapped Gedhum Choekyi Nyima from Tibet — along with him and every living immediate family member.

Now Buddhists are known to be “Zen” in the face of difficult times — and the Dalai Lama himself – who is 83 years old — has said that there might not ever be another

Ocean Guru of Buddhism — and if there is — it might even be a woman this time — but it will definitely not be someone “reborn” in a country controlled by the Chinese, he insists.

That means Tibet — the homeland of the current Dalai Lama and every “enlightened one” since Buddhism began (except the 3rd Dalai Lama who was born in Mongolia) — is out. Places inside the Tibetan cultural beltway; however — India, Nepal and Bhutan — are in. That is — unless we can “free Tibet” — which seems unlikely at this point.

So the next time you see a “Free Tibet” bumper sticker on a car in front of you, don’t allow your karma to run over my dogma.

Or something like that — just remember that China has re-written the book on Human Rights when it comes to the Dalai Lama and Tibet.

Now and Zen, you’ll be right.

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How Will The Poor Countries Of The World Get The Coronavirus Vaccine? The Short Answer Is, They Won’t

NEW YORK — If the United Nations was created from the ashes of World War II, what will be born from the global crisis of COVID-19?

Many world leaders at this week’s virtual U.N. summit hope it will be a vaccine made available and affordable to all countries, rich and poor. But with the U.S., China and Russia opting out of a collaborative effort to develop and distribute a vaccine, and some rich nations striking deals with pharmaceutical companies to secure millions of potential doses, the U.N. pleas are plentiful but likely in vain.

“Are people to be left to die?” Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, a COVID-19 survivor, said of the uncertain way forward.

More than 150 countries have joined COVAX, in which richer countries agree to buy into potential vaccines and help finance access for poorer ones. But the absence of Washington, Beijing and Moscow means the response to a health crisis unlike any other in the U.N.’s 75 years is short of truly being global.

Instead, the three powers have made vague pledges of sharing any vaccine they develop, likely after helping their own citizens first. This week’s U.N. gathering could serve as a wake-up call, said Gayle Smith, president of the ONE Campaign, a nonprofit fighting preventable disease that’s developing scorecards to measure how the world’s most powerful nations are contributing to vaccine equity.

“It’s not enough for only some G20 countries to realize that an equitable vaccine is the key to ending this virus and reopening the global economy,” she said.

With weeks remaining before a deadline for countries to join COVAX, which is co-led by the U.N.’s World Health Organization, many heads of state are using the U.N. meeting as a high-profile chance to wheedle, persuade and even shame.

Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, pointed out the illusory nature of borders and wealth: “The virus has taught us that we are all at risk, and there is no special protection for the rich or a particular class.”

The president of the COVID-free Pacific island nation of Palau, Tommy Remengesau Jr., warned against selfishness: “Vaccine hoarding will harm us all.”

And Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, appealed to the universal desire for a return to normal: “Ensuring equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics will speed up the end of the pandemic for everyone.”

Just two days into nearly 200 speeches by world leaders, it was clear the urgent need for a vaccine would be mentioned by almost everyone. Considering the mind-popping challenges ahead, that’s no surprise.

“We’ve never dealt with a situation where 7.8 billion people in the world are needing a vaccine at almost the same time,” John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this month.

That has led to difficult questions: Who will get vaccine doses first? Who is making private deals to get them? This week’s speeches make clear that such questions have existential meaning.

The vaccine quest must not be a “purely mercantile act,” Iraq said. Nor “an issue of competition,” Turkey said.

“We must take the politics out of the vaccine,” Kazakhstan said. “We need true globalization of compassion,” Slovakia said.

The Dominican Republic deployed all-caps in a statement: “WE DEMAND this vaccine be available to all human beings on the planet.” More gently, Mozambique warned that “nationalism and isolationism in the face of a pandemic are, as far as we are concerned, a prescription for failure.”

No matter their reputation at home or on the global stage, leaders are finding a shred of common ground as the world nears a staggering 1 million confirmed deaths from the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 vaccine must be considered a global public good. Let us be clear on this,” said Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres kicked off the General Assembly by declaring in an interview with the U.N.’s media arm: “To think that we can preserve the rich people, and let the poor people suffer, is a stupid mistake.”

It’s not clear if the world leaders’ remarks, delivered not in a diplomatic scrum at U.N. headquarters but in videos recorded from national capitals, will make a difference. Health experts, activists and others anxiously watching the issue raised a collective eyebrow.

“It’s important we continue to be making these speeches, but ultimately, speeches alone won’t have an effect if there are no real measures put in place to make sure poor countries, and within them the poorest of poor, have access” to the vaccine, said Tendai Mafuma with the South Africa-based social justice group Section 27. It’s part of a coalition pressing to make medicines more affordable and accessible.

South Africa, along with many African countries, knows the deadly consequences of having to wait. Health experts say 12 million Africans died during the decade it took for affordable HIV drugs to reach the continent.

Mafuma’s countryman Shabir Madhi, lead researcher on a clinical trial in South Africa of the vaccine that Oxford University is developing with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, was a bit more optimistic. That most of the world’s richest countries have joined COVAX “is promising,” he said.

But whether this week’s impassioned speeches at the U.N. will make any difference, Madhi said, is still “difficult to tell.

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China’s $490 Million ‘Investment’ In Barbados Behind Snap Decision To Remove The Queen

BRIDGETOWN — China is behind Barbados’ snap decision to remove the British Queen as its head of state.

That’s the shocking claim of a conservative member of the UK Parliament who said that a Chinese investment of $490 million in Bridgetown’s tourism infrastructure forced the Barbadian leader’s hand in the matter this month.

“Some islands seem to be close to swapping a symbolic Queen in Windsor for a real and demanding emperor in Beijing,” Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said. “It’s interesting because of course the UK is really not a monarchy, we’re a republic pretending to be a monarchy. The Crown in Parliament after all is simply a recognition that the people are sovereign.” 

Tugendhat said Beijing is attempting to replace London’s historical status and presence in the Caribbean with a $600 million loan to Cuba, a $1 billion loan to Antigua and Barbuda, a $1.9 billion loan to Trinidad & Tobago, a $450 million loan to the Bahamas and a $2.7 billion loan for Jamaica.

China's 0 Million 'Investment' In Barbados Behind Snap Decision To Remove The Queen

“China has been using infrastructure investment and debt diplomacy as a means of control for a while and it’s coming closer to home for us,” he told The London Times.

Meanwhile, CIA intelligence in the U.S. about Chinese activities in Barbados has now reportedly been shared with Britain.

China has poured billions of dollars of investment into the Caribbean in recent years while signing tax and trade deals in an attempt to wrest the region out of the West’s sphere of influence and bring it under the sway of Beijing.

The Chinese government has invested at least $7 billion in six Caribbean nations since 2005, records complied by the American Enterprise Institute show — building roads, ports and the five-star Baha Mar casino and resort in the Bahamas — though the true figure is thought to run well into the tens of billions.

While some of the money arrives as part of trade and investment deals, much of it is offered as “soft loans” for infrastructure projects that are harder to track and typically come with requirements to use Chinese contractors for the work. The loans also provide long-term leverage for Beijing over the cash-strapped island nations. 

Some eight countries in the region have signed on to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative, kind of a 21st Century maritime version of the Silk Road, which includes: Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.

In the past, China has been particularly generous with nations that have agreed to cut relations with Taiwan — a country in the East China Sea which Beijing claims as a province — and establish ties with Bejing instead.

In 2005, China rewarded the island of Grenada, which has an annual GDP of just $1.8 billion, with a brand new $55 million cricket stadium after it cut relations with Taiwan.

Similarly, in 2018, the Dominican Republic received Chinese investments and loans thought to have exceeded $3 billion after it also cut ties with Taipei.

Beijing has largely moved away from vote-buying projects in recent years, however, and now largely focuses on economic deals aimed at providing work for its citizens, acquiring resources such as rare earth materials and food, and providing long-term trading and economic benefits.

In 2018, leaders from the region and South America – as part of a trading bloc known as CELAC — signed up to a 2019-2021 roadmap with China that aimed to deepen political and economic ties, including in trade, agriculture, infrastructure and science and technology, among other areas.

More recently, a Chinese firm took full control of Jamaica Kingston Freeport in April this year, the island’s largest container port and one of the largest in the Caribbean. 

China has also invested heavily in Cuba, helping to modernize the country’s second-largest port — Santiago de Cuba — with a new shipping terminal opening in 2019.

Barbados, meanwhile,  has received at least $490 million, mostly as investment in the tourism sector, but is also thought to be benefiting from private deals.

On a four-nation swing through South America, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States was wary of the Chinese encroachment in the Caribbean and Latin America.

“China operates very differently,” Pompeo said. “No state-owned operation can beat the quality of the products and services of American private companies. We’ve watched the Chinese Communist Party invest in countries, and it all seems great at the front end and then it all comes falling down when the political costs connected to that become clear.” 

“We’ll show up, we’ll bring capital, we’ll bring resources. We’ll often bring technological capabilities that are much needed to develop resources, develop infrastructure for your country, but we don’t do so with political strings tied to them. We don’t operate the way other regimes do, who might show up with money and then demand political retribution, or worse yet, engage in activity that is corrupt.”

China/UK relations

Tugendhat shared his concerns during a digitally streamed webinar in collaboration with the Royal United Services Institute.

His speech, titled “Reappraising UK foreign policy towards China,” discussed the risks China poses to the Caribbean. 

“British partners have long faced challenges from rivals seeking to undermine our alliance,” he said in the webinar.

But not all Caribbean voices agreed with Tugendhat. Ronald Sanders, ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States and the Organization of American States, was one of them.

China's 0 Million 'Investment' In Barbados Behind Snap Decision To Remove The Queen

“As head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tugendhat should have been better informed,” Sanders wrote in an OP/ED piece on Thursday. “The Barbados government was no more influenced by China to change its status to a Republic, than it was under pressure by the British government to continue to share Queen Elizabeth as the Head of the two separate realms.”

“It is unfortunate that some in the international community regard small states as inexpert, seeing them as ready objects of manipulation by big powers through either coercion or enticements. Thus, the presence of China in the Caribbean, where it has made investments that have aided economic development, is characterized as ‘a means of control’, as Tugendhat puts it.”

“Discounted altogether is that, in many Caribbean countries, China has given much-needed loans and grants when others have been significant by their absence, or where, by their presence, they institute unhelpful policies of ‘blacklisting’ countries without consultation, or blocking much-needed loans from international financial institutions on criteria that takes no account of the vulnerability of small states.”

“Do loans translate into coercive influence over small Caribbean states? The answer is unreservedly no. Loans must be repaid, including Chinese ones whose main attraction is their longer repayment periods and lower interest rates. If their rivals met their terms, competition would win out.”

The Chinese controversy comes just eight days after Barbados’ governor-general, Dame Sandra Mason, announced the island will no longer honor the Queen as its symbolic head, saying: “The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind.”

Barbados gained independence in 1966.

There has been three attempts to remove the Queen in Barbados in the last 20 years.

https://menafn.com/1100854234/Caribbean-wouldnt-tolerate-external-interference-on-Republic-status

China's 0 Million 'Investment' In Barbados Behind Snap Decision To Remove The Queen
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CHINA BAN! Caribbean Nations In Lockstep With United States Over Lockout

MIAMI — As the U.S. continues to enforce strict travel restrictions on travelers from China over the coronavirus outbreak, an increasing number of Caribbean nations are also doing the same, while taking steps to screen arriving passengers at their ports of entry.

In recent days, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominica, and Trinidad and Tobago have all announced China-related travel bans, even though there are no direct commercial flights between mainland China and their nations.

The Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share the island of Hispaniola, have not made any official announcements about travel restrictions, but over the weekend both countries prevented Chinese visitors on a private jet from getting off the plane.

Authorities in St. Lucia also prevented Miami-based Carnival Corporation’s AIDA cruise ship AIDAPerla from docking at its port of Castries after it was reported that 14 passengers were being treated for upper respiratory issues.

The ship’s 4,384 passengers were also denied the right to dock in St. John’s, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda, but were later received with no problem by authorities in Sint Maarten and Martinique, AIDA Cruises said in a prepared statement.

There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Caribbean or Latin America, and all of the suspicious cases have been ruled out, said Marcos Espinal, director of the department of communicable diseases and environmental determinants of health with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

The coronavirus has killed at least 774 people so far worldwide, mostly in mainland China.

Meanwhile, as the deadly coronavirus spreads across China and ripples through other parts of the world, scientists are trying to pinpoint how humans first got exposed, according to Business Insider.

So far, they know the virus is zoonotic, meaning it jumps from animals to people. And genetic research has all but confirmed that it originated in bats. But scientists believe that another animal most likely served as the intermediary between bats and humans.

That animal could be the pangolin, a scaly, nocturnal mammal with a tongue longer than its body.

CHINA BAN! Caribbean Nations In Lockstep With United States Over Lockout
Pangolins are scaly creatures often used in traditional Chinese medicine. Credit: Frans Lanting/National Geographic

A group of researchers from South China Agricultural University found that samples from coronavirus patients were 99 percent identical to samples of the virus taken from wild pangolins, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency. Their research hasn’t been published or confirmed by other experts, but scientists say the results make sense, given what we know about the animals.

Pangolins are often poached for their keratin scales, which are used as ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine. Their meat is also considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam.

If bats drop feces or saliva onto food that’s consumed by a pangolin, the animal can become a carrier of the coronavirus. Humans can then be exposed by consuming pangolins, allowing the virus to then be transmitted from person to person.

Former U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth E. Mapp made a trade mission to China in 2016 and said upon returning said that people in the territory should kowtow to the Chinese tourist’s idiosyncratic demands, including luxury robes, slippers and in-room noodle service.

— MIAMI HERALD

https://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-a-pangolin-animal-spread-coronavirus-to-humans-2020-2

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article239954718.html

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00364-2

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/02/paper-non-symptomatic-patient-transmitting-coronavirus-wrong

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Royal Caribbean Bans China, Hong Kong, Macau Passport Holders From Ships Over Coronavirus Fears

BEIJING — Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. said this weekend it would ban guests holding China, Hong Kong or Macau passports from boarding its ships amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

The company’s new protocols come in the wake of the fast-spreading virus, which has killed at least 774 people and has affected over 31,000 individuals in 25 countries — but, most of the deaths have been on mainland China.

Guests or crew members who have traveled to, from or through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau, or been in contact with someone who has, less than 15 days before sailing will not be allowed to board the company’s ships under the new rules.

The company would also screen guests with flu-like symptoms and those who are unsure if they had been in contact with people who had visited China or Hong Kong in the past 15 days.

Royal Caribbean on Friday also delayed the departure of its Anthem of the Seas cruise from New Jersey by a day after four guests were tested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for coronavirus.

None of the four showed any clinical symptoms of the virus, the company said.

The CDC had screened 27 passengers on the ship who had recently traveled from China.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has 27 cruise ships in its fleet worldwide.

— REUTERS

Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

A United States citizen died from the coronavirus in Wuhan, the provincial capital in China, American officials said on Saturday.

To read more:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/coronavirus-china-live-updates/2020/02/08/4fcbd584-49f5-11ea-9164-d3154ad8a5cd_story.html

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/02/08/us/coronavirus-saturday/index.html