Caribbean caught up inTaiwan vs China political tug-of-war
Dollar diplomacy leaves Caribbean nations caught in the middle of ongoing political war between China and Taiwan.
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday July 9, 2012 – Grenada’s protracted dispute with Taiwan over a US$30 million debt is a lesson for small island nations caught in the middle of a tug-of-war by developed nations to win hearts and minds in the region and access minerals and other natural resources.
So says Wazir Mohamed, a Caribbean-born assistant professor of sociology at the University of Indiana, East, in a recent interview with Inter Press Service (IPS).
"There are a lot of implications for small states being caught in a new type of cold War in the world today," he told IPS. "Nothing has changed in the way capital is being used by the West and nations like China. It is a new form of colonialism, but the only thing different to the past is that this new form is now being implemented and effected much more rapidly than in the past using capital that is very, very mobile.
"Caribbean nations have to be careful about being caught in the middle of these geopolitical fights involving other nations," said Mohamed.
For other nations like St Lucia, the issue is of prime importance and one to monitor very closely as it could also face similar problems. The last government in 2007 had ironically kicked out China and replaced it with Taiwan, upending the decision of another administration in the late 1990s.
China has so far not retaliated by demanding back its money, notably funding for a new sports stadium, hospital and buildings in St. Lucia's industrial zone, but has condemned local officials outright for its diplomatic expulsion.
"We have been very careful about making this decision, and now that we have taken it, we do not expect the Chinese will love us any more for it," said then Foreign Minister Rufus George Bousquet. "But we expect that they will conduct themselves in a manner that is acceptable to our government."
Bousquet's government has since lost power. The new administration of Prime Minister Kenny Anthony has already spoken to both sides, but for now is playing it safe and has remained loyal to Taiwan even though it had chosen China in a previous period in office. Bousquet had also said the policy back then was to deal with which donor was willing to give more.
Once Taiwan departed Grenada, China moved in to win hearts, funding a national sports stadium and donating generously to reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, which devastated the island in September 2004.
Other Caribbean trade bloc nations that recognise Taiwan over China include Haiti, St. Kitts, St. Vincent, Belize and now St. Lucia, even though the official policy of the bloc is for a "one China Policy".
For now it appears that mainland China is winning. Last September, many regional leaders travelled to Trinidad for the China-Caricom forum where the delegation from Beijing offered up to US$1 billion dollars in soft loans to fund projects throughout the region.
Some states, like Caribbean Community headquarters Guyana, signed on quickly by proposing various projects for funding, but Taiwan does not have that luxury as its diplomatic and aid outreach is confined only to those with which it has formal diplomatic relations. (Contribution from IPS)