CHINA’S CARIBBEAN INVESTMENT INFILTRATION

The Weekly Standard on June 18, 2012, published an article on the Asian giant having a voracious appetite for commodities and raw materials, including Argentine soybeans, Brazilian iron ore, Chilean and Peruvian metals, Ecuadorean and Venezuelan oil, and Uruguayan beef. Therefore, Beijing has expanded trade ties with governments across the resource-rich continent, from Caracas to Montevideo. Excerpts below:

At first glance, the recent surge of Chinese activity in the Caribbean is harder to understand. The small island nations that have been flooded with Chinese investment do not possess great commodity wealth, nor do they have large economies, nor do they wield any real strategic clout. And yet Beijing has been funding myriad infrastructure projects in countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Dominica, and Trinidad and Tobago. “Dominica has received a grammar school, a renovated hospital and a sports stadium,” the New York Times reported back in April.

The Bahamas, meanwhile, opened a $35 million Chinese-financed stadium earlier this year, and Beijing is also bankrolling construction of a $3.5 billion megaresort in Nassau City known as Baha Mar.

Should Washington be alarmed? Not necessarily. Thus far, China’s growing presence in the Caribbean does not pose any type of military threat, and the region’s tourism industry is still heavily dependent on American travelers and American companies.

On the other hand, there is definitely a strategic element to China’s Caribbean adventure, and the United States would be foolish to ignore it.

The Chinese are undoubtedly eager to cultivate other strategic relationships in the region, in case the Cuban regime collapses. There is no question that, on some level, they are trying to undermine U.S. influence and convince Caribbean governments that Beijing is a more generous and reliable partner than Washington. Unfortunately, given the Obama administration’s persistent neglect of the Western Hemisphere, the Chinese have effectively been pushing on an open door.

Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.

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