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China’s Growing Influence in the Caribbean

Caribbean flags

Caribbean flags, courtesy Sberla_/flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for Defence Studies and Alalyses (IDSA) on 3 August 2016.

In June 2013, during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Trinidad and Tobago, the then Prime Minister of the Caribbean nation, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in a fawning speech, had lauded President Xi’s vision saying, “We see in your China Dream a splendid opportunity for China to become a model for the world.”(1) Like a royalty holding court, President Xi thereafter hosted the leaders of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Suriname and Jamaica in Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad and Tobago, where he announced soft loans and investments worth US$ 3 billion as well as grants of up to $8 million for the region.(2) President Xi’s visit was an effective and a graphic demonstration of China’s growing influence and outreach in the English-speaking Caribbean region, coming at a time when the United States (US) had been somewhat less forthcoming with financial grants for the region.

President Xi’s visit to Trinidad was followed by a reciprocal visit by Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar to Beijing in February 2014, when, in a major breakthrough for Chinese arms sales to the region, the controversial purchase of a long-range maritime patrol vessel was agreed upon.(3) This was again a demonstration of the growing Chinese influence over the governments of the region, which so far had been firmly under the largely benevolent gaze and geopolitical sway of the US. The decision to buy Chinese patrol vessel also marked the first sale of a non-Western military hardware to the Caribbean nation since the end of the Cold War.(4) In fact, acceptance of Chinese aid and investment has since become a norm in the English-speaking Caribbean, where the US has been conspicuous by its absence in respect of doling out large bilateral loans and grants. In quite a contrast, while the private American investment declined post the 2008 financial crisis, the Chinese investment in the region grew by more than 500 per cent between 2003 and 2012.(5)

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Don’t Expect Too Much from Growing Sino–Indonesia Ties

Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Image: arifdani nugraha/Flickr

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 7 November, 2015.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) visited China twice in his first year of presidency alone. In contrast he made his first state visit to the United States only in October 2015. But although Sino–Indonesian relations are currently strengthening, economic and geostrategic obstacles are likely to limit progress.

When the Jokowi administration came to power in 2014, it inherited an already strong relationship with China. Under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) relations were upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2013, which saw enhanced cooperation in areas such as defence and scientific research. In 2010, China also became Indonesia’s largest trade partner and committed to assist Indonesia in infrastructural development. » More

Is North Korea Opening for Business?

Photo: Whitecat SG/flickr.

SEOUL – North Korea’s system is failing. The country is facing severe energy constraints, and its economy has been stagnating since 1990, with annual per capita income, estimated at $1,800, amounting to slightly more than 5% of South Korea’s. Meanwhile, a food shortage has left 24 million North Koreans suffering from starvation, and more than 25 of every 1,000 infants die each year, compared to four in South Korea. In order to survive, the world’s most centralized and closed economy will have to open up.

A more dynamic and prosperous North Korea – together with peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula – would serve the interests not only of North Korea itself, but also of neighboring countries and the broader international community. After all, North Korea’s sudden collapse or a military conflict on the peninsula would undermine regional security, while burdening neighboring countries with millions of refugees and hundreds of billions of dollars in reconstruction costs. » More

Leveling the Afghan Playing Field

Afghan farmer works in the field

An Afghan farmer works in the field.

NEW YORK – Afghanistan’s security and political situation remains plagued by uncertainty, stemming from the withdrawal of United States and NATO combat troops, the upcoming presidential election, and the stalled peace negotiations with the Taliban. Recognizing that continued economic insecurity will exacerbate this perilous situation, the government has announced a new package of economic incentives aimed at attracting foreign direct investment.

The package includes the provision of land to industrialists at dramatically reduced prices, tax exemptions of up to seven years for factory owners, and low-interest loans of up to ten years for farmers. Such incentives are targeted at foreign investors and the local elite, with the aim of stopping or even reversing capital flight. But the new measures ultimately amount to more of the same: a fragmented policy approach that will prove inadequate to solve Afghanistan’s fundamental economic problems. » More

Chinese Investment: Boon or Bane for Southeast Asia?

Spontaneous protests against Myanmar’s power blackouts received news coverage in May because the government seldom permits anti-government activities. Even more significant were the protests that took place in front of the Chinese embassy in Yangon.

Protesters came together to raise their voice against the government’s decision to sell Myanmar’s limited energy reserves to China. Below is a comment from the Facebook page of Eleven Media Group [my], one of the largest private media organizations in Myanmar, which echoed the sentiment of many consumers in Myanmar:

“70% of electricity supplied to Yangon is from Law Pi Ta and Ye Ywar hydro-powered stations, that from the Shwe Li station goes to China, so there is a shortage of electricity in Yangon. Why? Go and cut China’s power!”

Protest against electricity shortages around City Hall, Yangon. Image from Facebook page of CJMyanmar.

Protest against electricity shortages around City Hall, Yangon. Image from Facebook page of CJMyanmar.

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