David Jessop

David Jessop

A few days ago, the Solomon Islands, Taiwan’s largest ally in the Pacific, recognised China.

Beijing’s success in encouraging the island grouping to do so is the latest indication of the way in which China’s international influence continues to grow.

The decision by the Solomon Islands’ government came despite Australia, its traditional regional partner, and the US both placing pressure on it, in part out of concern that its recognition of China may cause other smaller Pacific nations to break with Taipei.

The decision leaves Taiwan with just 16 diplomatic allies worldwide. Of these the majority are small. Four are in Central America, five in the Caribbean including Belize, five are in the Pacific, one is in South America and one in Africa. In two cases - Nicaragua and St Vincent - their governments have much more politically in common with China but continue to benefit from their engagement with Taiwan.

The announcement came shortly after Wang Xiangyang, the Permanent Representative of China’s Office of Commercial Development in Port-au-Prince, said that Beijing would welcome having formal diplomatic relations with Haiti “as soon as possible”.

Speaking in French to the long-established Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste, Wang said that the absence of diplomatic relations meant that China’s ability to support Haiti’s development was very limited.

Observing that the absence of formal diplomatic relations did not correspond to the interests of the two countries, he said that China “hopes that (this) political obstacle between the two countries will be removed as soon as possible, creating favourable conditions for developing the bilateral cooperation relations that have a strong potential”.

Haiti was, he said, in urgent need of development and noted that elsewhere in the world Beijing offered interest-free and preferential credits to fund urgently needed infrastructure. He made clear however that to benefit, Haiti, which at present recognises Taiwan, would have to observe the one-China principle.

In doing so he refuted recent US allegations that Chinese development assistance and investments left nations over-indebted, pointedly telling the publication “the peoples of the countries cooperating with China are in the best position to say whether their countries have been trapped by Chinese indebtedness or the opposite”.

His latter remarks go to the heart of the geo-political development conundrum the Caribbean faces.

On the one hand the region must work with a US administration that regards China as a strategic threat, is engaged in a trade war with Beijing, denies climate change, and is pursuing policies likely to indirectly damage Caribbean economies. On the other, it has the opportunity to deepen relations with an increasingly powerful China, which, like the Caribbean, believes in multilateralism, the need to address climate change and is offering huge sums in low cost ways to create economic growth.

This contradiction was highlighted in recent comments made by the influential US Republican Senator, Marco Rubio.

In an op-ed in the Miami Herald he suggested that US resources should be directed to The Bahamas, not just for moral reasons but because the US should not allow China to exploit its post-hurricane reconstruction. Senator Rubio saw the issue as a matter of US national security. “Only the US and its military can provide the support required and be reliable partners over the long term” he wrote, otherwise “China will step in to seize the moment and exploit the recovery for its own nefarious purposes.”

In arguing that “we cannot allow this to happen” he failed to recognise that the Caribbean is its own place, needs to have low-cost sources of development finance, and should be free to choose its international partners.

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When it comes to Haiti the issue is particularly challenging.

Its volatile mix of political instability, corruption, and gang-fuelled street violence threaten to make endemic its underdevelopment, which for most of its 11 million people exists in a way experienced nowhere else in the western hemisphere.

To be fair, both the US and China subscribe to multilateral programmes such as the proposed US$1bn IADB and IMF supported fund to develop projects in the border area with the Dominican Republic, and in the past the US has offered Haiti significant levels of development assistance. However, should Haiti accept China’s conditional offer of mutual recognition, the present US administration is more likely to coerce rather than do more developmentally.

Whether Haiti will recognise Beijing is as yet unclear, but if it were to do so it would consolidate China’s status as the Caribbean’s major development partner, leaving only St Kitts, Belize and St Lucia tied unequivocally to Taiwan, and the US and EU trailing in its wake.

Despite this, China needs to be more transparent and developmental in its investment and trade relations with the region.

It should be rolling out programmes of the ‘second generation’ kind that it is developing with the Dominican Republic. These involve the export of millions of dollars’ worth of produce and goods to China, high level business exchanges on investment co-operation, and the encouragement of tourism. It should also be doing more to explore how it might help consolidate regional economic integration through, for example, measures that support the development of a viable inter-island shipping service.

China has time on its side and its economy is growing. Its technological advances, its global ‘belt and road’ strategy, and its commitment to multilateralism offer the region an alternative development option.

Most of the region wants a positive, close and balanced relationship with China, the US and Europe. The EU and China accept this, but Washington does not. It appears to expect that the starting point is acceptance of the “Rubio-Monroe doctrine”.


Now that the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) cricket competition has come to an exciting conclusion with Barbados Tridents taking the trophy and supremacy, it is time to look closely the performance our local Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR). The TKR started the competition very well with a succession of wins, but later on in the competition seemed to have lost their way.

I wasn’t missing. Technically. At least in my manic mind I wasn’t. I was on the run, like the heroine in a sci-fi film. I had escaped the confines of the home where nurses and doctors were trying to bring me down from my high; had caught a maxi-taxi and headed straight to my oasis, my home away from home, the Hilton. 

THE Opposition Leader’s budget response, moreso her party’s manifesto for the upcoming general elections, was far ranging. In particular the plans outlined for development, diversification of the economy, ignore the local characteristics of the private sector to whom she gives the role of being the main driver of economic growth, 

THE People’s Partnership administration, since January 2015 via Act No 15 of 2015, had enacted procurement law. It has been awaiting proclamation by the present People’s National Movement administration. Colm Imbert has been responsible for budget statements by his Government since September 2015.

Good government is more than the use of sovereign power to create prosperity, productivity and happiness. Good governing is the imaginative use of intuition, skills and knowledge to administrate with the participation and consent of the governed. Human rights are a mechanism to win consent of all persons being governed because it ensures fairness and respect for everyone.