US-China tensions ramp up in region as Chinese president visits Panama

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Chinese President Xi-Jinping (L) with his Panamanian counterpart Juan Carlos Varela. Photo: MFA China

By Youri Kemp
Caribbean News Now associate editor
youri@caribbeannewsnow.com

PANAMA CITY, Panama — Chinese President Xi-Jinping arrived in Panama this weekend to pursue further talks of mutual cooperation between Panama and China.

However, tensions over China’s control and influence over the region have been placed first and foremost, as Panama has been a recently contested battleground between the USA and China over resources, strategic points and ports and political action.

At the request of US officials, as noted by a senior Panamanian diplomat who wished to remain anonymous, a plan to build a Chinese embassy on the Amador peninsula overlooking the Panama Canal was axed.

The area, which is said to be home to numerous derelict buildings left behind by US military personnel, has been left abandoned for years.

However, the recent interest by Chinese officials prompted American officials, led by Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to pay a visit to Panamanian president, Juan Carlos Varela, to discuss these issues.

This was preceded by another plan drafted by China to build an embassy in central Panama City, which was also axed under pressure by the US government on the government of Panama. More so, popular support for Chinese investment in both projects – particularly the project adjacent to the Panama Canal on the Amador peninsula – had waned greatly and was largely rejected by Panamanians.

Since these issues were settled, the two countries have signed 28 diplomatic and investment agreements.

During his trip, Xi is expected to discuss a 500 million (US$72 million) renminbi-denominated “Panda” bond reportedly full of “goodies”, and is expected be revealed before the end of the year.

Chinese contractors have won major contracts for a port, convention centre and a new bridge over the canal.

China is becoming even more heavily invested in the region, following a significant investment in the Dominican Republic, with a total of $2 billion in pursuit of its “One China Policy”, where aid and investment cash is handed out in exchange for ceasing diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, which the Dominican Republic subsequently did.

The Chinese have also made a recent trip to the island of Grenada with their “Peace Ark”, a travelling naval hospital, showing their naval reach and commitment to the region.

Investments in The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Trinidad have also been significant over the years. Most notably the Baha-Mar Resort project on the capital island of New Providence in The Bahamas, the largest resort investment in the Caribbean ever to get off the ground, in addition to purchasing the historic British Colonial Hotel opposite the US Embassy in downtown Nassau.

Xi’s trip also comes on the heels of US President Donald Trump offering a truce in the current US-China trade dispute and tariff standoff, claiming that the US will hold off on implementing a further US$200 billion tariff escalation against China that would add to the already existing US$50 billion tariff increase earlier this year.

As the US-China dispute ramps up globally, the Central American and Caribbean area, “America’s backyard”, is increasingly becoming an area of targeted importance for China as it soaks up old infrastructure, land and resources neglected by US corporations and government.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Which progressive countries’ around the world, pay even a remote amount of respect to The United States or its President, Mr. Donald Trump?

    Whining and Moaning, Sanctions, Threats of Violence and Coercion, etc., don’t cut it any more, United States of America!
    Trump’s bad manners’, Lies and his absolutely intolerable demeanor, have isolated any modicum of tolerance by forward-thinking countries and their politicians, to negotiate lasting transactions.

    Right this moment the EU Nations have decided to pay for all financial dealings in EUROS, not US DOLLARS.
    There isn’t enough security regarding the whims of Donald Trump’s Sanctioning techniques etc., to make the US Dollar, the currency of choice, within these advancing nations.

    The United States outdated PNAC precept, by its former Cold War Dreamers’, is fast coming to a great screeching halt, caused mainly by the vast technological advances created by your main (so-called) adversaries’, Russia, China and India, and a plethora of smaller nations.

    It’s time to THINK before ACTING, US Military Industrial Complex Warmongers!
    Donald D.

  2. Anyone with half a brain understands that the U.S. had to act on its trade policy with China as it was being swamped by billions of dollars of Chinese merchandise at the same time China was denying the import of or the high tariff of most of the items being shipped from the U.S. It was high time a U.S. President came to the rescue. As to the EU (which I predict will be extinct in 10 years) they will either cooperate with the U.S. (which they will and already have in certain areas) or be left out in the cold. When Iran and Russia begin to flex their military muscle, which has already begun, they will once again come running to the U.S. for protection and aid. I wonder what Don’s feelings towards the U.S. would be if Russia decided to come into Canada from the North to capture some oil fields. Does he really believe the Canadian military could handle this without help from the same U.S. he trashes on a daily basis?

  3. Richard;

    The US is ‘swamped with billions of dollars of Chinese merchandise’, because US BUSINESS OWNERS’ ORDERED THESE GOODS.

    Do you mean to assert that the EU won’t be able to operate without dealing with the USA?
    If so, you had better do a little research.
    Europe and the ASEAN nations, generate nearly 70% of the worlds GDP.

    Why do you think May, Macron and Merkel, plus Russia, China and India, are purchasing and selling in Euros, OR in each sovereign country’s OWN Currency. They are setting up their own Banks in each others’ country in order to stop Trump’s US $ Sanctions’ from hurting their economies. As I stated earlier, the EU has made arrangements to use the Euro instead of the US Dollar for all transactions other than in Europe itself.

    The yuan (Chinese Renminbi), is fast becoming the preferred Petro-Currency, to once again, CIRCUMVENT Trump’s US $ shenanigans.

    I don’t think that it will be Iran and Russia, ‘running for protection’, after seeing the weaponry which BOTH these countries posses.
    When you add the new ‘RCI’ (Russia, China, India) Group, which was formed while attending G 20, the former statement becomes even MORE formidable towards USA’s Capriciousness.

    Lets get real here Richard. The US doesn’t care about anyone else!
    Unfortunately, they are making new enemies DAILY with their ‘Regime-Change Tactics’, in EVERY COUNTRY AROUND THE WORLD.

    How much longer do you think the rest of the world is going to accept the US Government’s Hegemonic, Geopolitical Maneuvering, Richard?

    Just a little reminder for you Richard, the USA only occupies two and one-half per cent of the LAND MASS of the world and you have made enemies of ALL the other countries, which make up the remaining 97 1/2%, with your absolutely atrocious, miltary and financial conduct.

    Don D.

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