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China’s Caribbean Adventure

Beijing is flooding the region with investment. Should America be worried?

10:00 AM, Jun 18, 2012 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
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To be sure, China’s strategic interests in the Caribbean go beyond Taiwan. Beijing has longstanding ties with the Castro dictatorship in Cuba, but the future of that dictatorship is increasingly certain, and the death of either Fidel (who is approaching his 86th birthday in August) or Raúl (who just turned 81) could usher in a period of major political instability. 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.

“They are buying loyalty and taking up the vacuum left by the United States, Canada and other countries, particularly in infrastructure improvements,” a former Caribbean diplomat recently told the New York Times. “If China continues to invest the way it is doing in the Caribbean, the U.S. is almost making itself irrelevant to the region.” That last comment is an exaggeration, but it should concentrate the minds of U.S. policymakers, who have treated the Caribbean as an afterthought for much too long.

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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