May 27, 2013

“SMART DIPLOMACY” UPDATE: As the US Naps, China Doubles Down on Caribbean Policy.

China is beefing up its presence in the Caribbean and making it clear that the region is a strategic priority going forward. Over the past few months, Beijing has begun investing hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure investment in countries very much in need of that money, still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. And in addition to the monetary aid, President Xi Jinping will be visiting Trinidad and Tobago next week as part of a tour of the Caribbean and Latin America. That visit will mark the first time a Chinese president will have toured an English-speaking Caribbean country.

The US, meanwhile has become largely disengaged from the region as its focus turns farther afield to places like Syria and Iran. This is a significant reversal for a region that for obvious reasons has traditionally had much closer relations with the US than with China. . . . China isn’t matching its funding with political demands yet, but it isn’t hard to imagine this influx of money swaying the minds of Caribbean people frustrated with a lack of US engagement. Greasing the struggling economies of the region is a quick way to build up Beijing’s soft power there. This is significant because, in addition to increasing China’s global clout, having friends in the Caribbean is useful in international organizations. Like states in the US Senate, countries in the UN get a vote no matter how large or small their size.

The country’s in the very best of hands.