By Paul Clarke
One of the Caribbean’s most influential political leaders says the United States should not worry about the deepening relations between China and countries of the region.
“I don’t believe we have anything to fear from the Chinese,” said Ralph Gonsalves, the four-term prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “Our U.S. friends need not worry as they will, based on shared history, remain the region’s number-one partner for trade and security,” he told The Gleaner.
Jamaica is among countries that have signed on to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, further deepening relations with the Asian superpower.
Amid the deepening ties, just over a week ago, Admiral Craig Fuller, the commander of the United States Southern Command, said that Jamaica should be wary of China’s presence in the region. United States Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia ratcheted up the rhetoric when he described China as a “dragon with two heads”.
But Gonsalves, whose country was recently elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, insists that there is no basis for a negative relationship with China or the United States.
“The Americans and the Chinese really have an excellent relationship, but it’s one in which they cooperate and rival each other and operate in their respective interests,” said Gonsalves, adding that Caribbean countries should not have to choose between the two economic competitors.
Citing his country’s 38-year diplomatic relation with Taiwan as opposed to mainland China, Gonsalves said that regional territories should be able to freely choose what is in their best interests. He also said that despite St Vincent’s alignment, his country interacts well with the Caribbean Development Bank, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.
“We also work with them in the United Nations and will, as of January 2020, work with them as part of the UN Security Council, so my point is that all I want to see is peace across the Strait of Taiwan, and the Chinese civilisation, with their different political expressions will sort out their problems with the help of Jamaica or St Vincent and the Grenadines,” said Gonsalves.
In June, SVG was elected, along with four other nations, to the UN Security Council, becoming the smallest nation ever to secure a seat. Also elected were Niger, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Estonia.
The five states will take up their seats as non-permanent members of the Security Council in January 2020, replacing Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Peru, and Poland.
Gonsalves said that his small nation will be impartial in its stance and will be guided by international law. He also said that he would be taking note of all the geopolitical moves being made in the region.
Cumulatively, China has invested more than US$100 billion in the Belt and Road Initiative, with the value of construction projects alone topping US$720 billion.