Like everything else it has cloned, China has taken Joseph Nye’s term soft power and weaponized it with the diplomacy of a covert hegemon.
It’s a formula to move it closer to solidifying its ambition of Super Power and as long as there are resource rich countries with comparatively unsophisticated politicians whose visions are fixated on the future and the end product and pay little attention to the journey there, then all China has to do is offer its softer version of incursion, like expertise and on site guidance, oh and motorcycles and training for a country’s military and paramilitary and they are one step closer to owning more global real estate.
That’s really a cooler way to get in – at least to Guyana where the governments seem to be incurably needy. And this benign approach does a couple things. It softens China’s image as a crafty insurgent superpower that once rode in with the military equipment it so generously gifted to blossoming resource rich leaders who were fascinated with the prospect of military might and territorial defense. The smell of authoritarian politics was too pungent with that one. Flashy motorcycle fleets to assist with policing look less militant, even adds some fashion fare to the Police Force and the buses and ATV’s laptops, desktops and an assortment of bullet proof vests and riot suits look more like a grab bag of gifts than it does a quiet geo-political insurgency.
And being strategically insidious, this approach distracts from the cheap consumer goods, like clothing with dyes that cause skin rash because of its toxic composition against which China Daily warns, or mercury, lead, arsenic, cyanide found in its cosmetics, that it is allowed to sell to Guyanese because of cunning clauses built in to service contracts tied to leases that extend beyond the life expectancy of the average Guyanese; distracts from the guarantee of Chinese immigration and the hassle free issuance of business license to peddle their poisonous ware, in exchange for natural resource concessions attached to 99 year lease agreements and a demand for “most favoured nation” treatment (Article II:1) a negotiating trick they demand Guyana reserves for the the gift horse, China.
It’s no secret that Guyanese are frightened by the favored status of the new immigrant Chinese in the country. There is an increasingly audible rumble about them disrespecting local laws with relative impunity, disgust with the damage and disrepair caused to the environment and infrastructure, and due worry at how they scoff at the demands of the Guyana government to deliver on contracts that they have violated with flare and defiance to name a few highlights of their occupancy.
Through suave coercion and an assortment of initiatives with lopsided benefits in their favor, China continues its thrust of soft power into Guyana under the banner One Belt One Road; hollow sloganeering that allows countries with horrendous domestic violence and human rights records, a documented history of fiscal impropriety and a high debt to GDP ratio to be recipients of Chinese loans through a ‘non-interference policy’ the translation of which is that China will forego scruples and humanitarian decency in pursuit of its quest to be a global Super Power.
For context of China’s presence in Guyana, we must revisit the groundwork/trap laid by Chou en lai, how from 1964 -1966 Premier Forbes Burnham repeatedly sent delegations to China (China’s Foreign Aid 60 years in retrospect) the almost garish congratulatory message he received from Chou after the country was granted Independence and the subsequent use of Guyana as the investment/infiltration laboratory for China’s tentacles into the Caribbean, and the America’s, South and Latin when 2000 mainland Chinese were allowed to use Guyana as their deployment point (4th para under December 18th) We must reflect on the Bandung Conference where Chou laid his geostrategic goals that offered a safety net for Burnham’s swing to Non Alignment.
It may be a good idea for the Sino/Guyanese trade agreements made under Forbes Burnham to be de-classified, if needed and released for public information, so that they can be compared to those made under successive governments under which China’s access to Guyana increased exponentially with an attendant granting of Citizenship to Chinese in Guyana for seven years, right around the time of Jagdeo’s reelection. Is there a ‘cannot redo’ clause in the original trade agreement that will exist ad infinitum like the kind Exxon says exists in the original contract with Janet Jagan… that forces current politicians to claim they cannot re-negotiate and is China’s ‘diplomatic’ immunity of such that they can be comparatively defiant to our laws? Did the modification to the original(s) signed in Beijing on March 27th 2003 give them unusual and irretrievable latitude?
Knowing what preceded current agreements may explain why headlines like GFC scraps Baishan Lin’s forest concessions; moves to recover debts….. may explain why headline Chinese Bank asks Guyana to hold off re-issuing Bai Shan Lin lands followed; why rich China was asking poor needy Guyana to pause on its repossession of 6780,000 hectares of Forestry that Bai Shan Lin owns by contract and the GYD 80 million owed to the country after decades of operation beame tepid pursuit for the government. It may explain why questions posed by Leader Granger during his Opposition, demanding transparency on Foreign Direct Investment, seem to be now on mute.
We are still curious about contracts involving China Harbour Engineering Company CHEC– one of China’s double-dipping conduits – with China granting aid to build then having their state owned company CHEC win the bid, and the Skeldon sugar factory financed by China and built so poorly by Chinese state owned bid winner China National Import and Export Corporation CNTIC ,a company best known for importing cars, that Bosch Engineering of South Africa was hired to fix its errors….as Guyanese remain saddled with millions for diminishing returns.
The expected scrutiny of Foreign Direct Investments FDI by this Admin that ran on transparency is yet to begin, even as conditions remain the same. Immigrant Chinese sole proprietorships, Chinese aid, Chinese loans, stadium gifting all lead to the local Chinese Embassy and companies that are hosted by China and deployed in the name of enterprise; with a carefully planned convoluted policy to comingle foreign aid, direct investment and hard loans which experts have determined, when fleshed out, comprise a mere 21% portion of aid with the lion’s share, a hefty 79% craftily earmarked for repayment at extortionist rates, not excluding leases of lands due to expire 99 years post signing.
It’s a debt-trap diplomacy cycle that the Coalition, when it was Opposition, gave well founded criticism and pledged to correct if elected so why aren’t we being informed, as promised, of the debt structure of China’s loans/aid/takeover of our country and what is being done about its rectification?
Recently, the Minister of State announced that he has approached the “embassies” in Guyana to help with maintaining the local parks and that the Chinese have committed to help in a big way.
Why not … Georgetown is almost a Beijing only with a wider variety of skin tones and hair textures. And where the businesses are not solely Chinese (and in all three counties with lots in Border town Lethem) their products are because trade agreements and tariff softenings are part of the Ransom china demands when inking its ‘Aid/loan’ package with Guyana.
New Thriving the Restaurant that flaunts Thai and Japanese fare, has taken over the quaint Georgetown eatery landscape and its outskirts with its gaudy dragons and lions and overdone Asian decor in the name of international style, completely subverting the culturally rich Guyanese -Chinese presence and food we enjoyed through Guyanese -Chinese assimilation since their 1853 arrival.
Matters not that Thais and Japanese were never of our six peoples or even a sliver of our tourist record; not to the previous government that allowed this shift of culture to take place since 1993 when the first overlay of Guyanese -Chinese culture was allowed with the installations of these immigrant Chinese establishments. And what’s of alarm is that this government has become as amenable to China’s stifling presence, infiltration through every socioeconomic orifice, as the previous government whose amenability they lambasted. No. We’re not condemning the celebration of Chinese New Year. But we’re monitoring the chop stick diplomacy – China working with expatriate entrepreneurs and restaurant owners to promote Chinese food and culture in the countries it’s slowly taking over – as a slithering accompaniment to its financial stranglehold on the country.
Then Opposition Leader Granger’s firm commitment to do “diligent scrutiny on direct foreign investment as a duty to the people of Guyana and in the national interest” was reassuring since the years under PPP leadership saw a pawning of patrimony and a distressing government participation in the panorama of activities that showed curious protectionism and preference to Main land Chinese. Not helping were images of Guyanese school children dressed in traditional Chinese garb singing a song in Chinese – the soft power of financial assistance subtly arcing local culture to mainland ‘Chineseism’.
And as President Granger continues his slow about-turn, walking back his pledge to monitor China’s geoeconomic high jack of Guyana, he accepts millions in military aid which when broken down is more symbolic than practical.
We would certainly understand if there were a plan that looked at the Defence Force holistically and its equipment needs were met in that context. That would be a showing of real planning and execution. But it’s the single ambulance, the 5 ATV’s, the single dinghy and disparate vehicle types that confirm the business as usual transaction, especially since there has been no confirmation that this Coalition is unravelling the binds between aid and loan…which means with every receipt from China another tentacle is added.
To think that there is a sliver of altruism in the economic footprint China has planted in poor, resource rich countries and in every continent would be to confess a brutish acquiescence and an odd incuriosity that might just be grounds for treason if you are elected to represent the people….and I say this at a time when highlighting failed promises and contraventions to Manifesto are met with threats to classify dissent as sedition – in a grotesque and autocratic application of the law.
But back to China…and the trading of short term gains for long term dependency to the peril of future generations a population then Candidate Granger pledged to protect through maxim, ‘A good life for all Guyanese’ …which we all embraced.
With predatory loans, opaque contracts, extended land leases and deals that may have too many entanglements not to be called corrupt, China has kept Guyana on its feeding chain, slithering into every natural resource, from laterite to oil and without the knowledge and consent of the people of Guyana. What began as aid and assistance has grown into high debt servicing with low employment … the China carrot without a counterbalancing stick.
China’s charm offensive has now become decidedly offensive. Cheap Chinese goods and a diplomacy that sees China nipping on the heels of Guyanese culture are received with the coy naiveté of an addicted dependent. Careless damage to infrastructure, disregard for environmental protection and disrespect for the Guyanese employee is chalked up to the cost of doing business.
Beijing should not interfere with internal affairs, says the Chinese, we try to separate politics from business..with the pasty look of an unrepentant shill.
Through cheap goods, military supplies, and a willingness to finance everything to ensure that every successive government is irretrievably tied to Beijing, China continues to underwrite the dismantling of our democracy and the growing humanitarian crises this small nation harbours.
This Administration when in Opposition, used to think of China as a nefarious actor…
The only thing that has changed, Administration, since you’ve taken over, is that you are now running with the baton you received from the PPP.