Pay attention because this week the Caribbean will be the venue of an old dispute between the “two China’s”. Two China’s? Since 1949 two countries with the name China exist. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) also known as Taiwan. The PRC claims Taiwan as its province but doesn’t control Taiwan as part of its territory. Taiwan is recognized by only 17 countries of which 8* are situated in the Caribbean Basin.
The PRC over the last 10 years has spent USD billions in aid to the those countries that recognize Beijing. The PRC doesn’t engage in diplomatic relations with any country that recognizes Taiwan. The PRC has been able to use its wallet to convince many countries over the years to dump Taiwan including the Dominican Republic and Panama. Taiwan is however tenaciously holding on to its influence.
Adding to what I’ve described as the New Cold War in the Caribbean, enters Taiwan the stage. Taiwan’s pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen will spend four nights in the US during her trip to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Haiti from 11-20 July. This has angered the PRC which urged the White House not to allow her to visit.
Taiwan’s visit to this area must be seen in a bigger perspective. First, we must consider America’s re-commitment to Taiwan under President Trump. Trump’s very first telephone call to a foreign leader was with the President of Taiwan. Taiwan’s presence here could be a jab at the PRC at a time when Washington is pushing Beijing in the South China Sea and is frustrated with trade negotiation with the PRC, concerns regarding Hong Kong and PRC’s unfettered support of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro. Additionally, the US is preparing to sell Taiwan USD 2 billion of military equipment.
How this will play out, remains to be seen. Taiwan understands very well however that with Washington’s commitment, now is the time to re-engage the Caribbean Basin and shore up its diplomatic alliances.
*Curaçao recognizes the PRC
Alex David Rosaria (50) is from Curaçao and has a MBA from the University of Iowa. He is a former Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and UN Implementation Officer in Africa and Central America.