Letters & Opinion

The CPC’s Centenary opens a new door to a better future of Caribbean-China ties

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

The Communist Party of China (CPC) officially becomes 100 Years Old today (June 30), but the centennial birthday celebrations started since Sunday and Monday, with giant party celebrations at all levels, the highlight being a major ceremony recorded at the world-famous Bird’s Nest stadium that was a highlight of Beijing’s hosting of the Olympic Games in 2008.

China has deepened its footprint on the world stage since 2013 when President Xi Jinping replaced predecessor Hu Jintao as the CPC’s General Secretary (Leader).

President Xi has also better understood and demonstrated the importance of China’s ties with Caribbean nations, visiting Trinidad & Tobago (also in 2013) for a summit with CARICOM member-states, where his popular film star wife drew accolades from then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Five years later he hosted Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at the Great hall of the People in Beijing in 2018.

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And earlier this year, in a ‘live’ telephone call with Guyana’s President Irfan Ali during an exchange that also included members of his government and the Guyana private sector, President Xi looked forward to China expanding its relations within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

He also looked forward to celebration of the 50th anniversary of China’s establishment of diplomatic ties with Guyana, the largest and richest member-state, bordering Venezuela and Brazil, perched on the Northeastern shoulder of South America and located in The Guiana Shield that’s yielded deep and wide oil deposits that will surely change the history of Guyana and fellow CARICOM neighbour, Dutch-speaking Suriname.

Those who choose to continue blinding themselves to today’s global reality and elect to engage in selective amnesia continue to debate the Westernized concept of China ‘being run’ by a ‘One Party State’, instead of as a populous state run by a powerful, popular party that’s steadfastly embedded itself in the hearts and minds of its people like no other, refusing to accept that it wins internationally-observed and set periodic elections contested by multiple parties — and can withstand and respond in many ways to any challenge to its elected power, from within or without.

Democracy with Chinese Characteristics has seen the PRC develop the mechanisms that have helped China achieve the most of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and the first country in the world to officially eradicate poverty, registering 70% of people the world over who have been rescued from living below the official universal poverty line.

Caribbean-China ties are also at a stage in 2021 when the period between the CPC’s centenary and that of the PRC (less than three decades away) will also coincide with a period when CARICOM leaders and political parties are charged with initiating the next phase of Caribbean independence, 60 years after Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago led the way in 1962.

The Caribbean’s post-independence experience has seen the former European colonies switch from colonial dependence to economic dependence on the USA, Europe and Japan — and all CARICOM member-states enjoying healthy trade with China.

The China-Taiwan conundrum continues to affect the Caribbean in the COVID Age.

More CARICOM nations recognize Beijing than Taipei and the latter’s Caribbean allies represent a third of all its friends – clear indications that the region is important to both sides of the Strait, which strategic position CARICOM governments have so far only measured by similar but different ‘One China’ domestic yardsticks.

Support for China and Taiwan is evenly split within the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

But an interesting situation also exists where St. Vincent and the Grenadines (which recognizes Taipei) is, like China, also a member of the UN Security Council; and Kingstown’s foreign policy (for the past two decades) has also most times been same as China’s on major international issues.

China and Taiwan will eventually settle their differences before or after the Century of the establishment of the PRC, which will also mark one hundred years since the former imperial Kuomintang (KMT) party relocated to the island from the mainland in 1949.

What CARICOM member-states (including OECS) should concentrate on in the next 28 years, therefore, is to develop those ties that will better bind Chinese and Caribbean people and cultures, at all possible levels, on both sides of the Strait, along lines that will permanently benefit both and all sides.

Those desirable Caribbean visions aside, the CPC’s Centenary is as much a world event as a Chinese one.

But in the context of the availability of living proof that Chinese and African navigators came to the Caribbean at least 70 years before Columbus, it must also be observed that though not taught in Caribbean history today, it’s an irrefutable fact that China-Caribbean ties actually predated the region’s colonial history of occupation and imperial bondage, just as the African-American-Caribbean connection also predated the European conquest of The Americas.

The post-COVID age requires that developing nations revisit and redefine their international relations, especially Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Caribbean and elsewhere that have spent the last 15 months living in limbo with costly daily reminders that the world’s richest nations are still not prepared to see and treat poorer countries as equal, or with equal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The G7 and EU nations refuse to share their overstocked vaccine supplies with their former Caribbean and other developing countries they exploited for centuries, or to allow developing nations that can (like India and South Africa) to produce vaccines to save their own populations, while African and Asian, Caribbean and Latin American nations are kept at the very back of the line, at the bottom of the long waiting-list of unvaccinated nations.

China’s vaccines are in Guyana and Barbados and Beijing has offered to make them available to any Caribbean country willing to ask, including making loans available for quick delivery to those still anxiously but hopelessly awaiting the UN’s COVAX delivery mechanism, to which China has also donated substantial amounts of vaccines.

Most CARICOM member-states are at below two-percent (2%) of their populations totally vaccinated and approval of the Cuban vaccines by the World Health Organization (WHO) last week opens the way too for the much-awaited Cuban brands to also become available across the region – and the world.

Chinese and Cuban scientists cooperated to keep COVID-19 at Bay in Wuhan in 2020 and University of the West Indies (UWI) scientists also cooperated with Cuban and Chinese counterparts to not only produce early treatments for China and Cuba, but also to advise CARICOM governments — through the UWI’s COVID-19 Task Force – on life-saving measures to be taken, long before the first COVID case was detected in the region.

With the European and American (Big PHARMA) companies continuing the ever-profiteering and increasingly-fatal arms race for global shoulders to the extent of refusing to share or allow access to vaccines through insistence on application of copyright restrictions, the Caribbean will have no choice but to look elsewhere — including to China, Russia and Cuba, whose vaccines are as effective and more easily available than Oxford-AstraZeneca or Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson.

This is the age when virus mutations have resulted in new variations that spread faster than Big PHARMA can upgrade its vaccines, China is also under attack from the so-called ‘Delta’ variant – and is again moving Heaven and Hell to ensure it doesn’t take root like the original COVID-19.

If things were different, China would certainly have loved to supply Taiwan with all the vaccines its 23 million people need — but here again, Cold War politics in the COVID Age makes such a desirable hope a nightmare for some and a day dream for others.

But when all of that is put within the context of the CPC marking its 100th birthday tomorrow, it becomes even clearer that this is as much a national achievement as it’s an international one that also greater than any other in the 21st Century, including Beijing hosting the Olympic Games before Xi Jinping’s arrival.

The CPC’s hundredth birthday is truly a political centennial of global proportions worthy of every measure of celebration, at home and abroad.

And that’s a fact!

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