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Beijing on Essequibo, Mexico monitors Chinese investment, China-Taiwan-LAC meetings at COP28, and Costa Rica 5G
Hi! Welcome to Chaufa, a China-Western Hemisphere Newsletter by CPSI.
Today’s Edition covers December 4 to December 10.
This Week’s Top 5 Stories:
During Treasury Secretary Yellen’s trip to Mexico City, the United States and Mexico agreed to share information on new Chinese investments in Mexico that may purchase sensitive American technology.
Chinese firms are increasingly investing in Mexico to avoid U.S. tariffs, shipping disruptions, and geopolitical tensions.
After Costa Rica’s president said that China “doesn't have a solid judicial framework that prevents spying” by telecom companies like Huawei, China's embassy in San Jose issued a combative statement rejecting the accusations.
Earlier this fall, Costa Rica had banned Chinese telecom providers from participating in the country’s 5G network.
China’s foreign ministry made tentative comments about Venezuela’s increasing aggression against Guyana, recognizing that “Venezuela and Guyana are both China’s good friends” and saying “China always supports the two countries in properly settling the issue of demarcation of their boundary through friendly consultation.” (FMPRC)
At COP28, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Paraguay voiced support for Taiwan’s inclusion. Cuba’s science minister met with the PRC’s Deputy Minister of Ecology and Environment and Brazil and China also hosted a panel on sustainable agriculture on COP28’s sidelines.
Additionally, the Barbados Special Envoy for the Bridgetown Initiative argued that while “China is doing more green transformation than anyone else in the world,” he said that China should donate to the loss and damage fund.
During the Mercosur leaders’ summit, Uruguay’s foreign minister reiterated that his country wanted a China-Mercosur FTA, but he said that his government would continue to try to advance a bilateral FTA. Argentina’s outgoing president confirmed that he had asked Beijing to refrain from a bilateral agreement with Montevideo to maintain the trade bloc’s cohesion.
The state of CARICOM countries’ presence in Beijing
Of CARICOM’s 15 member states, 10 recognize the PRC, but only eight have embassies in Beijing.1 Given that China is one of the Caribbean’s most important partners, having strong and experienced representation to Beijing is essential for advancing each country’s interests.
Currently, many of CARICOM’s members have relatively new ambassadors in the PRC, so each diplomat’s prior experience and knowledge of the PRC are even more important. But at the moment, the Caribbean’s ambassadors’ background and experience vary significantly, possibly impacting their ability to achieve their diplomatic goals in China.
Few of CARICOM’s ambassadors have been in China for very long – among the current ambassadors, the average tenure is about two years. Moreover, three of the nine countries (Grenada, Jamaica, and Suriname) have had their ambassadors in place for a year or less. Only Martin Charles from Dominica has been in Beijing more than three years, having served almost six years in China.
Roughly half of CARICOM’s diplomats have significant experience in China, boding well for their ability to advance their goals with the PRC government. Hallam Henry of Barbados studied at Tsinghua University and worked for Huawei, while Grenada’s Ian Marshall studied at Peking University. Guyana’s Anyin Choo worked in China previously, while Analisa Low from Trinidad and Tobago reportedly had traveled to the PRC multiple times before receiving her ambassadorial credentials.
That said, few of CARICOM’s diplomats have what would be considered extensive diplomatic experience in the PRC itself. Guyana’s Ambassador Anyin Choo experience as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’ Affaires in Beijing, as well as her bachelor’s degree from a Beijing-based university, makes her stand out from her Caribbean peers. Ambassador Bethel is also a career diplomat, though without Choo’s PRC experience.
Many of the other Caribbean ambassadors, such as Jamaica’s Arthur Williams, Dominica’s Martin Charles, and Suriname’s Pick Fung Ho-Chong worked in business for most of their career.2 That said, private sector experience certainly brings a valuable set of skills and knowledge to the more economically-driven bilateral relationships.
Politics and Society
The Canadian government is expanding the scope of its investigation into China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) investments while also pulling out of the organization indefinitely.
Mexican Foreign Minister Barcena met with her Chinese counterpart to discuss fentanyl trafficking, while the mayor of Morelia, Alfonso Martínez Alcázar, met with Beijing’s ambassador to discuss tourism and economic investment.
The top legislators from Honduras and the PRC met in Beijing to discuss improving “legal systems [to] further create a sound legal environment for investment, cooperation, and personnel exchanges.” (Xinhua) Head of the Honduran legislator Luis Redondo also met with Chinese Vice President Han Zheng. (CRI)
Investment, finance, and infrastructure
A team from the PRC started construction on the Ilopango water treatment plant in El Salvador, which follows the recent opening of the Chinese-built national library and the inauguration of construction on a new national stadium.
A Chinese construction team will soon begin building Antigua and Barbuda’s first forensic crime lab, likely financed by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.
An investigation by a Peruvian newspaper found that Chinese companies, led by China Rail No. 10, had accumulated 497 labor complaints in the Lima area since 2017.
The Lingong Machinery Group (LGMG) opened its new $140 million scissor lift and electric articulated lifts plant in Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
China Southern Power Grid Company, which already owns 28% of Chile’s main transmission company, Transelec SA, is considering purchasing the remaining 72% of the company that is currently owned by Canadian pension funds.
Trade and technology
PRC ambassador to Kingston Chen Daojiang donated medical equipment and supplies to Jamaica’s health ministry, while the Chinese government donated electronic equipment to Antigua and Barbuda for an upcoming International Small Island Developing States (SIDS) conference.
Chile’s foreign minister signed an MOU with the PRC’s Deputy Minister of Natural Resources on scientific research in Antarctica, while the Chinese customs authority approved Chilean peach and apricot exports.
Chinese and Uruguayan science ministries met for a virtual meeting on agricultural technology, biomedicine, and nanotechnology cooperation. The meeting comes after the announcement of a new $300,000 laboratory sponsored by the Chinese science ministry. (Xinhua)
A Chinese delegation led by the Vice Governor of Qinghai Province, Liu Chao, traveled to Brazil to discuss astronomy cooperation with the National Observatory.
Taiwan donated nearly $800,000 to renovate Belize’s National Assembly building.
Infobae interviewed Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu in a wide-ranging conversation that covered China’s influence in LAC, losing diplomatic allies in the region, and Taipei-Beijing ties.
Paraguay, Belize, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Kitts and Nevis argued for Taiwan’s inclusion in Interpol during the organization’s General Assembly.
As Guatemala’s presidential transition looks increasingly fragile, Taipei’s Foreign Minister Wu said that the incoming government had reassured him that they would maintain diplomatic relations.
Taiwan ICDF and the Taiwanese Cathay General Hospital supported a conference with St. Lucia’s health ministry on preventing and treating diabetes.
Analysis and Opinion
Former Nicaraguan Consul General to Mexico, Pablo Baltodano, argued in E-International Relations that “Nicaragua offers the right conditions” for a Chinese “home base to set up its operations and showcase its products” across the Caribbean.
An analysis by El Diner found that Taiwan-Dominican Republic exports and imports were the same both before and after the two countries held diplomatic relations, while the newspaper found that the DR’s exports to the PRC doubled after Santo Domingo flipped diplomatic recognition.
Given China’s close relations with both Venezuela and Guyana, Joseph Bouchard describes in The Diplomat how Beijing is acting as neutrally as possible in what the PRC’s media is increasingly deeming a “territorial dispute.”
Correction: in last week’s Chaufa, I mistakenly referred to a secondary school in St. Lucia as a public university. I apologize for the error.
That’s it for now! See you next week.
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Both Montserrat and Antigua and Barbuda lack embassies on the ground, though Haiti interestingly does have a trade mission in Beijing that performs many of the roles of a traditional embassy.
Ambassador Williams has diplomatic experience as a former ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, though he started his career in the private sector.