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China and Taiwan - diplomatic jousting in the Caribbean again

The political struggle between   China and Taiwan has once again shown in its head in the Caribbean, dividing the loyalties of the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and delaying the formulation of a cohesive policy toward Asia.

In early May the St Lucia government established diplomatic relations with Taiwan causing China to break off its relations with the Caribbean Island on May 7th.   In the same week, Suriname announced that it had rejected overtures from Taiwan and would continue its links with China despite an offer of “millions of dollars”.
Now, five CARICOM countries recognise Taiwan and nine others have diplomatic relations with China.
The five who recognise Taiwan are currently: Belize, Haiti, St Kitts-Nevis, St  Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia. The countries with ties to China are:  Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
Under the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that established CARICOM, the member states declare as one of their objectives “enhanced co-ordination of member states’ foreign and (foreign) economic policies”.  It may, at best, be argued that they are not required to have a “harmonised” foreign and (foreign) economic policy, therefore their division over China and Taiwan is excusable.  But, it is doubtful that they even meet the commitment to  “co-ordinate” their policy in this particular matter.
The decisions to switch allegiances between China and Taiwan appear to be taken in strictly domestic political contexts with the institution of CARICOM and other member states finding out about them in the media like everyone else.  The situation is worse in the small sub-grouping in the Caribbean, the
Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).  By the terms of the treaty, the seven member states are obliged “to seek to achieve the fullest possible harmonisation of foreign policy”. But, there is evidently no harmonisation whatsoever on this issue.
Within the OECS, the six independent countries are equally divided.  Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and Grenada are for China; St Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines for Taiwan.  Grenada and St Lucia seem destined to be on opposite sides of this divide, notwithstanding their obligations under the OECS treaty.
St Lucia, which used to recognise Taiwan under a previous United Workers Party (UWP), switched to China when the St Lucia Labour Party came to office.  Now,  amid controversy about who in the government actually made the decision, St Lucia has swung back to Taiwan in the aftermath of a general election which saw the UWP come back to office.  And Grenada switched from Taiwan to China.  This switch was famously celebrated earlier this year when, much to the embarrassment of the Grenada government and the amusement of the rest of the world, the Grenada Police band, long accustomed to playing the Taiwanese anthem, rendered it with relish as a Chinese delegation opened the national sports stadium in Grenada for which China had provided the funding.
The Grenadian band leader, who lost his job as a consequence of this faux pas, might usefully seek a transfer to St Lucia where his skills with the Taiwanese anthem might be required after ten years of unfamiliarity with it at official occasions.
Incidentally, the switching between China and Taiwan has not been without penalties. In the case of Grenada, it is reported that the Export-Import Bank of Taiwan sued  the Grenada government in a New York court for US$21 million plus interest payments for loans for several projects. The loans are reported to have been made before Grenada switched its recognition to China two years ago.  And, a spokesman for the Chinese government is reported to have said that there will be “consequences” for St Lucia. 
Both CARICOM and the OECS are faced with a dilemma over this issue. Despite the obligations of each treaty to “co-ordinate” foreign policy in the case of the first and to “harmonise” foreign policy in the second, neither is being done in relation to China and Taiwan.  Both groupings are now organisationally hobbled.  They will have to find creative ways of overcoming the problem if they are to tackle their aid, trade and investment relationship with China and Taiwan collectively.
One thing is for sure, China clearly does not regard the extent of its trade and investment benefits from a small island like St Lucia to be important enough to tolerate an accommodation with Taiwan, and this will equally apply to other small  countries.  There is therefore no purpose in pointing to the Dominican Republic which is tied to Taiwan diplomatically but trades vigorously with China. Trade between the DR
and China totalled US$490 million last year, twice as much as with Taiwan.  It is  not money to be scoffed at, and small islands cannot produce that volume of  trade.
CARICOM and the OECS, as institutions, still have to come to terms with the following realities: China is the official representative of the Chinese people in the United Nations, and occupies a permanent seat in the Security Council.  China is now the world’s fourth largest economy and growing. By 2020, China will have a middle class of 200 million versus 186 million in the US.  China will be the fourth-largest source of global leisure travellers. China's foreign exchange reserves, already the world's largest, have passed  $1-trillion (U.S.). The central bank said its reserves stood at $1.0663 trillion at the end of December, making China the first country officially to top the $1trillion mark. China is not only now a large aid donor, it is investing heavily in many  enterprises in various parts of the world.
Until government representatives can debate the China-Taiwan issue frankly and freely and come to a consensus on how to deal with it jointly in the interest of the people of the region, CARICOM and the OECS will remain divided, and their Asia policy will continue to be unformulated, subject to the peculiar and parochial decisions not even of States but of political parties in office. 

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