On July 1st the almighty Chinese Communist Party (CPP) will celebrate its hundredth anniversary. It’s going to be an all out propaganda show. The CPP-dynasty has rebranded itself as the guardian of the New China and looks forward to the next century of total power monopoly.
It’s become clear that China isn’t interested in any type of Western-style democracy which in many ways has fallen short for so many people around the world (https://alexdavidrosaria.blog/2017/09/08/reinventing-western-democracy/). The past decades have, if anything, strengthened the Chinese leaders’ view that economic reform is possible without liberalizing politics. And, many Chinese believe that the country’s economic achievements have actually been realized because of CCP’s authoritarian style of government. The leading expert on Asia, Chung Min Lee, said: “China is celebrating Gucci and Big Brother” at the same time.
Something else we don’t realize is that China has been reforming. It’s just not liberal reform. One example is the reinvention of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection to deal with the corruption that had become so prevalent. The majority of countries in Asia, especially staunch US supporters such as Singapore, refuse to choose between China and the U.S. even as the relation between the two super powers continues to deteriorate.
The challenge in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), will be to balance the benefits from closer ties with China as Beijing’s gravitational pull becomes stronger at the same time LAC tries to sustain a relation with more traditional orbits, The Netherlands (and Europe) and the U.S. (and the rest of North America).
China updated its economic strategy towards LAC by emphasizing investment, financial and industrial capacity cooperation. Though the Chinese economic strategy is generally seen as positive by LAC countries, instabilities of some major partners such as Venezuela have complicated China’s efforts to achieve results they could show off to others.
It’s unsettling that Curaçao has maintained an eery silence on a possible China policy, whilst our Caribbean neighbors are pondering how best to move forward. China’s new Consulate General on the island looked very promising. However, the flagrant dishonesty of China’s Guangdong Zhenrong Enterprise and China Huayang Economics and Trade Group regarding the Isla Refinery project, have not fared well.
Apart from economics, China’s policy towards LAC will stumble or fall based on its soft power. According to the Pew Research Center the unfavorable views of China has reached historic highs in many countries. With the U.S. soft power prominently on display in LAC and Curaçao, China’s ability to conquer hearts in this region may be a tall order to fill.