Déjà vu? Maybe, but to those old enough to remember, it sure seems like a second go-around of testosterone-laden posturing by two military super-powers, and our diminutive Jamaica is once again caught in the middle.
As part of his duties as the practical executive head of state of Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness over the last few days have been on a 9‑day working visit to the people’s republic of China.
At the same time Admiral Craig Faller, commander of the United States Southern Command, who visited Jamaica issued a warning to Jamaica.
Quote: “We see that other external actors, other regions of the world that do not share the same values, are operating in conjunction with [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro for their own good.”
“Russia is right there alongside contributing disinformation, and China is in there as well as part of the disinformation campaign.”
Interestingly, military people are not allowed to engage in politicking in the United States. Additionally, Jamaica is not a state, neither is it a territory of the United States.
Jamaicans are quite capable of thinking for themselves and so Faller’s statements were grossly unwanted, condescending and out of order.
There are several theses that could be written about the American-Jamaican experience, not the least of which occurred in the ’70s at the heights of the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union in which Jamaica became a pawn.
The idea that Jamaica, and indeed many other poor nations across Africa and Latin-America should be wary of perceived Chinese benevolence goes without saying.
In a conversation, I had with some friends recently, I likened the Chinese experience to a [Trojan horse], I argued that indeed, Jamaica and Africa should be careful of the Chinese gifts and entreaties.
Already there are signs that Chinese money does come with terrible strings many of which are still not visible to its debtors.
The Chinese Belt and Road pact, part of a global development initiative is destined to be successful because like the initiatives of others, supposedly aimed at nation-building, it is not executed at the point of a gun.
In that stealth approach, however, the Chinese may be particularly dangerous to naïve nations in need.
There should be no doubt about Chinese expansionist ambitions not just in Jamaica, but across the globe. There should never be any doubt that the Chinese are spreading around money with ulterior motives that benefit China, and sets China up as a global counterweight to America’s hegemony.
It is not that Admiral Craig Faller is wrong on the merits. His temerity and gall made him wrong. As a visitor to Jamaica, Faller had no right to speak on political issues as if Jamaica is Guam, or Puerto Rico.
Jamaica is a small nation 4411 square miles and 2.7 million people. If the United States wanted to use its power and influence for good, Jamaica could be a developed state like Dubai or Singapore today.
Offering that kind of help through loans, grants, and technical expertise, the United States would not have to worry about poor Jamaicans trying to enter the United States.
The United States has had its chance to be a better role model to Jamaica, a fledgling Democracy merely 57-years old.
After the 1970s which saw many smaller nations being used as pawns between the two competing super-powers, Jamaica demonstrated that as a nation she was diametrically opposed to Communism in 1980 when the American backed Edward Seaga of the JLP was elected, winning 51 of the then 60 seats in the Legislature.
After eight years of the JLP, the Manley PNP was returned to power. Since then stewardship of the country has been shared between the two political parties.
The cold war ended under Ronald Reagan’s presidency which ran simultaneously to Seaga’s stewardship of Jamaica. Contrary to the hype, the Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight rather than anything Reagan or anyone else may have done.
In the years ensuing since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States has enjoyed a total and complete hegemonic monopoly across the globe.
During that time the United States has made tremendous strides militarily, technologically and otherwise, acquiring untold wealth in the private sector as it spreads its wings as the sole superpower in the world.
At the same time, the tiny Island Nation of Jamaica, a short hop from America’s Florida shores has struggled with poverty, and crime aggravated by the flood of illegal American guns.
America had a chance to demonstrate to the world that it stands with those who have stood by her.
Jamaica has always stood steadfastly with the United States, she did so in the early years of world war two and again in the nineteen-eighties when she resoundingly rejected communism.
Instead of helping Jamaica in a meaningful way to develop her infrastructure, Roadways. Bridges. Water supply. etc, America embarked on wars across the globe, many of which were totally unnecessary.
In the meantime, the United States treated Jamaica as an unwanted stepchild. Deportations and disenchantment are the defining characteristics that permeate the relationship between the two.
Still, because of the prospect of a better life, Jamaicans still line up in Liguanea, trying to get a visa to enter the United States. Despite paying tremendous sums of money just to apply for a visitor visa only a tiny fraction of applicants are granted a visa. The 90 plus percent who are denied a visa do not get their money back.
In response to Faller’s unsolicited statements, the Chinese Embassy in Kingston issued a release in which they said the following. “Facts speak louder than words. Sino-Jamaica, Sino-Caribbean, and Sino-Latin American coöperation, which features equality, transparency, and mutual benefit, is conducive to regional peace, stability, and development and will not be stopped by any force.”
“Irrespective of the intentions by Admiral Faller making those irresponsible accusations, China will continuously and unswervingly work together with Jamaica and other Latin American and Caribbean countries to jointly promote the Belt and Road coöperation for shared benefits, contributing to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.”
The inclusion of the terms, equality and mutual benefit were particularly resonant in my opinion.
There is a perception that in relationships with the United States and smaller nations there is no equality, or respect. Many see those relationships as a take it or leave it affair.
Those perceptions will, and have greatly influenced the way poorer nations respond to Chinese entreaties.
Trojan horse or not.
Mike Beckles is a former Jamaican police Detective corporal, a business owner, avid researcher, and blogger.
He is a black achiever honoree, and publisher of the blog chatt-a-box.com.
He’s also a contributor to several websites.
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