Learning from Russia, China

Sunday, May 25, 2014

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Is the political leadership of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) thinking about the reconfiguration of global power which is evolving at breathtaking speed? Is anybody at the University of the West Indies thinking strategically about how the Caribbean should position or reposition itself to not be further marginalised?

These are questions that our academics and economists should be putting to Caricom and demanding answers. Has the Caricom Secretariat placed before the region’s ministers of foreign affairs a paper exploring global changes and their implications for the Caribbean?

If the answer is ‘no’, then there is no vision, and where there is no vision countries will perish through marginalisation from the global economy. In the past, Caricom not only had vision but organised to achieve some of their goals by being in the vanguard of the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) group, small island developing states, the New International Economic Order, the International Criminal Court, the Caribbean Basin Initiative, small economies in the WTO and in disregarding the embargo on Cuba.

Last week, we called for a rebalancing by Caricom in response to global economic rebalancing. We are now calling for a review of traditional diplomatic and economic relations with the United States, the European Union and Canada. We must start paying more attention to new actors, as is evidenced by benefits which China has provided to those countries that afford it diplomatic recognition.
One of the major transformative developments has been the economic prominence of the BRIC (a popular but meaningless moniker). Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) are no longer emerging but have arrived in an economic sense. India and China have the largest populations and armies in the world and Russia, China and India all have nuclear weapons. In addition to their individual prominence they are beginning to collaborate as a group in ways not previously imagined.

China and Russia signed a US$400-billion, 30-year agreement for the sale of 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually from Russia. The deal was being negotiated for more than 10 years, which shows how far ahead the leadership of the two countries were thinking.

Interestingly, not even a shared communist ideology could make for harmonious relations as the two giants had a strained relationship characterised by Soviet hubris and racism and Chinese distrust and determination not to be subjected to another European imperialist after the “Century of Humiliation”.

Russia (then the Soviet Union) sought to embrace China, but Mao Tes-tung chose to offset Soviet designs by a rapprochement with Richard Nixon and the US. Where ideology could not, economics has linked Moscow and Beijing.

It locks in a supply of clean energy at a time when China is beset with serious pollution problems. It is a timely boost when relations between Russia and the West have deteriorated. What else the new partnership portends is intriguing, especially as China’s president also called for an Asian security arrangement that would include Russia and Iran and exclude the United States.

With these concerns in mind, we welcome two new books: Richard Bernal’s Dragon in the Caribbean. The Global Re-Dimensioning of China; Challenges and Opportunities for the Caribbean and Prof Andy Knight et al, Re-Mapping the Americas: Trends in Region-Making.

Both represent reading that’s a must.




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