The United States’ management of its relations with China is among its biggest geopolitical test and the competing nature of the relationship has added to tensions in other parts of the world, including the Caribbean region.
During his ongoing visit to Washington this week where he has met with top U.S government officials and even secured funding from the U.S EXIM Bank for projects at home, Guyana’s Head of State Dr. Irfaan Ali was asked about the country’s views of China.
Speaking during a discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), President Ali said Guyana’s relationship with any country “is based on the country’s ability to move its development forward.”
Beyond that, Dr. Ali said it is founded on respect for fundamental principles and support for common values. In this regard, he said China has been a friend and has maintained its presence in the Caribbean region, made up of many small island states that have suffered neglect from previous U.S governments.
But the Biden and Harris administration seems intent on changing that.
“China has been in the region, CARICOM and Latin America for a long time. It has supported the development path of many countries including Guyana and invested in projects just as the United States,” Dr. Ali said.
But he focused his answer on urging the U.S to be more aggressive and take up a strategic place in the region. One of the important discussions at the recently concluded Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles is the priority the Caribbean has been given in the foreign policy of the United States.
“Before the summit, there has been neglect for CARICOM region by the U.S and that was officially raised.
“After the summit, I can say there have been enormous moves to rectify this,” Dr. Ali said.
CARICOM leaders meet with both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and several committees were formed and timelines set to address key issues, including climate adaptation and mitigation and food security.
“One thing the U.S acknowledged is, there was re-setting required and the level of seriousness and priority the region was once given is to be reignited and continued in an aggressive manner,” Dr. Ali said.
This is as China is making independent but competing attempts to assert its presence across the region once dominated by U.S influence.
In response to Dr. Ali’s comments, Senior Vice President of CSIS Daniel F. Runde said Dr. Ali’s attendance at the Summit of the Americas was important.
“Thank you so much for going, it was very important that you were there and it was important to have your voice there and the message that you brought,” the CSIS Vice President said.
Runde believes it was unfortunate that the U.S had become distracted, responding to crisis while overlooking the Caribbean. He added that there was a need for the United States to rethink its approach to the Caribbean.
“So, I think your voice and your perspective is really welcomed right now.”
Runde noted that Biden visited the region several times as Vice President under the Presidency of Barack Obama.
“So, this is a President that cares about the regions,” Runde added, noting that the U.S sent one of its best diplomats in the person of Sarah-Ann Lynch to Guyana who is highly regarded in Washington and proves the seriousness of the relationship between the U.S and Guyana.
The Caribbean is vital to the strategic interests of both the United States and China.