SOFT POWER WILL ALLOW THESE PROJECTS TO PROCEED
To understand just how far divorced the opposition in Guyana is from today’s realities, one just has to look at the fuss that was made in April when it was announced that a Chinese firm had made a bid to buy Government’s 20 per cent shares in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company.
There was concern expressed by the opposition about the alleged links of the company to the Chinese military. These concerns parroted similar sentiments which were expressed about the investments in the telecommunication sector that the Chinese were making in the United States.
Instead of being concerned about the offer to purchase the shares by a company with alleged links to the Chinese military, the opposition should have seen the usefulness of how that particular model could be applied to our own military which should have by now been trying to do what the Chinese government has long encouraged its military to do: become a corporate shareholder.
It is to the credit of the Chinese military that they do have investments in companies with global reach and this is something that our local defense advisers should look at because it speaks to a business model that our local military can adopt.
The people of Guyana have nothing to fear from China. That country is not out to colonize anyone. It has never been interested in doing that in the Caribbean.
China’s main interest in the Caribbean remains political and economic. Politically, it wants to stave off any influence that Taiwan may have within this part of the world. China is intent on ensuring that it has the ability within the United Nations and other international organizations to offset the influence of Taiwan which it considers part of its country. This is the main political interest that China has in these parts. It is not interested in colonizing the Caribbean. It will use soft power, including aid, investments and cultural exchanges to secure this objective.
It is also in search of resources to sustain its fantastic level of economic growth. It knows that if it is to continue to grow and lift most of its people out of poverty, it has to find not just new markets for its goods but additional resources to keep up its production levels.
These new markets and resource sources are being found in this part of the world and this is the main reason why there has been such significant investment by China in Guyana. China is keen on keeping its economy going and it is doing so by providing work for its companies outside of its borders by lending monies to governments.
Under these arrangements Chinese companies are expected to be granted the job. These contracts create jobs for Chinese companies and keep up a certain level of demand within their country.
But these investments are also about the exercise of soft power. The millions of US dollars that China has pumped into Guyana is just a fraction of its total overseas investment.
China can pull out of Guyana tomorrow and it will not hurt its economy or future. But China needs that one vote that Guyana carries in the United Nations and it will use its soft power to secure its economic and political interests in Guyana.
We have seen the mastery of Chinese soft power on display over the past few months. Faced with allegations that one of its companies may have been debarred by the World Bank, the Chinese slowly and softly went about exercising their diplomacy. The company on its own did its PR without ruffling feathers. Then the diplomats complimented these efforts with their own soft power.
There is little doubt that the Chinese embassy has been working quietly behind the scenes trying to bring a resolution to the problem facing the Chinese firm that is supposed to be extending the runway at the Timehri airport. And that diplomacy has and will continue to succeed because the Chinese understand diplomacy and its use as a source of soft power.
There is no way that the opposition can prevent any of those major contracts involving Chinese firms from proceeding. If those contracts have the approval of the Chinese government, they will enjoy the full support of Chinese diplomatic efforts who will use soft power to ensure that the projects go ahead.
Soft power is what will make these projects proceed. The exercise of soft power is what we are witnessing especially when we hear diplomats speak about their assistance to Guyana and how they have always been willing to respond to a friend who was in need.