It is not bad to open the door from time to time to micro-countries, to remember that a considerable part of the world is not composed of large, or even medium-sized powers. The micro country that has garnered exceptional international attention this week is Barbados, the island of 300,000 people in the Caribbean Sea, 400 km off the coast of Venezuela.
Nearly 400 years after English ships began unloading African slaves off its coast, Barbados this week removed the crown from the head of the Queen of Britain. The queen ceased to be the head of state of Barbados, the tiny island became a republic, closing a gloomy and complicated circle.
Barbados has never competed with the great diamonds of the British Crown, from India for through Canada and Australia. But she was sparkling enough to earn the nickname “Little England”.
Britain has already descended from its imperial assets. Barbados itself gained independence 55 years ago. Her oath of allegiance to the British Crown was merely symbolic. The Governor-General, or most recently the Governor, was appointed by the Government of Barbados, and the Queen of London was only a seal. But the act of disconnection has great symbolic significance, which has not been missed even in the few media outlets that pay attention to it.
“The atrocities of slavery”
The British heir, Prince Charles, came to Barbados to attend the end of the monarchy. Historians say his presence was unprecedented. The British monarchy was abolished in dozens of countries, huge as tiny, and a British blood prince never came to fold the flag. Not only did he fold, but he also struck at the sin of “the atrocities of slavery, staining our history.”
Everything was in good spirits. Barbados did not prepare the guillotine, although its government thinks Britain should pay compensation for slavery. What’s more, she paid nearly £ 20 million in compensation to the slave owners when she abolished slavery in her territories in 1833. In today’s terms, that amount is equivalent to £ 2.5 billion. Are not the descendants of slaves deserving of compensation?
The 95-year-old queen has sent her warmest wishes to the people of Barbados, and the island nation will continue to belong to the British Commonwealth, which is not always known for what it exists and what it stands for, besides giving Britain a semblance of influence over the international system. There are 54 companies in this Commonwealth, and only 15 of them continue to maintain allegiance to the British Crown. The opinion is that Barbados will inspire at least some of the rest, certainly in the Caribbean. Perhaps Jamaica, the much larger one, will follow suit. And maybe, one day, Australia and New Zealand will do the same.
“Little England to Little China”
The departure of “Little England” received scores of some sadness in the British press. One newspaper, the Sunday Times, promoted it with a huge headline, “How Barbados Became from Little England to Little China.” The article below described, ostensibly, how Barbados replaces imperial masters. The map of Barbados presented in the article shows Chinese flags planted in different parts of the island, indicating the Chinese “takeover operation”.
Here (specifically in a province called Scotland), the Chinese are paving roads in the mountains, so that of the 30 electric buses they are about to deliver, there will be something to travel on; And here will stand ready-made houses, which the Chinese send to the aid of the refugees of the last hurricane; There the Chinese will build a hotel, and there they will upgrade the sewer system; In the capital city of Bridgetown they will renovate the National Stadium, and on the campus of the West Indies University (the colonial nickname of the Caribbean) the Chinese have already opened one more Confucius Institute.
In all, the article says, the Chinese have invested around half a billion dollars in Barbados, which is much, much more than the British have invested. How much has the British actually invested lately? The paper asks Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley. “Almost zero,” replies Motley, who heads the left-wing government (which has won democratically all 30 seats in parliament).
The Obsession: Eliminate Taiwan
Barbados is not the only one in the Caribbean to gain China’s massive attention. A one-year report from the Wilson Center in Washington yields a slight dizziness when read. He shows that the Chinese do not miss anywhere in the Caribbean, small or tiny, tiny or tiny.
They pour huge sums into almost every possible field of human activity. We do not have the space here to give full details (you can download it here), but suffice it to mention that China purchased a container port in Kingston, Jamaica, and invested $ 2.7 billion in it; Built a $ 4.2 billion resort in the Bahamas; Holds a quarter of an international oil consortium, drilled in Guyana; Controls most of the timber of Suriname; Expands the port of Santiago in Cuba with $ 120 million in credit, and plans to establish an artificial intelligence center on the island.
“The Caribbean Sea is covered by China’s football and cricket stadiums, government buildings, hospitals, clinics and road infrastructure,” the Wilson Center report writes. Many of these were built in exchange for the consent of Caribbean countries to sever ties with democratic Taiwan. Taiwan’s international isolation has in recent years become an obsession of the communist regime. In 2018 he pledged $ 3 billion to the Dominican Republic in exchange for the severance.
By the way, the Caribbean is not the only one that provides destinations for China’s diplomatic temptations. It is also pushing Taiwan’s feet from the micro-islands in the South Pacific. Its eagerness has just poured oil on a bonfire of perennial ethnic conflict in the Solomon Islands archipelago, 1,750 km northeast of Australia.
In 2019, Beijing persuaded a veteran Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands to sever close and lucrative relations with Taiwan, which included considerable economic and technical assistance. Violent demonstrations broke out last week in the capital of the Solomon Islands, and the Sino-Taiwan affair seems to have been at the center. Government buildings caught fire and Chinese property was damaged. Australia has launched security reinforcements to help the government restore calm.
China has for several years been in the midst of an economic and political expansionist campaign that very few countries have yet noticed or felt the consequences of. It is conducted at enormous distances from the base of the house, in places that Western democracies were accustomed to thinking in their backyard, sometimes in good faith and sometimes arrogantly.
Chinese activity in the Caribbean exposes U.S. political weaknesses, which can be responded to with a shrug – or worry. Seemingly, so what if China builds cricket pitches for natives, or paves roads for them. But the wisdom of experience teaches us that China very rarely does what That she does not in order to receive a reward.
Barbados this week provides a symbolic backdrop for the changing of the shifts around the world. Not only is it sending the sclerotic British monarchy to hell, but it is also one of many who believe that the special ties with the weakening Western democracy can be replaced by ramified and lucrative ties with the Chinese dictatorship.
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