China-Taiwan tussle in Bim politics
The Barbados general election campaign has become the latest battle ground in the stand-off between China and Taiwan for diplomatic leverage in the Caribbean.
Prime Minister, Owen Arthur has accused Taiwan of giving financial support to the opposition party Democratic Labour Party's election campaign to secure diplomatic recognition.
He also warned that Barbados will break off its 30 years of diplomatic relations with China in favour of Taiwan, if the DLP is victorious at the polls.
The DLP is the main challenger to Prime Minister Arthur's ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
General elections will be held in Barbados on Tuesday January 15.
In a campaign speech, Mr Arthur also made wider accusations against the Taiwanese, who've been engaged in what some call 'dollar diplomacy' with rivals China in the Caribbean:
Taiwan is an independent state, but is regarded as a rebel region by China which claims sovereignty over it.
The two far eastern countries have an ongoing tussle in the Caribbean – and elsewhere – for diplomatic bragging rights.
“Our intelligence (has) told us that there have been many, many, many contacts between the Democratic Labour Party – through St. Kitts – and Taiwan," Mr Arthur said.
He referred to St Lucia, which has cut relations with China in favour of Taiwan, saying: "That's what has happened in St. Lucia with a political institution finding itself on the eve of an election (with) large sums of money to spend, but to switch from Beijing to Taiwan.”
Mr. Arthur, who is seeking a fourth consecutive term of government, told BLP supporters that the alleged arrangement explained what he termed a “campaign of ostentation and extravagance” being staged by the DLP in its attempt to win next Tuesday's poll.
“Taiwan feels that it can walk around the world buying countries … and there are countries in the Caribbean where people in high offices in those countries have been offering blandishments to people to switch from Beijing to Taiwan," he alleged.
He also said : "A lot of it is based around St. Kitts."
But opposition Leader David Thompson has issued an unequivocal denial of the allegations concerning funding.
“I want to say … that that is a vicious and nasty lie,” he told DLP supporters attending a party rally.
“We have not received any contributions either from the Chinese or from the Taiwanese."
Mr. Thompson said his party, like the ruling BLP, has been funded by various private Barbadian citizens, something which is not prohibited by law.
BBC Caribbean put the Barbados Prime Minister’s allegations to Joseph Chang counsellor at the Taiwanese embassy in St Kitts and Nevis.
“We are surprised,” Mr Chang declared.
“It’s groundless, it’s ridiculous.”
The Taiwanese diplomat flatly denied that his country had anything to do with financing any of the political parties in Barbados.
It’s not the first time that the China/Taiwan clash has figured prominently in Caribbean politics.
Just last year, when the then St Lucia prime minister, John Compton returned to office, his government switched the country’s diplomatic allegiances from China to Taiwan.
It was then reported that that move was at the heart of a dispute within the new government.
The switch-over to Taiwan was also the subject of acrimonious political exchanges between the two parties, as well as between the Chinese and the Taiwanese.
Under the Kenny Anthony government, St Lucia had relations with China for a number of years.
But even before that the China/taiwan battle for caribbean hearts and minds had been heating up.
Dominica’s government, under current Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt, cut diplomatic ties with Taipei in favour of Beijing.
An equally acrimonious fall-out occurred when Grenada opted to China over Taiwan.
In the Dominican Republic the government of President Leonel Fernandez has said that while it’s diplomatic relations with Taiwan remain stable, it is committed to boosting its economic ties with rival China.
And the fight between China and Taiwan for diplomatic recognition in the Caribbean has also been hotting up in Suriname.
Taiwan recently took out large ads in newspapers there promising the country some three hundred million US dollars worth of unconditional development aid.
But President Ronaald Venetiaan had said it was an offer he did not find tempting, even though some members of his government felt it was enticing.
Beijing and Taipei often trade insults over which is using "dollar diplomacy" in the form of offers of aid or cheap loans to curry influence around the world.
The ‘One-China’ policy ensures that nations cannot have official relations with both China and Taiwan.
While most CARICOM states have formal ties with the People’s Republic of China, Belize, Haiti, St Kitts-Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia recognise Taiwan.
In all some 170 countries recognise China, compared with just 24 for democratic, self-ruled Taiwan.
These are mainly countries in Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean and the Pacific.