China’s Belt and Road Initiative Expands to Cuba - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
China’s Belt and Road Initiative Expands to Cuba

With so much attention being paid to China’s increasing threat to Taiwan in the South China Sea, under the radar the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is deepening ties to Cuba’s communist regime. On Nov. 25, 2022, President Xi Jinping hosted Cuba’s communist leader Miguel Díaz-Canel at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. China’s foreign ministry announced that, at the end of their talks, Xi and Díaz-Canel “witnessed the signing of bilateral documents on party-to-party exchange, the consultation mechanism between the two foreign ministries, Belt and Road cooperation and practical cooperation.” So, while China claims ownership over the South China Sea and Taiwan in its version of an Asian Monroe Doctrine, it takes steps to weaken America’s Monroe Doctrine in the Caribbean Sea and the Western Hemisphere.

The Chinese foreign ministry statement highlighted the fact that Cuba’s president “is the first head of state from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to visit China after the 20th CPC National Congress,” which “speaks volumes about the special and friendly relations between the two parties and two countries.” The statement pledged to work with Cuba on the Global Development and Global Security initiatives and stressed that the two nations will “jointly advance the socialist modernization drive.” China, the statement continued, “attaches great importance to the development of its relations with” Latin American and Caribbean countries, including “high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.”

An article in the Global Times, the CCP’s English-language mouthpiece, noted that China–Cuban cooperation will include “fields such as electronics, machinery manufacturing, textiles, energy, agriculture, information and communication, infrastructure construction, genetic engineering, medical and health” as part of construction of a “Digital Silk Road” and a “Health Silk Road.”

Another Global Times article heralded the “pink tide” that Latin America is currently experiencing in opposition to America’s antagonism toward the hemisphere’s “left-wing” governments. Cuba and other Latin American countries, the article claims, are “tired of [the United States’] hegemony and coercion.”

The Associated Press reported that the Chinese and Cuban leaders “pledged mutual support over their fellow communist states’ ‘core interests,’” noting that China defines core interests to include control over Taiwan.

Cuba’s leader met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow prior to his visit with Xi. China and Russia have established what both countries call a “strategic partnership” in opposition to the U.S.-led global order.

Newsmax reports that China agreed to restructure Cuba’s debt and to provide trade and investment credits to Cuba’s struggling economy.

In the past, China has used the BRI to coerce and force cooperation from economically vulnerable countries, securing access to, and sometimes ownership over, port facilities, along with unrestricted People’s Liberation Army (PLA) access.

One observer termed China’s BRI as “debt-trap diplomacy,” while the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) accuses Xi of “weaponizing” the BRI.

“Beijing’s approach,” according to an ASPI report, “seeks to lay the groundwork for military utilization without raising red flags,” then gradually use its economic leverage to persuade or force recipient nations to accommodate military platforms.

Writing last year in the online journal 19FortyFive, Naval War College strategy professor James Holmes asked, “Will China trigger the Monroe Doctrine?”

Holmes noted that Chinese inroads in Latin America were “real and growing.” He suggested that if Latin American governments begin siding with China and if China translates its BRI economic leverage into a military threat, the U.S. Monroe Doctrine could make a comeback.

The United States went to war in Cuba against Spain as a result of the Monroe Doctrine. We intervened countless times in Latin America and the Caribbean when we perceived overt challenges to the Monroe Doctrine. We engaged in nuclear brinkmanship with the Soviet Union over Cuba in October 1962 in defense of the Monroe Doctrine. It would behoove U.S. policymakers to keep a watchful eye on developments in the Caribbean and Latin America, even as we focus on the more immediate threat in the South China Sea.

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