Cheat-Seeking Missles

Sunday, November 13, 2005

China's Panama Grab Threatens U.S.

Globe-watchers are probably well aware of China's increasing hold on the strategic Panama Canal, but I wasn't, so here's a few facts I dug up this morning:
  • Hutchinson Port Holdings is planning a massive upgrade, valued at $200 million at Panama's Balboa (Atlantic side) port, which will quintuple its capacity.
  • Hutchinson owns 90 percent of Panama Ports Holdings.
  • Hutcinson is owned by Li Ka Shing, the Hong Kong multibillionaire, considered the most powerful businessman in Asia.
  • Li Ka Shing sits on the board of directors of the China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC), China's largest conglomerate. CITIC is 42 percent owned by the Chinese communits government, and is its chief investment arm.
Meanwhile, the news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports:
China is seeking to sabotage Taiwan's diplomatic ties with Panama by sending a delegation to Panama and bidding for the operation of a former U.S. military base, the Taiwan-based newspaper the China Times said on Sunday.

"A nine-member Chinese delegation led by Wang Yingfan, deputy head of the Chinese parliament's foreign affairs committee, is making a secret six-day visit to Panama," the report said in a dispatch from Panama City.

According to the report, Panama confirmed that the mainland Chinese China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) was also bidding for the right to develop Panama's Howard Air Force Base, in competition with U.S., British and Mexican firms.

Panama Canal Authority will announce on November 25 the winner to develop 2,005 hectares of the 3,707-hectare base to build an industrial processing zone and a high-tech park.

The China Times claimed that a CASC win would boost China's control of the Panama Canal as Hong Kong's Hutchinson Whampoa has already had control of port facilities at both ends of the canal for eight years.

Taiwan and Panama have been diplomatic allies for half a century but in recent years China has strengthened it diplomatic offensives in Latin America.
Hmm. Control of port facilities on the east and west end of the canal, and control of an airbase in between. This makes China's bid for Unocal seem like it was concocted in the global military strategy playground. This is big stuff.

Where is the Bush administration? (Time for church; more later.)