Costa Rica could play China against U.S.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Well done for your alertness to the march of Chinese interests into Costa Rica. The alliance of such a small militarily impotent country with a global behemoth is interesting.

Apart from Taiwan, which China continues to isolate, China is likely interested in a buffer zone between its new canal in Nicaragua and its U.S. backed competitor in Panama. Additionally, using the moral and green image of Costa Rica to gain support among Latin American countries against its global rival the U.S. is also important.

From the Costa Rican point of view, an influx of Chinese investment in infrastructure could bring major benefits:

Firstly, Chinese investment funds could postpone or even end the need for Costa Rica to keep on borrowing to fund its grossly inefficient public sector. This would prevent a currency collapse and default.

Secondly, this country is bad at infrastructure and the U.S. is not much better. Visits to the Maglev railway in Shanghai and to the airports, ports and cities of China reveals that they can and do build infrastructure well and quickly. New York looks like a 1930s theme park in comparison.

As to issues such as Chinese human rights, etc, Costa Rica can have no influence on those, just as it has little on global U.S. military intervention and internal politics. If clever, Costa Rican leaders will play off Chinese and U.S. interests to their advantage. If true to form, Chinese infrastructure investment will be channeled through ineffective and corrupt local operations and there will be little benefit.

A pact with the Chinese devil could have major benefits and little downside risk. Let us hope for the best.

Chris Clarke


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