Orville Taylor | Us and China or US and China
Second to the relationship that exists between the Government and the Jamaican people, our marriage to the United States is the most important one. Yes, I have tons of friends of Chinese origin, many of whom are deeply connected to their network of relatives in this ever-growing Pan-Sinoist world. Indeed, at my recent set of high school reunion activities, I realised that my phone directory has more Chins than my chronically obese bredren.
Yet, without delusions, my allegiance is to my country and fellow citizens, whatever their ethnicity. In fact, in this country, we do not collect census data based on race. This means that we are leaders in this hemisphere in regard to the principle of racial equality and democracy.
Our motto, ‘Out of many, one people’, really means that at least in theory, race is unimportant. Interestingly, in our neighbour to the north, the virtually same motto ‘e pluribus unum’ means out of many, one, but the word ‘people’ is missing. In that country, although flawed and woefully inaccurate, data are collected regarding race.
In recent times, we have been justifiably cautioned by the Americans about our relationship with the People’s Republic of China. This neophyte world power has been the master of creative reinvention of original ideas and technology, with the emphasis on the first syllable.
Somehow, the Chinese have taken much of what the original capitalist countries did and achieved better results in a shorter time and more cheaply, too. Try as you may, the Chinese are a world power and Uncle Sam knows this.
Inroads on American Front yard
With a US$1.11 trillion external debt and a trade deficit of some $419.2 billion, even with this so-called trade war between the USA and China, the horse has long gone through the gate. What is of concern to the US is not simply the stature of the Asian nation in global affairs. Rather, it is about it making inroads in the American front yard.
Almost 200 years ago, President James Monroe made it clear that any traditional European colonial power, which attempted to re-establish or expand its grasp on New World colonies, would be considered to be “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States”. The applicability of this warning has been copied to China.
Let us recognise, however, that America and Jamaica share the same geospace. The North Atlantic and Caribbean Sea are bodies of water that unite, not divide us. Jamaica is nearer to parts of the USA than parts of the USA are to those parts. Jamaicans can reach Florida long before New Yorkers and Californians. Moreover, our borders are porous and even with the best of technology and the most equipped coast guard and border patrol in the world, the Americans cannot effectively seal off illicit trade from or into its mainland or anti-American criminals from entering.
Simply put, the Americans do need us as well and it suits us to have cooperative relationships and treaties which are mutually beneficial. The key word here is mutual, because the American government is elected and its public servants are appointed to protect American interests.
Any American official who places the interest of any foreign nation or national above that of the American people is a traitor, even if the person whom he is privileging is his blood relative or the country he is accommodating is his place of birth.
Therefore, only the dumbest of Jamaican politicians would expect a bilateral agreement where Americans’ first priority is to safeguard the interests of Jamaicans. Though a patriotic Jamaican, I defend the right of every American official and citizen to put America first.
We vote in Jamaican elections and do so because we want OUR government to put Jamaicans first. Of course, the nature of bilateral agreements is that they should be mutually beneficial and as equitable as possible.
It is no different for the Chinese. In a future column, I will outline some of the similarities with the path the Chinese have taken in their pursuit of capitalism and that of the English and Americans in the 1700s and 1800s. However, let us understand this: the Chinese will not treat Jamaican citizens or our environment, or anything else we hold sacred, any better than they treat the equivalents in their country. Neither will, nor should, the Americans.
Having said that, inasmuch as these agreements are made with more powerful allies, they must not involve a sell-out of the Jamaican people. A government is only as good as its last election and any elected official who is a traitor should be voted out in the next election. That is how democracies work, whether Jamaica or the USA.
AGREE WITH THE AMERICANS
I totally agree with the Americans who caution us regarding the trade with China. Yet, we have to make decisions which are best in the interest of our people and try our ‘endeavour best’ not to harm our traditional allies, especially when we live in the same place. On the other hand, we need to be assured that the cooperation of security, and cybersecurity in particular, is above board.
As a defender of security, anti-corruption and anti-terrorism efforts, I fully accept the idea that we should cooperate to apprehend suspected criminal activities, using the standards applicable to American citizens. We should not agree to any treatment of Jamaicans which would be worse than under our laws or theirs, depending on where the crime occurs.
In the USA, unlawfully obtained evidence is inadmissible. However, in Jamaica under the British tradition, it is legal. If an American is extradited to face charges here, I doubt that he can be charged for other crimes for which the request was not made. Do we have such guarantees?
Finally, while I accept and agree that visitors’ visas are given at the discretion of the American officials, I cannot imagine us blocking an elected Congressman or member of Cabinet from travelling without someone telling the American or Jamaican people why. Unlike China, both the USA and Jamaica enshrine free press and free speech in our constitutions.
I await the revelations.
Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.