In December 2014, the Government of Nicaragua and the Chinese investor Wang Jing inaugurated the first works of the interoceanic canal. Confites of colors for the airs, red ribbons on the machinery to carry out the work that already in 2020 would receive 3,500 ships, an illusion that fades more after the alliance between China and Panama, while the last doubts about the viability of the project and investor’s fortune.
The Nicaraguan sociologist Oscar René Vargas highlighted the importance of the 19 agreements signed on November 17, 2017 between the presidents Xi Jinping and Juan Carlos Varela, signed in Beijing, through which Panama joined the initiative of the “Ruta de la Seda “, an economic corridor between East and West that is a bet of the Chinese president.
“In my opinion, when Panama receives the status of most favored nation in China, the possibility of the construction of the interoceanic canal by Nicaragua, which establishes the possibility that, in the future, large infrastructure projects will be financed: The fourth lock of the Panama Canal The Ortega-Wang Treaty seems to be a Chamorro-Bryan in which it only serves to obtain the patent to build a canal so that no one else can do it, “Vargas said.
In addition it analyzes the Chinese global strategy. Vargas offers other numbers that highlight the world leadership of China, which has the largest reserves of foreign currency, with 3.1 billion dollars, “compared to 774 thousand 900 million European Union (four times less) and 117 thousand 300 million from the United States (26 times less) “.
The newspaper La Estrella de Panama published the 19 agreements with that country, which they define as cooperation instruments between the partners. There are agreements on commercial exchange, a cooperation platform with the China Developtment Bank, which provides the basis for financing large infrastructure projects, as well as the start of a feasibility study to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement.
Agreement number 15 establishes that Panama adheres to the Chinese initiative of the “Silk Road”, which enhances its role as the great connection with the “Panama Canal and a possible railroad to the western border” .
“China-Panama relations become the jewel of the commercial crown of the Americas for China,” says Vargas, explaining that the “Silk Road” is a gigantic network of sea and land routes created under the name of “A belt, a road” and involve investments, financing, trade agreements and dozens of special economic zones worth 900,000 million dollars. Chinese investments would be made in 64 countries for no less than 4 million dollars, he added.
For Alberto Alemán, an expert on international issues and specialist in Asia, these agreements are a logical follow-up to the establishment of diplomatic relations and Panama’s recognition of the “one China” principle, which holds that Taiwan is part of China.
“The Asian giant was already a very important user of the channel. The establishment of relations is not motivated, mainly, for economic reasons, since Chinese companies have already had an important presence in the operation of the canal or in the commerce of the Colon Free Zone. The reason is primarily political: to punish the Taiwanese government of Tsai Ingwen for failing to proclaim the same principle for unofficial relations in the Taiwan Strait, which led to unprecedented détente and cooperation with the nationalist Ma Ying-jeou between 2008 and 2016. This is the famous ‘1992 Consensus’, a tacit, informal agreement that both parties recognize that there is ‘only one China’ but each one interprets it in its own way, “Alemán said.
“He has punished the island by stealing two diplomatic allies, São Tomé and Príncipe and Panama. Beijing has undoubtedly succeeded in further isolating Taiwan since 2016. Of course, relations with Panama and the newly signed economic agreements contribute to China’s already extensive network of economic and trade ties in Latin America. However, let’s remember that China’s greatest interest is in South America and its raw materials, “he added.
For Alemán, the Nicaraguan canal project continues to be “an opium dream”, given that there is no credible evidence that there is a serious interest from large global investors. The work continues to pose formidable technical challenges without response, he explained, in addition to the nonsense that for him means having two interoceanic channels in the same geographical region.
“China will be happy with the Panamanian channel that satisfies its commercial needs. Panama has a modernized and operational channel, and experience. Why would I need another for now? Canal nica, an opium dream “.
The academic Félix Maradiaga, who wrote an academic study in 2006 for Harvard University on Latin America as a strategic theater of China, said that the topic of the Nicaraguan channel has always provoked doubts and recalls that in more than three trips he has made Beijing, in recent years, no large entrepreneur had heard of the project.
Maradiaga considers deeply suspicious and that has been the reason why he has maintained that there is something that smells bad behind the supposed channel promoted by the authorities of Nicaragua and the Chinese investor Wang Jing.
“I have speculated that what is really sought is the appropriation of lands for other projects, but under a scheme similar to a tax haven that would give space to the regime and its relatives to place large sums of money of opaque origin, under the excuse that It is investment for projects related to the channel “, added the expert. According to him, the 19 agreements signed between China and Panama reveal that the canal plan in Nicaragua “is not viable” and it also shows that it never had the official support of China.