China’s Panamanian Canal

Highlighted Story: "China ‘s Control of the Panama Canal Revisited" By Yojiro Konno with Nancy Menges

China’s increasing influence in the Western Hemisphere has been of growing interest to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Trade between China and the Latin American and Caribbean region skyrocketed from $8.2 billion to $102 billion in less than ten years. However, the most important indicator of China’s growing influence is its control over the ports at both ends of the Panama Canal.

Over the past half-decade, several Latin American countries that had no diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China have now established them. For instance, in 2007, Costa Rica aborted its ties with Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, primarily for economic and financial reasons. However, the most important indicator of China’s growing influence is its control over the ports at both ends of the Panama Canal. China has been operating these ports since 2000 and their influence inside Panama has grown as indicated by a bill submitted last year to the legislature that mandates teaching Mandarin in all Panamanian public schools.

Hutchison Whampoa’s Panama Canal

Currently the Panama Ports Company, a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., has exclusive and extensive rights to control both ends of the Panama Canal.   Hutchison Whampoa is a Chinese company owned by Hong Kong billionaire, Li Ka-Shing, who has strong ties with Beijing.   Considering Li’s close ties with the Chinese government, it is highly plausible that Hutchison Whampoa has the potential to act as Beijing’s political agent and that their possession of the ports at either end of the Panama Canal constitutes a serious U.S. national security issue.  

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Nancy Menges
Editor in Chief – "Americas Report"

Nicole M. Ferrand
Editor – "Americas Report"

 

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