On February 4th, 2021¨Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced that according to an agreement inked with the Guyanese Department of Foreign Trade on January 11th, a “Taiwan office” with the same capacity as missions in the European Union, the United Kingdom or Israel would be established in the English-speaking Caribbean nation, known as British Guiana until its independence in 1966.
This surprising news sounded too good to be true and it turned out that indeed President Tsai Ying-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had rejoiced far too soon about what seemed like a big breakthrough on the international stage.
Since Independentist Tsai came to power in 2016, China has step by step poached seven of Taiwan’s allies, leaving the island with currently only 15, including nine in Latin America and the Caribbean.
After China’s Taiwan Affairs Office immediately condemned the move, Guyanese Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hugh Todd quickly issued a statement canceling the apparent deal.
“The government of Guyana wishes to clarify that it continues to adhere to the “One-China policy” and its diplomatic relations remain intact with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).”
“It hasn’t established any diplomatic ties or relations with Taiwan, and as a result of the miscommunication of the agreement signed, this agreement has since been terminated.”
Todd also posted a photograph on Facebook of him meeting with Chinese Chargé d’Affaires to Guyana Chen Xilai, who apparently confirmed that 20,000 coronavirus vaccines would soon be delivered.
This move seems only consistent, as in that part of the world Guyana was second only to Cuba to approach Peking, establishing diplomatic relations with the PRC on June 27th, 1972.
Soon afterwards, a small group of Chinese technicians started to build China’s first modest foreign aid project in the Western Hemisphere, a now defunct brick factory.
Arthur Raymond Chung (1918-2008), from 1970 to 1980 the first ethnic Chinese to serve as President outside of Asia, and although basically a ceremonial head of State, fostered those official ties from the beginning.
The capital Georgetown houses the Secretariat of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a regional organization of fifteen states and dependencies that primarily promotes economic integration and cooperation.
Besides being one of the world’s largest producers of bauxite, a rock that is the chief commercial ore of aluminum, and exporting other minerals such as copper, iron and nickel as well as gold and diamonds, in 2015 Guyana’s status changed forever.
The American multinational oil and gas corporation Exxon discovered over five billion barrels of oil off its shores, a still growing number that will into turn China’s old friend into a global producer.
For 2021, despite the ongoing pandemic, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts an economic growth of over 26% for a country with just 0.8 million people.
Nevertheless, thanks to China’s interference, for the foreseeable future Taiwan probably won’t benefit at all from Guyana’s new wealth and increasing importance.