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OPINION:Balloons over America, Chinese in Guyana -what if, what then….

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 February 2023, 15:40 by Denis Chabrol

By GHK Lall

I detect that the tensions between the United States and China is so thick that it would need a sledgehammer to crack.  The latest arising from these two standing global superpowers (one now established, no longer emerging) is that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi didn’t help matters: no easing, only intensifying.  As I discern matters, this is going to come to a showdown some time or the other.  There can’t be two masters in the house, or two chefs in the kitchen, at the same time.  Things get out of hand, people become bent out of shape.  Today it is over a balloon; tomorrow it could be about somebody calling the other a barbarian.  Or worse, if that can be imagined.

As much as this would not be too much to the global good, I am not so concerned about these two hippos jousting for the ascendancy, as long as they keep their headbutting and grass trampling over there.  The farther away the better.  My interest-it is more of several intriguing contemplations-focuses more on the Chinese presence in Guyana in two broad and impactful streams of quaint domestic life.  These probing thoughts may be shunned by some as being a tad on the adventurous side, but I persist, since more surprising things have occurred in other places, and snared the weak and hapless, the pawns, caught in the grip and taken along in the slipstream of more powerful forces.

In the event that relations deteriorate between the Americans and Chinese, and reciprocal sanctions are applied, then I examine again that Exxon and CNOOC partnership.  After all, American companies have been hobbled from doing business, or continuing to do business, with other nations declared to be enemies of the State.  These would be the so-called “rogue” or “pariah” States.  Think Iran and North Korea.  I wonder how that Exxon and Hess Corp relationship with CNOOC would hold up, commerce and contracts both duly considered.  Second, in the course of normal business relations, and the regular enterprises that flow, between corporate leviathans, this may not be such a showstopping development, if tensions soar between the two now increasingly pugnacious adversaries.  For I believe that these issues could be worked through, and exemptions extended under the banner of bona fide private enterprise.  But we are not sifting through regular business structures and practices since little that ever comes out of mainland China could be affixed with that kind of label, meaning, regular.but 

Twist it or turn it, CNOOC is as much of the Chinese State, as China itself.  Bottom line: CNOOC is an entity of the Chinese State.  From my perspective, the two are inseparable by virtue of conception, corporate construction, and calculations of the ranking comrades in the Politburo.  I trust that no subtitles are needed.  It would be interesting on what happens then on two fronts in Guyana.

First, there is Exxon and Hess (American), on the one side, and CNOOC (Chinese) on the other side.  In circumstances of sanctions being hurled about (levy might be the more proper term of art and temperateness), the pressures on the local oil exploration and contractual relationship could be material, if not rupturing.  Well, at least from a broad official mandate coming out of Washington that touches many, even also from Beijing, maybe, in the usual eye for an eye diplomatic culture that graces these situations.  What would Exxon and Hess and CNOOC do then?  I don’t think that they really have any options, notwithstanding Exxon’s reach and commanding influence at the highest elevations of American power.  CNOOC’s story is the easier: its people simply must follow orders coming from above.

The second is of interest, not necessarily one of burning concern currently, is where this leaves the Government of Guyana.  There is that old one about the devil and the dragons in the deep blue sea; I prefer that newer one about elephants romping and grasshoppers scrambling to get out of the way.  In my thinking, the PPP Government did dig a hole for itself, when it didn’t have to, should have had the good sense to lie low.  Of course, doing business with the Chinese has its, shall I say, leadership advantages.  According to the helmsmen in the PPP Government, China is a valuable partner, or some soothing propaganda verbiage along those lines.  Sometimes, it is better to hold one’s peace.  But, in their haste to be all things to all people (and keep the cash registers ringing, and favoring certain powerful folks), local leadership had to jump the gun and commit.  Like I said, political quid pro quos.  Suddenly, Taiwan looks like a safer bet.

Today, the diplomatic row is over a couple balloons.  Tomorrow, tensions could be over a racoon, a baboon, or some other superpower-generated typhoon.  Meanwhile, I am checking for balloons over my head.  It doesn’t have to have Chinese origins only.