Ni Hao, Señor: China’s Looming Presence in Latin America and the Caribbean

(Front seated L-R) Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade Rodrigo Malmierca, Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, Costa Rica's Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez Sanz, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Director of National Development and Reform Commission Xu Shao Shi and Bahamas' Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell attend the First Ministerial Meeting of the Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Carribean States (China-CELAC) at the Diaoyutai Guesthouse in Beijing, January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Rolex Dela Pena/Pool

First Ministerial Meeting of the Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Carribean States (China-CELAC) at the Diaoyutai Guesthouse in Beijing, January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Rolex Dela Pena/Pool.

When Congress returns to the Hill this fall, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will listen to a panel of foreign policy experts regarding China’s growing involvement in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Although the true extent of China’s influence in LAC countries is disputed in academic circles, one thing is certain: China is open, and looking, for business.

To understand China’s current dealings in LAC countries, one must first understand the similar inroads the ‘Asian Giant’ made in Africa over 30 years ago. Starting in the 1970s and 1980s, China began sending ‘economic assistance’ to Africa, a term describing a mix of development aid, loans, technical assistance, and state-sponsored investments. What was China’s ultimate goal in providing economic assistance? To diplomatically isolate Taiwan from the rest of the world.

At the time, many African countries were ‘non-aligned’ with either nation. As such, China sought to secure diplomatic relations with these nations before Taiwan could woo them with its cries of self-governance. To this extent, China was largely successful. As Thomas Lum of the Congressional Research Service notes, “Only three of 48 Sub-Saharan African countries (Burkina Faso, Sao Tome, and Swaziland) still maintain official relations with Taiwan.” China has since been proactive in keeping this number low. For example, “in 2007, China reportedly offered Malawi ‘aid and investment’ worth $6 billion in major economic sectors. In January 2008, Malawi switched diplomatic relations to the [People’s Republic of China]” (Lum, 8).

Economics, of course, has also played a major role. As a manufacturing powerhouse, China is constantly on the lookout for new sources of raw materials and primary goods. In Africa, it found just that: new trading partners capable of providing China with raw materials like copper, minerals, and oil. “Nearly 70% of [Chinese] infrastructure financing on the continent reportedly is concentrated in Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Sudan,” Lum argues, “all of which have major oil fields” (Lum, 9).

What do China’s efforts in Africa tell us about why and how the ‘Asian Giant’ is looking to develop its presence in LAC? As in the case of China’s ‘economic assistance’ to Africa, LAC countries may provide the former with diplomatic and economic opportunities. As far as diplomacy is concerned, only one country in South America (Paraguay) maintains full diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Increased Chinese presence in the region could ensure that this number remains low, or even lessens to zero. An attempt to fully isolate Taiwan from diplomatic connections may be more difficult in the Caribbean; nevertheless, the ‘Malawi syndrome’ could prove to be an important tool in China’s diplomatic arsenal.

As in Africa, LAC countries could also serve as a supplier of primary goods and raw materials to fuel China’s manufacturing industry. Already, the China-Latin America trading partnership functions in the following way: LAC countries export predominantly raw materials to China, and China exports primarily manufactured goods to LAC countries.

China has also increased its economic assistance for infrastructure projects in Latin America in order to facilitate this trading partnership. As recently as May of this year, Peru and China agreed to study the feasibility of a railroad that would cross the Andes and the width of the South American continent, all to make the shipping of grains and minerals to China cheaper.

Why should the United States care about these ongoing developments? For starters, the U.S. should be concerned about its trade relationship with both China and Mexico. While many LAC countries and economies have benefitted from increased attention, money, and trade from China, Mexico’s global market share has begun to falter. As an exporter of manufactured goods like China, Mexico has suffered from the former’s ability to export manufactured products at astronomically cheap prices.

A steady influx of raw materials from LAC countries might further hinder Mexico’s export capacities. This matters for the United States because China and Mexico were its second and third top trading partners in June of 2015. If China were to overtake Mexico too comprehensively, the U.S. would have fewer market options for manufactured goods, and consequently, China would have even more influence on the global trade of these goods. It could manipulate prices and even the economies of other countries, including those of LAC.

Kevin P. Gallagher and Roberto Porzecanski, both extremely knowledgeable of the China-LAC relationship, expressed this last concern in their article, “China Matters: China’s Economic Impact in Latin America.” According to the scholars, one of the consequences that can result from China’s demand for LAC raw materials is export specialization. In short, LAC economies could become so reliant on raw materials and primary goods that they may never become a manufacturing hub for themselves (Gallagher & Porzecanski, 186). The authors also cite additional research (Lall and Weiss, 2005), suggesting that, “Chinese growth may thus constrain [LAC’s] ability to diversify into more dynamic and technologically advanced products, with potential harm to its dynamic comparative advantage” (Gallagher & Porzecanski, 198).

In an NPR interview earlier this year, Margaret Myers, Director of the China and Latin America Program for the think tank Inter-American Dialogue, stated that Chinese ‘economic assistance’ in LAC countries, whether in the form of increased trade or hotel construction projects in the Bahamas, come with “strings attached.” Certainly one of the goals of the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing this fall will be to find out what exactly those ‘strings’ are, but such a statement reveals that Chinese involvement in LAC countries is worth examining by our policymakers.

Despite the ongoing noise surrounding the Iran nuclear deal, it will be important to keep tabs on China as its influence slowly creeps westward into our own hemisphere.

This article presents the views of author Cole Horton, not necessarily those of the Georgetown University College Republicans or GUCR Board. This piece belongs solely to Mr. Horton and cannot be reproduced in any way without his express consent. For more GUCR updates, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

What Happened to the Reagan Conservatives?


With Donald Trump and his anti-illegal immigration fervor dominating the Republican side of politics, it’s helpful to step back and introspect, if only for a fleeting moment.

Take the quote on illegal immigration below:

Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems? Make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit, and then, while they’re working and earning here, they’d pay taxes here. And when they want to go back, they can go back. They can cross. Open the borders both ways.

Ask any modern conservative who uttered this statement, and they’d probably shoot back with something akin to, “Some liberal who wants to give amnesty to the illegals.” I mean, just consider the brutal condemnation former Gov. Jeb Bush received when he sympathized with the plight of illegal immigrants. Anyone who is not adamantly for securing the southern border or hesitates in denouncing illegal immigrants as criminals is immediately met with cries of being a ‘RINO’ or ‘liberal.’

It’s most interesting then, that the above quote comes from the most revered figure in American conservatism: yes, Ronald Reagan.

Astonishing, isn’t it? 35 years ago at a League of Women Voters forum, Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan advocated for allowing illegal immigrants to stay, opening our borders, and was opposed to the idea of sealing off our southern border with Mexico. What’s more, his rival, George H.W. Bush, was equally empathetic toward illegal immigrants, declaring unequivocally:

[W]e’re creating a whole society of really honorable, decent, family-loving people that are in violation of the law… These are good people, strong people.

Boy have times changed.

I won’t mince words in saying that the remarks expressed by Donald Trump are grotesque and divisive, and his plan to deport all illegal immigrants and revoke birthright citizenship borders on ludicrous. What’s disturbing is not the fact that Trump’s comments evoke the worst nativist tendencies in this country. For better or worse he has the right to voice his beliefs, however appalling they may be.

The truly disturbing part is how Trump’s beliefs are actually starting to reverberate throughout conservative circles and the Republican Party itself. According to the latest CNN/ORC poll, Trump leads the GOP field with 24%, far outpacing his closest rival Jeb Bush at 13%. On the issue of immigration, Republican voters give Donald Trump the highest level of trust of any candidate at 44%–up 30% since his announcement in June.

To be fair, Trump’s comments and beliefs certainly don’t represent all Republicans (especially this one), and it’s not fair to use Trump’s views on immigration to paint all conservatives with the same broad brush. Many prominent conservatives have boldly denounced Trump, and more continue to do so by the day.

Yet, when I see how popular his attitudes are becoming among my fellow Republicans, I can’t help but feel great disappointment. 35 years ago the Republican Party stood for the rule of law on immigration, yet it didn’t do so by condemning illegal immigrants as subhuman creatures seeking to destroy the fabric of American civilization. Back then, Reagan stressed an immigration policy of both firmness and empathy. He didn’t seek to make it harder for people to come to this country; he argued for the opposite. He didn’t believe in illegal immigrant witch hunts or McCarthy-esque purges of “the illegals”; he wanted illegal immigrants to become integrated members of our society.

We have drifted so far from Reagan’s message. And the real tragedy, as if it could not get any worse, is that many of Trump’s supporters consider themselves to be proud “Reagan Conservatives.” These individuals have distorted Reagan’s image and they have distorted the ideals he stood for. I’m not sure what to call them, but they certainly are not Reagan Conservatives.

If only we knew where the real Reagan Conservatives have gone. The Republican Party could really use their voice right about now.

This article, originally published by the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, presents the views of author Alex Robledo, not necessarily those of the Georgetown University College Republicans or GUCR Board. This piece belongs solely to Mr. Robledo and cannot be reproduced in any way without his express consent. For more GUCR updates, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

It’s Time to End Birthright Citizenship


Immigration has been a hot topic in the news as of late, thanks largely to the one and only Donald Trump. While the reality TV star turned presidential candidate is certainly not right about everything, his detailed immigration proposals are precisely what 21st century America needs: namely, an end to birthright citizenship in the United States.

The day was May 23, 1866 when Sen. Jacob Howard, Republican of Michigan, introduced the 14th Amendment on the floor of the United States Senate, beginning what would be a vigorous debate in the chamber over the second of three amendments to the United States Constitution passed in the years immediately following America’s Civil War.

Any commentary regarding this amendment will tell you what is obvious about the so-called “Civil War amendments”: they had to do with the Civil War. Take this from the U.S. Department of State regarding the 14th Amendment: “The principal purpose of this amendment was to make former slaves citizens of both the United States and the state in which they lived and to protect them from state-imposed discrimination.” Moreover, in the Supreme Court case Afroyim v. Rusk, which concerned immigrants and the 14th Amendment, even former Ku Klux Klan member Justice Hugo Black wrote in the majority opinion: “The chief interest of the people in giving permanence and security to citizenship in the Fourteenth Amendment was the desire to protect Negroes.”

American courts have since spit in the eye of the true intention of the 14th Amendment. In 1898, thirty years after the 14th Amendment was adopted, the Supreme Court decided that children born to legal immigrants were U.S. citizens, in a case known as United States v. Wong Kim Ark. This decision was wrong and was concocted with no constitutional basis in mind.

For one, the decision was based on English feudal law, which asserted that a child inherits his or her father’s citizenship regardless of birthplace (Britain repealed this law in 1983). Furthermore, in the opinion of the Chief Justice Melville Fuller and even the Yale Law Journal at the time, the case was decided without acknowledging the intent of the framers of the amendment.

According to the writer of the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment himself, Sen. Jacob Howard, “this [clause] will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers.” This sentiment was codified in the specific language of the amendment that stated that new citizens of the United States must be”subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” which is the legal equivalent of “not subject to any foreign power.” The latter is phrasing found in the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which is the legislative backbone of the 14th Amendment passed just months prior to the amendment’s adoption.

Legal immigrants, particularly those from countries hostile to the United States, were hence deemed by Sen. Fuller and others to be unworthy of automatic citizenship, due to their potential loyalties to other nations. Birthright citizenship was never intended even for legal immigrants, and that should remain the case today.

Fast-forward to the Reagan era, and enter the single footnote which would change history. That’s right, in a footnote to a 5-4 decision in Plyler v. Doe, Supreme Court Justice William Brennan wrote, “no plausible distinction with respect to Fourteenth Amendment ‘jurisdiction’ can be drawn between resident aliens whose entry into the United States was lawful, and resident aliens whose entry was unlawful.”

What began as efforts to overturn Dred Scott and grant civil rights to former slaves has now turned into granting U.S. citizenship (the most coveted possession in the world) to people who run across the border illegally and violate our laws. If that is not a disgrace to the legacy of true civil rights’ victories in America, I frankly do not know what is.

The United States is the only developed nation in the world, other than Canada, to still maintain birthright citizenship. Short of a fundamentally different Supreme Court and fresh political climate in Washington, it seems Americans have no choice but to fight for a constitutional amendment to repeal the 14th Amendment, an amendment that was once needed but has since outlived its appropriateness.

Regardless of what one thinks about immigrants, legal or illegal, there must be an acknowledgment that the situation has gotten out of hand. Clearly, birthright citizenship has become a magnet for more waves of illegal immigration. The nonpartisan fact checker PolitiFact reported the following in 2010:

According to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center, a think tank that has done extensive research on immigration policy, 3.8 million undocumented immigrants have at least one child who is a citizen. ‘Most children of unauthorized immigrants — 73 percent in 2008 — are U.S. citizens by birth,’ the center says. That’s up from 63 percent in 2003. These statistics suggest not only that the number is large, but is also growing.

Furthermore, the problem extends to even legal immigrants. In 2013, Time reported on what is known as “birth tourism” and how foreigners flock to the United States to have children. Not only that, but through our immigration laws, these children can eventually sponsor their parents to become U.S. citizens. Again, despite what one feels about immigration, it is clear that America, or any nation for that matter, should have control over who becomes a citizen.

Overhauling our immigration and citizenship laws should concern members of both political parties. Take into consideration this quote from a prominent United States politician:

If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn’t enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant? No sane country would do that, right? Guess again. If you break our laws by entering this country without permission, and give birth to a child, we reward that child with U.S. citizenship and guarantee full access to all public and social services this society provides – and that’s a lot of services. Is it any wonder that two-thirds of the babies born at taxpayer expense in county-run hospitals in Los Angeles are born to illegal alien mothers?

Was that a quote from immigration hardliner Donald Trump? Or maybe Michele Bachmann? Nope, it was from Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada in 1993, the senator who now leads the Democrats in the Senate.

Since he spoke those words, our immigration problems have gotten far worse. If disposing of birthright citizenship was not a radical, right-wing idea back then, I ask why is it perceived that way now? For heaven’s sake, the wife of the infamous Mexican drug lord El Chapo Guzmán, who recently escaped from a Mexican prison, is herself an American citizen thanks to birthright citizenship. What’s more, she also bestowed birthright citizenship on her (and El Chapo’s) children. In 2011, Emma Coronel left her husband in Mexico to give birth to twins in California, and then immediately returned home to El Chapo, the most wanted and powerful drug lord in the world.

So while some Republicans may want to mock Donald Trump, they may want to reconsider. Trump is currently dominating the 2016 race as the runaway favorite, and his immigration proposals are gaining popularity. According to a Stanford University study, a plurality of voters believe we should deport all illegal immigrants and build a wall on the southern border, and an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose automatic citizenship to children born here to illegal immigrants.

It is encouraging that other candidates, like Scott Walker, are starting to voice their agreement with the frontrunner and his ideas. However, if the others do not catch on soon enough to Americans’ distaste for immigration policies rigged against the legal working man, they frankly deserve to lose.

This article presents the views of author Michael Khan, not necessarily those of the Georgetown University College Republicans or GUCR Board. This piece belongs solely to Mr. Khan and cannot be reproduced in any way without his express consent. For more GUCR updates, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.