China: December 23, 1999


With only two weeks left before the Panama Canal is handed over to Panama, opponents of the 1979 agreement by President Carter have begun a last-ditch effort to stop the deal. Such efforts will certainly fail, but are intended for political effect and to influence the next Presidential election. One group of critics has filed a federal court suit, others have held a series of seminars and made public speeches, and members of Congress have started a petition. Critics have noted that China will actually end up controlling the Canal rather than the Panamanian government, since the Chinese-owned company Hutchinson Whampoa controls the port concessions on both ends of the Canal. US critics of the Clinton Administration have emphasized the link between the Chinese and Clinton's support for the giveaway deal. The Clinton Administration continues to insist that the handover deal had nothing to do with China, and notes that Panama has diplomatic relations with Taiwan rather than Beijing. --Stephen V Cole

Taiwan has replaced the Marines who garrisoned two of the Spratly Islands with Coast Guard personnel in a move to reduce tensions in the region. --Stephen V Cole


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