Consolidating power in the Panama Canal
For more than 100 years, the Panama Canal has controlled the bulk of goods transferred between the Pacific and the Atlantic. For much of that history, this monumental feat of engineering was under the control of the United States. But this is no longer the case.
In May, Panama’s largest port was purchased by a Chinese company called Landbridge Group.
Margarita Island Port, on the canal’s Atlantic side, offers the company intimate access to one of the most important goods distribution centers in the world.
While promising to upgrade the ailing Panama facilities and offer more trade with America’s distant east coast, there is substantial reason to hesitate at the purchase of such a critical trade hub.
What Is Landbridge Group?
As readers of the Trumpet may know, Landbridge gained our attention earlier this year with the acquisition of the Port of Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory. The $500 million lease guaranteed Landbridge control of the port for the coming 100 years. Many, particularly in Australia, criticized the deal, saying Landbridge had not been properly vetted.
And rightfully so.
The self-proclaimed “private” enterprise walks the same path as many Chinese companies—a path that is paved with the interests and aspirations of the Chinese government. Landbridge takes orders from the Committee of the Communist Party of China. The committee is designed to ensure that companies act in accordance with the party-state’s interests.
Landbridge ceo Ye Cheng is himself a senior member of the 12th National Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Committee. His deputy is a former officer in the Chinese military establishment. Landbridge also boasts its own militia. The company website reveals the creation of a “people’s armed militia”—not something one would usually associate with a private company.
Panama, Here We Come
Now this company has signed a $900 million deal to control Panama’s Margarita Island Port.
Margarita is situated in the Colón Free Trade Zone. Since its founding in 1948, this trade zone has been a vital part of Panama’s economy. According to the zone’s website, annual imports and exports surpass $5 billion. Surrounded by airports, trains, ships and road transport, this commercial hub plays a pivotal role in the transport of goods from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It also impacts the north-south trade between the Americas.
The sea traffic through the port is substantial; more than 12,000 merchant ships visit the zone annually.
Landbridge has big plans for Margarita—plans that involve building a deepwater port capable of docking larger ships that will soon sail through the Panama Canal. Upgrades to the canal will soon allow access to ships three times the size of current vessels. When the new locks open on June 26, the first ship to sail through the upgraded canal will be a Chinese tanker.
Now approved by the Panama Maritime Authority and Chinese consortium Panama Colón Container Port, the Landbridge project will cost an estimated $500 million up front and another $400 million for a high-quality logistics park.
According to Hellenic Shipping News:
The new project will consist of two parts, including the construction of a container terminal with a capacity of up to 2.5 million teus (20-foot shipping containers) and the additional private lands with multipurpose possibilities, including lng facilities or energy projects.
Featuring four berths, the Colón container terminal will have a total quay line of 1,200 meters [3,937 feet] with a draught of 18 meters [59 feet].
The Bejing-based Port Design Institute is set to design the piers.
The construction will be carried out by state-owned China Communication Construction Corp (cccc). The cccc is the world’s largest company in the infrastructure and engineering sector. Only last year it acquired John Holland, one of Australia’s leading engineering contractors, for more than a billion dollars.
Again, it is no coincidence that we see a Chinese state-owned company taking a vested interest and hefty investment in a trade choke point like Panama.
An Ongoing Trend
Landbridge is by no means the first Chinese company to move into the Panama Canal. On March 1, 1997, Chinese corporation Hutchinson Whampoa took control of the American-constructed ports of Balboa and Cristobal.
It was less than a year later that the U.S. officially handed over control of the canal to the Panamanian government. Flash forward 17 years, and today China owns and controls the majority of the ports and loading bays on each end of the canal.
Economic or Militaristic
When Landbridge acquired the Port of Darwin, many skeptics correctly pointed out that the purchase played into China’s broader foreign-policy goals. China’s string of pearls is heavily intertwined with the ambitions of the often-bellicose Chinese military. In order to extend a broader military reach or sustain a long-distance force, Beijing needs supply lines. Controlling crucial ports and sea gates such as the Panama Canal are pivotal for China. Not only does it ensure safe passage for its ships, but it also has the ability to deny enemy vessels.
Landbridge’s acquisition of the Margarita port has flown well below the radar of most media sites. Few, if any, consider such a purchase in any way a threat. But each purchase and each new dock or pier is cementing China’s stranglehold on world trade.
Panama Canal in Prophecy
Long-time readers of the Trumpet magazine know that the U.S., Britain and the English-speaking Commonwealth nations have been the end-time recipients of the birthright promise of national greatness conferred by God upon the patriarch Abraham. For more information, request The United States and Britain in Prophecy.)
“[T]he most High ruleth in the kingdom of men,” as it states in Daniel 4:17. God promised Abraham approximately 4,000 years ago that his descendants would “possess the gate of his enemies” (Genesis 22:17; 24:60). In the last 200 years, that is precisely what we have seen. Britannia ruled the waves. The empire controlled Gibraltar, Malta, the Dardanelles, the English Channel, the vital Suez Canal, the Gulf of Aden, Capetown, Sri Lanka, the Strait of Malacca, Singapore and Hong Kong. America had the Panama Canal, a string of islands across the Pacific, a substantial presence in the Philippines.
Today it is almost all gone. Our enemies control our ports and sea-lanes.
Keep abreast of Chinese interests in ports and sea gates around the globe. Landbridge’s purchase is just one of many Chinese maneuvers to consolidate power over the world’s most crucial trade routes, and it brings our civilization one step closer to global calamity. ▪
Full article: China Buys Panama’s Largest Port (The Trumpet)