Dwarfing the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal extends about 48 miles long, but the Chinese government has partnered with a Chinese billionaire to invest in the construction of a 173 mile long canal in Nicaragua.

A little over 100 years ago the first ship passed through the Panama Canal. Not only was it a monumental passage, but it forever changed trade routes, was a leap for American commerce and an engineering miracle. The building of the Panama Canal was not only an American triumph, but was a growth in the “American Empire.” As presumably thought, it was such a great imperialistic move and foreshadowing in the importance and prominence of U.S. power in the area, that it is hard to ignore when other growing “imperialistic” nations emerge and move into the same area.

Although we are past the colonial times of imperialism due to free trade and a global village (however not denying that coerced imperialism still exists), the dominance of U.S. influence in Latin America is slowly slipping away. Nations have developed and are becoming more sovereign, while others are creating new partnerships. Territories no longer belong to certain countries, Latin America is not the United States’ region.

Map pointing out the Nicaragua and Panama canals
Credit: Alyson Hurt/NPR

The proposed canal in Nicaragua will cost about $50 billion, but the question is if the proposed plan to dwarf the Panama Canal can really be pulled off. Wang Jing, the shady Chinese billionaire has never run a project anywhere close to this enormity.

“It’s just too strategically important for the Chinese government for it to be the work of a rogue entrepreneur acting alone,” she said. “If he were selling soft drinks, that’d be one thing. But not a canal.”

This reported to the International Business Times by June Teufel Dryer, an expert on China’s international relations at the University of Miami, continued that it is something too big to fail.

Jing, the founder and CEO of HKND will take the lead on the project with government endorsement. HKND, a a privately-held international infrastructure development firm headquartered in Hong Kong and with offices in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. HKND works specifically in construction management and infrastructure development. HKND will be leading the project, the project that is at a marked price that is roughly 5 times greater than Nicaragua’s GDP, plans to do more than just develop the canal.

Francisco Telemaco Talavera gives a two-hour presentation to Nicaraguan farmers on the benefits of the canal. Telemaco is the rector of a major Nicaraguan University and head of the Gran Canal Commission. He says the canal will create up to 200,000 jobs and lift the country, the second poorest in the hemisphere, out of poverty.
Francisco Telemaco Talavera gives a two-hour presentation to Nicaraguan farmers on the benefits of the canal. Telemaco is the director of a major Nicaraguan University and head of the Gran Canal Commission. He says the canal will create up to 200,000 jobs and lift the country, the second poorest in the hemisphere, out of poverty. Credit: Carrie Kahn, NPR

With the proposed $50 billion, HKND plans to construct a railroad, roads, an oil pipeline, a free trade zone, two ports, and the canal. According to the International Business Times, once the projects are started they are projected to provide tens of thousands of jobs and double the per capita income of Nicaragua. Of course this seems like an ideal situation for the Nicaraguan government, Nicaragua being the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere behind Haiti.

Poverty reality in Nicaragua. Credit: The Costa Rica News.
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