Business as usual for Chinese Panamanians despite Taiwan rupture

Juan Tam, secretary of Panama’s National Ethnic Chinese Council at the offices of Diario Chino in Panama City, 17 July, 2014.

The following article appeared in today’s News Lens:

When Taiwan’s former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) attended the inauguration of his Panamanian counterpart Juan Carlos Varela in July 2014, cross-Strait relations had never been better.

“Ma invited everyone in the Chinese community,” Juan Tam (譚堅) told me on my visit to the isthmus just two weeks after Ma had been there. This was a big change, said Tam, who is secretary of Panama’s National Ethnic Chinese Council. “Normally, the other side – the mainlanders – just wouldn’t go. There had always been infighting between the two sides, but for the first time this stopped and everyone showed up.”

Pressed for time en route to the Nicaragua Liberation Day celebrations in Managua, I had a half-day in Panama. Through some online wangling, I had procured Tam’s contact details and got in touch. He had kindly agreed to show me around for the day, and I couldn’t have hoped for a more perspicacious insight into the complexities of the Chinese diaspora in Panama.

 

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