My bud Joel Haas alerted me to this article in El Pais in Spain on China’s backing of bonds for sports arenas, funding of festivals, and other influence buying activities in Central America. This is exactly the same dollar diplomacy that is happening in the South Pacific…..

Ahora la presencia china chispea como una luz amarilla que cada cierto tiempo se enciende y recuerda que ahí está, que importa. La donación de 20 millones de dólares para los damnificados por las lluvias, el obsequio de un nuevo estadio de fútbol valorado en 73 millones de dólares, la compra de bonos del Estado con cifras ocultas, promesas comerciales, planes en el sector petrolero y comedidas posiciones políticas en temas chinos conflictivos, como el del Tíbet, han sido las primeras muestras de la relación con Costa Rica, con la cual China ha pretendido colarse en la única región del mundo donde carecía de aliados diplomáticos. Tras tocar la economía, la política y hasta el fútbol, las artes fueron la más reciente plataforma de presencia china, al ser el gigante oriental el país invitado en el FIA que organiza el Gobierno costarricense.

Don’t read Spanish? That’s why they invented GoogleTranslation:

Now the Chinese presence sparks as a yellow light that flashes every so often and recalled that there is, that matters. The donation of $ 20 million for those affected by the rains, the gift of a new football stadium valued at $ 73 million, the purchase of bonds with hidden figures, promises business plans in the oil sector and nuanced positions Chinese conflicting policies on issues such as Tibet, were the first samples of the relationship with Costa Rica, with which China has sought colarse in the only region in the world where lacked diplomatic allies. After handling the economy, politics and even football, the arts were the latest platform Chinese presence, as the giant Eastern country invited in the FIA organised by the Costa Rican government.

Like Taiwan, China cultivates Cental American nations because some of them have Free Trade Agreements with the US, and so are useful to pipeline exports through. China and Costa Rica were talking about a free trade agreement earlier this year (don’t know if it was completed). After the Yanqui imperialists, China is Costa Rica’s number 2 trading partner.

With Bush falling victim to one of the classic blunders — the most famous is: “Never get involved in a land war in Asia” — the US seems to lack the drive to counter China’s expanding influence.