There was a time - a time I caught the tail end of, that Central America in general, and Panama in particular, were unquestionably considered in our back yard.
We never really treated them very well - and it was kind of nasty.
Of course - it never really was all ours. You had the Caribbean Communist island of Cuba making trouble, and from El Salvador to Nicaragua you had very anti-American elements, and in Panama as well - not America's best friend.
Politically, things have quieted down a bit and on average - especially in Panama - things are trending much better.
When we gave up the Panama Canal, we didn't quite keep our interests in line very well, and as a result the Chinese filled in the gap.
You can read a lot in to this from The Economist, but what does this say about our international economic influence as viewed by others.
Panama is moving to make the teaching of Mandarin compulsory in all schools, in recognition of China's growing importance in the world economy.We have the world's highest corporate income tax rate and saddle our competitiveness with regulations - this doesn't happen by accident. It is also fixable, if we want to.
The Panamanian National Assembly has given conditional approval to the bill in the first of three debates.
The bill's supporters say boosting the number of Chinese speakers will help increase Panama's competitiveness.
China is the biggest single user of the Panama Canal that connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
China is important to the international economy - but this close to our back yard? Does someone see trendlines we don't want to?
The U.S. is the waterway’s biggest user, comprising 65 percent of trade using the 80-kilometer (50-mile) canal that links the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, followed by China.Interesting hedge by the Panamanians. They also still have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Ponder not what this says about the Chinese, but what it says about us and the Panamanians.
Who has the Central American Desk? Wake him up!