What Brings the Chinese to the Bahamas?
by Latrae Rahming, Progressive Liberal Party, Nassau
Intro by - S. E.
We are all aware of the Chinese goings-on in the South China Sea, however, the The Chinese have been looking further eastward - all the way to the Atlantic.
After the the recent expansion of the Panama Canal, with a Chinese vessel being the first to ply the new waters, it brings Chinese opportunities significantly closer. Last year, China's President Xi Jinping (right) visited Trinidad and Tobago with $3 billion in loans. St. Lucia's government has signed an agreement to build the island's first internationally targeted, integrated development - a project worth $2.6 billion designed to attract Chinese tourists and investment. At a recent dinner between Caribbean leaders and a Chinese delegation, Jamaican officials asked, "'What does China want from us?'" a person who was at the meeting told GlobalPost. "That's the big question that everyone has about this: Why?"
Moving up the Island chain you come to the Bahamas, where the the Chinese have been for a while. There most notable project has been the Baha Mar (Nassau), which was largely financed and built by the Chinese government, has been embroiled in legal proceedings since last year. Construction of the $3.5 billion resort has largely been at a standstill.
Moving north to Abaco ands the new port facilities going on north of Coopers Town the question one asks is WHY?
First a little geography. At its closest point the Bahamas (Bimini) are 50 miles from Florida (Ft. Lauderdale). Palm Beach is 65 miles to West End, Grand Bahama. The Abaco Island group, on the eastern side of Grand Bahama forms the Northeastern border of the Bahamas bordering on the deep water Atlantic. They are 180 Miles as the crow flies to Florida.
I have been visiting the Abacos
(info) in the Bahamas for over two decades and can report on Chinese Activity going on. It supposedly takes the form of commercial agriculture and fishing most of which is very controversial. In addition, major construction projects are underway like the Port Project on Abaco's mainland near Coopers Town
(plan) which is being financed and built by the Chinese. The purpose of this undertaking is a mystery to me as the main populace of the island lives in the hub of Abaco at Marsh Harbour which has all the port facilities Abaco needs - and Airport. (Marsh Harbour is the Bahamas 3rd largest city after Nassau and Freeport).
Early on in the diplomatic process each country awarded exchange students to the other. The Bahamian attending in China was Latrae Rahming, Progressive Liberal Party, and who will tell the rest of the story. Better to hear it in a Bahamians own words. Let his words be a warning especially those in red.
What Does China Want From The Bahamas?
By Latrae Rahming, Progressive Liberal Party & Senior Chinese Caribbean Government Consultant.
Nassau April 9, 2016
(Changes in type, fonts & color added by AE for emphasis.)
What China wants from The Bahamas? This is an essential question for those monitoring the implications and assessing the risk imposed on the nature of China's economic, social, and political engagement with the Commonwealth. There's a sustained perspective that China's growing presence in the region seeks to undermine the United States strategic position and influence in its hemisphere. China's incredibly ambitious foreign policy in The Bahamas and other Caribbean countries is Beijing continued efforts of improving its geostrategic significance unraveling its economic strength.
Since the founding of the New China in 1949, The Bahamas and China have enjoyed sustained high-level exchanges; stronger political mutual trust relished with closer cooperation. The goals of China's policy in The Bahamas: Is the promotion of mutual trust and respect built on shared ground. Deepen cooperation with the aim of achieving win-win results. Drawing on each other's strengths to boost joint progress and intensify exchanges. And The One-China principle which is the political basis for the establishment and development of relations between China and The Bahamas.
Those areas were developed to strengthen the communication and dialogue on core interest areas and common concerns. Currently, The Bahamas remains committed to the One-China policy and the position of supporting China's reunification and not having official ties or contacts with Taiwan. It is the intention of China in The Bahamas to exchange the consolidated experience of governance on a friendly political basis between The National People's Congress of China and the Bahamian parliament. China will remain committed to the idea of exchanges between political parties in The Bahamas on the premise of independence, full equality, mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs to learn from each other, increase mutual understanding and friendship, and strengthen mutual trust and cooperation.
The People's Republic of China will pursue a balanced two-way trade between the two countries with an open consideration of free trade agreements justified in the context of win-win cooperation. The government of China will encourage Chinese companies with a good reputation to invest heavily in The Bahamas manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, fishing, energy, mineral resources, infrastructure, and service sector with the aim of promoting the economic and social good of both sides. The PRC Government indicates its interest of welcoming investment by Bahamian businesses in China.
Given the macroeconomic situation of The Bahamas and the financial pillar of the economy, Chinese commercial banks will set up branches in The Bahamas shortly. China will promote its capabilities in The Bahamas agricultural industry through science and technology. Holding technical training programs, partnering in the efforts of jointly upholding food security. In 2009, The Bahamas signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with China as well as an Agreement of Co-operation between the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute and Ocean University of China.
China will use The Bahamas to demonstrate its infrastructure construction potential in various ways so as to contribute its share to further infrastructure development in the region. Thus far China has constructed Baha Mar, The National Sports Stadium, North Abaco Port Project, and The Nassau Airport Gateway. China also wishes to expand a beneficial cooperation with The Bahamas in the area of resources and energy with an understanding of The Bahamas energy inefficiencies that consequently stifles economic growth.
The Chinese will expand its tourism cooperation with The Bahamas to enhance mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples. With the impending opening of Baha Mar, Chinese airlines such as China Eastern and Hainan Airlines are considering the feasibility of direct flights from Beijing to Nassau. China will prolong its debt cancellation policy in The Bahamas if the situation presents to relieve the country's debts as China's ability permits. This tourism cooperation also includes the 250 million dollars Nassau Pointe Resort and the redevelopment of downtown Nassau. The PRC government according to its financial capability and level of economic and social development, will continue to provide economic and technical assistance to The Bahamas without attaching any political conditions. The Government of China will work within its ability and gradually increase its assistance to The Bahamas to meet their needs.
Both countries will collaborate in the areas of cultural, sports exchange, media, science, technology, and health care. The government of China will increase the number of Chinese government scholarships. Currently, there are over approximately 150 Bahamian students studying in China. China's pledges its commitment to The Bahamas Climate change and environmental protection. Both countries will cooperate in personnel training, education and capacity building in the fields of biodiversity conservation, as well as prevention and treatment of pollution and desertification. It will actively promote consultation and communication between the two countries on combating climate change and cooperation in related projects.
China will actively provide Military assistance to The Bahamas and defense dialogue. Recently through its agreed on obligations, China donated 1.2 million dollars to The Bahamas to purchase military equipment so as to improve jointly the capacity to respond to non-traditional security threats. Without a doubt, The Bahamas must prudently manage the complexities within the relationship. China's growing presence in The Bahamas warrants active policy consideration. The Bahamas continues to be courteous to the advancement of China's political, economic, social and cultural integration with the view of safeguarding it country's long-term interest.
China's presence in The Bahamas does not represent a threat or deterioration in strategic relations between the United States and The Bahamas or the promotion of Communism ideologies. A determined economic interest drives China's engagement with The Bahamas. The Bahamas must skillfully leverage its self against China's enormous appetite for primary commodities, natural resources, and new economic growth opportunities. The rationale from our foreign policy relations with China comes from the phrase " No man is an island". Bahamians have to embrace The Bahamas multidirectional diplomacy to fuel growth in an attempt to diversify our economy.
Diversified diplomacy is imperative for The Bahamas in a more connected global economy. The truth of the matter is despite legitimate anxiety and concern China's presence in the Bahamas is here to stay.
Latrae Rahming is a Bahamian and senior member of the extremely left leaning Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).s He is a Senior Government Chinese Consultant with various Caribbean governmental agencies and corporations and a critical ally for any client addressing Chinese policy, legislative, and related issues.