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Will The Caribbean Become The New ‘Little China’?

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

With all the recent celebrations lauding Barbados for removing the British Queen as its Head of State and declaring the country a Republic; one cannot escape the elephant in the room. China’s growing influence in the Caribbean.

The People’s Republic of China’s long-term geo-political and economic strategy has seen them move from a position of isolation and poverty to becoming second only to the United States in national and world power status, in just over three decades.


They have deepen their relations within the English speaking Caribbean regions by having a major role in developing and investing in their economic, military and political infrastructure.

What Does China’s support Look Like?

In 2013, (former) President Xi cemented China’s unstoppable influence in the region at a high profile conference in Trinidad and Tobago.

Although the US was unhappy with China’s outreach to the English-speaking Caribbean region, the event was attended by high ranking dignitaries from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Suriname and Jamaica, but that’s not all.

To their dismay, America’s withdrawal of financial grants and aid was met by President Xi announcing soft loans and investments worth US $3 billion as well as grants of up to $8 million for the region.

“We see in your dream a splendid opportunity for China to become a model for the world.”

Fast forward to today, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, backed by strategic assets like airports, seaports or precious commodities such as oil and metal, China has loaned approximately $600 million to Cuba; $1 billion to Antigua and Barbuda; $1.9 billion to Trinidad & Tobago; $450 million to the Bahamas and $2.7 billion to Jamaica. And there is more to come if these countries continue to cut relations with Taiwan and establish stronger ties with Beijing.

So What are the Americans Saying?

Don’t forget, in their quest to challenge the US for global supremacy by collaborating and supporting various Caribbean economies; China delivered a 12 page action plan announcing their intention to extend its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The BRI aims to create and strengthen policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and connecting people across the countries involved in the initiative.

Similar to the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ initiative, this infrastructure project will be delivered at a regional and sub-regional level through a range of programmes which will see Beijing expand its relationship into many new areas.

Moving away from its original remit in the Caribbean region; China is now increasing its economic support for the development of modern transport, telecommunications and IT, road, rail, construction and energy infrastructure.

Leaders within the region are receptive to the investment, which will enable many more exchanges on issues from science to culture.

‘China will be promoting sustainable development, advance market-based industrial transformation and encourage diversification’ through Chinese financed projects’
Is Everyone Happy?

No. While the US continues to bemoan China’s increasing imperial powers which they feel only seeks to benefit their own people; they are not the only ones unhappy.

The financial support has come at a high price for the regions’ indigenous population.

They believed China’s investment would lead to more jobs on the ground, but quickly realised that China will only import and use their own contractors and labourers.

In addition, there is the constant complaint of corruption when it comes to not only the delivery of sub-standard business projects but lack of financial transparency and misappropriation of funds through their banking system which often goes unchecked.

The US has tried to fight back by punishing these countries by using blacklisting and sanction tactics; withdrawing loans, suspending contracts and much needed economic aid.

Washington’s heavy-handed warnings in public and private has not stopped China operating with a total lack of impartiality to their threats.

However, the absence of any alterative practical US support for the Caribbean region other than for US-led renewable energy initiatives, and security measures largely intended to defend US Homeland Security; has resulted in these leaders turning to China for additional economic support and military training.

What About Europe?

Europe’s response to China’s encroachment of the Caribbean regions has been lacklustre at best.

It is felt that Brussels has been no help, merely spreading ‘alleged’ viral rumours and false news.

It is common knowledge that European delivery moves at a glacial pace; lacks private sector and entrepreneurial activity and often fails to deliver when real-time responses are required. China’s narrative is clear.

They want to see greater economic globalisation deliver greater global social equity, which is what they claim to be offering the Caribbean.

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