China gaining foothold in the Bahamas, America’s doorstep

Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield (right) and the Chinese Ambassador to The Bahamas, His Excellency Huang Qinguo. The Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas signed a $12 million bilateral agreement with the Government of the People’s Republic of China on February 21, 2019 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (BIS Photos/Kristaan Ingraham)

By Melanius Alphonse, Caribbean News Now associate managing editor

NASSAU, Bahamas – For over eight years, the US has gone without an ambassador to The Bahamas, the fact China is now taking advantage of an American void explains how US neglect for the island nation has given China a foothold on America’s doorstep.

The Caribbean island nation is small, with a population of roughly 400,000 but it attracts a lot of US tourism and sitting just 50 miles off the coast of Florida.

It’s right in the middle of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. That fact hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Chinese. China has set its sights on The Bahamas and has invested billions of dollars in building new infrastructure and industry across the country.

New roads, new businesses, new hotels, and booming Chinese immigration has led to many companies being staffed with more Chinese workers than local Bahamians. Reports show that over 200,000 Chinese are illegally smuggled into the Caribbean every year to open their shops or work at Chinese businesses with many sending their money back to China.

Officials say these practices are crowding out small retailers and by selling inferior goods and using Chinese workers for what amounts to slave labour. They’re putting locals out of business. Chinese state banks are also putting up tens of millions of dollars for building projects like new ports and bridges as well as a vast new Chinese embassy in the heart of downtown Nassau.

The Chinese government even gifted a new national stadium to The Bahamas to the tune of $50 million. Also, China’s state-owned Export-Import Bank dropped nearly 3 billion dollars to put up the luxurious Baha Mar Resort in New Providence thanks to investments like these.

Some analysts go as far as to say China now owns The Bahamas. These developments paint a grim picture for the future of one of America’s closest neighbours. However, what alternative do The Bahamas have? According to the Bahamian government, they can’t afford to build massive projects like these on their own. So, with China stepping in and essentially colonizing The Bahamas, where does that leave the United States?

Washington is choosing to remain on the sidelines as China swoops in to develop strategic real estate right on America’s front door. Also, now some 55 miles east of Palm Beach, China is building a massive new shipping port a strategic location which could be used for military vessels and submarines.

China already has a military presence in the Caribbean occupying old Soviet bases in Cuba but could Washington soon have to deal with the reality of Chinese warships off the coast of Florida? However, China isn’t the only reason the US should be concerned.

The Bahamas is also a major gateway for drugs, weapons and illegal aliens coming into America, while Mexico comes to mind when many think of US border security. The Bahamas just received a Tier 1 ranking from the State Department for human trafficking.

Although the Bahamas historically has imported most of its trade goods from the US such as agriculture the country is beginning to turn to China to fill those demands costing American companies their business.

In 2017 President Donald Trump nominated San Diego developer and veteran industrialist Doug Manchester for the role of US ambassador to The Bahamas. Yet in the two years since then, Congress has stalled on his confirmation with the Bahamian economy struggling on its own and China building inroads.

The United States could seize an opportunity to step in and help The Bahamas create jobs and improve economic performance. That’s a role traditionally filled by an ambassador. While some consider the appointment a plum position, the alternative is leaving the post vacant while crime grows and China sinks its claws into the island unopposed.

Reducing crime, fighting human and drug trafficking as well as building infrastructure would not only benefit The Bahamas but also the safety and security of the United States as well.

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