China’s Influence in the Caribbean:
The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) engagement in the Caribbean has largely focused on investments in infrastructure and developing trade relationships. To date, five Caribbean countries have signed up to Belt and Road (BRI). Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Dominican Republic.
Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) grew from $81.2 million in 2005 to $604.5 million in 2013 and was estimated to run around $1 billion as of early 2018.
The PRC is working towards diminishing the region’s ties to Taiwan. In 2018, a Taiwanese official claimed that the Dominican Republic broke ties with Taiwan in exchange for a $3.1 billion package for investments and loans. Today, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Haiti, and Belize remain the only Caribbean nations that recognize Taiwan.
China’s Trade and Economic Investment in the Caribbean
China’s demand for Latin America and Caribbean exports grew by 24.2% in 2018 as the total value of the region’s exports grew by 9.9%. This growth was spurred in part by the vibrancy of exports from the Caribbean.
China is a major trading partner of Cuba’s and Chinese businesses are involved in the Cuba’s telecommunications, mining and energy sectors.
Cuba is highly dependent on China and ongoing economic challenges resulted in the restructuring of an estimated $4 billion in debt to China in 2011 and another restructuring in 2015.
China’s Trade and Economic Investment in the Caribbean (Cont’d).
China has invested over $8 billion in mainly six Caribbean countries between 2005 and 2020 focused on the tourism, transportation, extractive metals, agriculture, and energy sectors.
- Jamaica: $2.68 billion
- Trinidad and Tobago: $1.94 billion
- Antigua and Barbuda: $1 billion
- Bahamas: $350 million
- Cuba: $600 million
- Guyana: $2.49 billion
A China-backed $3.1 billion loan and investment package to the Dominican Republic included $1.6 billion for infrastructure projects, $400 million for a new freeway, and $300 million for a new natural gas power plant.
Source: (MacDonald, 2019)
China’s Investment in Caribbean Energy Sector
- China’s state-controlled oil company, CNIOOC Ltd., owns a 25% stake in the 6.6 million acre Straboek oil bloc off the shore of Guyana as part of a consortium with Exxon Mobil and Hess.
- In 2011, China’s sovereign wealth fund acquired a 10% interest in Trinidad and Tobago-based Atlantic LNG, one of the world’s largest natural gas producers.
- In 2019, an affiliate of Chinese oil company CNPC, Great Wall Drilling, began oil drilling off Cuba’s coast as part of a joint venture with state-owned oil firm Cuba Petroleum Company (CUPET).
- In 2017, Jamaica’s Alpart alumina refinery was purchased by Chinese state-owned enterprise, Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCo) for $299 million.
China’s Investment in Caribbean Infrastructure
In 1995, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whompoa struck a $2.5 billion deal to expand the Freeport deep-water port in the Bahamas, the closest offshore port to the east coast of the United States, and currently manages the port facility.
Following years of challenges, Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook Enterprises supported the construction of the Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas – the country’s largest hospitality project whose mortgage is held by China’s Export-Import Bank and China State Construction Engineering.
In 2017, the provincial government of Gansu signed a framework agreement with the Jamaican government to invest up to $6 billion in an industrial park. That same year, Jamaica announced a $384 million loan from the China Import-Export Bank to build a road network on the island to complement a $730 million highways built earlier in 2017 in return for a 5-year concession to the Chinese construction company that included land alongside the highway to be used for development.
Source: (MacDonald, 2019)
China’s Soft Power in the Caribbean
In 2016, the Chinese government published a second white paper outlining its policy for the region and states its desire to carry out exchanges with the region’s leader, legislatures, political parties and organizations on the basis of “non-interference”.
PRC-backed Confucius Institutes have been established in Cuba, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Grenada, and Suriname.
Despite the PRC’s abysmal record on press freedoms, in 2018, the China-Caribbean Press Centre was established as an initiative by the Chinese Foreign Ministry to facilitate month-long travel and exchanges for Caribbean journalists to China.
China’s Security Assistance in the Caribbean
In 2019, Guyana launched the Safe City Surveillance System in its capital city of Georgetown, leading to public concern over the Huawei-designed equipment, including facial recognition technology.
In November 2019, the Dominican government announced that it was expanding its surveillance system at its 911 National Emergency Center including Chinese facial recognition technology.
- This technology is used in China’s to monitor citizens and specifically target disadvantaged minority populations such as Muslim Uighurs – raising concerns about the potential for the abuse of the technology in other countries where it is implemented, and ethical concerns for interactions with the companies involved in creating these technologies for China’s security agencies.
- Macdonald, Scott. “Sino-Caribbean Relations in a Changing Geopolitical Sea.” Journal of Chinese Political Science, vol. 24, no. 4, 2019, pp. 665–684., doi:10.1007/s11366-018-09590-y.
*Last updated: 3/16/2021