As she highlighted increased trade between The Bahamas and China, Chinese Ambassador Dai Qingli said yesterday that negative commentary surrounding the countries’ relationship has hindered further cooperation.
Dai noted that China has become an important source of foreign trade and investments for The Bahamas.
“According to our statistics, last year, China-Bahamas trade reached $492 million, an increase of 40 percent year on year,” she said on Guardian Radio’s “Z Live” with Zhivargo Laing.
She noted that while there has been significant collaboration between the two countries in recent years, Dai said some factors are preventing greater cooperation, including a lack of direct interactions and mutual knowledge, due in part to geography and the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said more networking among companies and a greater familiarity with each other’s markets is needed “if we are to tap into the cooperation potential”.
“Furthermore, we are diverted from time to time by negative comments and sentiments about China-Bahamas relations,” she continued.
“Looking to the future, I truly believe that we can accomplish much more by working together. The need for cooperation has never been greater in a post-COVID era.”
Dai’s comments came as The Bahamas and China celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Dai said the two countries have a relationship comprised of mutual need and mutual benefits.
“Over the past 25 years, China and The Bahamas have treated each other with equality, mutual respect and non-interference,” she said.
Dai acknowledged that there is increasing “fears and anxieties, and even paranoia about China in some quarters in the west”.
She claimed that some international players misjudge China’s strategic intentions and try to depict the country as a threat.
“Based on their own logic and experience, they try to fit China into a rising hegemon trying to replace the old one,” she said.
“They look at everything from the lens of geostrategic rivalry and assign strategic intentions to whatever China does.”
Dai continued, “These misconceptions by some in the west have only exposed their own sense of desperation about China’s rise and their loss of self-confidence, which are putting blinkers on their understanding of China.”
She also noted that China’s views of the west are “also hardening”.
“Such a perception gap is making constructive cooperation even more difficult exactly when we need it the most,” she said.
But Dai said there is a “much more positive picture in the Caribbean”.
“China sees the Caribbean as important players and equal partners on the world stage,” she said.
Several projects have come from The Bahamas’ good relations with China. Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium was a gift project of China and the Airport Gateway expressway was constructed by a Chinese company using a low-interest loan from a Chinese bank.
Baha Mar resort, which is one of the largest private employers in The Bahamas, is owned by a Chinese entity, and was built by the Chinese, as was The Pointe in Downtown Nassau.
The North Abaco Port was also built by the Chinese.
In recent years, however, several US officials have raised concern over China’s intentions in The Bahamas.
In March, US General Glen VanHerck warned that China is attempting to increase its influence in The Bahamas by offering large-scale economic investments and material support for infrastructure projects.
VanHerck, who serves as US Air Force commander for the US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, said the United States’ relationship with The Bahamas enhances regional security and stability and directly strengthens its ability to “defend the homeland through continued close cooperation.”
Dai, however, assured that China means no harm in its relationship with The Bahamas, noting that China does not have a history of occupying other nations or remaking them in its own image. She said “the west often gets China wrong”, emphasizing that the country’s foreign policy objective is a fostering of peaceful and stable regional and international environments.
“China prefers to address territorial and maritime disputes with its neighbors through peaceful negotiations,” Dai said.
“China never sought to export its development model or remake other countries in its own image. China’s overriding objective remains to deliver a better life of its people and to realize the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Having said this, China’s commitment to peace should never be taken as a sign of weakness. China would never flinch when it comes to safeguarding its sovereignty, territory, integrity and national dignity.”