China hits back over US concerns

Embassy official says Caribbean should not become arena for major power competition

A Chinese embassy official yesterday called on the United States to stop “finger-pointing” about China’s involvement in The Bahamas and do more to improve vaccine accessibility for developing countries, create jobs and protect the livelihoods of locals.

“In the spirit of building a community with a shared future for mankind, China has assisted The Bahamas in post-hurricane reconstruction and in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” Haigang Yin, the embassy’s spokesman, said in a statement.

“We will soon provide another batch of medical supplies to this country. In the context of the ongoing pandemic, it is all the more disappointing to hear such negative comments about China-Bahamas cooperation.

“Instead of finger-pointing, it would be much better to do more for vaccine accessibility for developing countries, and for helping to create jobs and protect the livelihood of the local people. These are the real concerns of people in this region.”

The statement came after The Nassau Guardian reported that on March 16, while testifying before the US Senate Armed Services Committee, General Glen VanHerck, who serves as US Air Force commander for the US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and North American Aerospace Defense Command, warned that China is attempting to use influence in The Bahamas by offering large-scale economic investments and material support for infrastructure projects.

“In the USNORTHCOM area of responsibility, China has made deliberate attempts to increase its economic and political influence with our close partners in Mexico and The Bahamas,” he said.

“While the United States remains the economic and military partner of choice in the region, China is seeking to grow its trade and investment in Mexico and, over the past few years, has invested in The Bahamas’ vital tourism sector through marquee infrastructure projects.”

Yin denied VanHerck’s assertion.

He said China has been committed to developing “friendly and cooperative” relations with Caribbean countries on the basis of mutual benefit.

“China has no intention to pursue geopolitical advantage in the region, nor seeks to replace anyone’s predominance in any part of the world,” Yin said.

“The remarks quoted in The Guardian report show a tendency of viewing the Caribbean as a backyard that no one else should get involved in. This is a reflection of typical Cold War mentality. The Caribbean region should not become an arena for major power competition and regional countries should not be forced into a position of having to take sides.”

He said cooperation between China and Caribbean countries is grounded on mutual benefit and mutual needs.

Yin said relevant investment and cooperation by Chinese companies were carried out on the basis of consultations on “an equal footing” and consistent with commercial principles and local laws and regulations.

The projects that China has participated in have played “a positive role” in improving livelihoods and creating jobs for local people, according to Yin.

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 China’s low-interest loan.

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.

Yin said the development of China-Caribbean relations does not target or exclude any third party.

“Quite the contrary, many of the projects in The Bahamas constructed by Chinese companies use design, equipment and materials from the US, are managed by American companies, and enjoyed by American tourists too,” he said.

“All parties are winners in such cooperation. We hope that relevant countries will abandon the outdated concept of zero-sum game and view China-Caribbean cooperation from an open and inclusive perspective.

“The development of China-US relations based on coordination, cooperation and stability serves the interests of both countries and is the common wish of people across the region.”

Yin said China is ready to continue working with the US in this direction.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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