October 30, 2020

U.S. intervention in the Caribbean comes on China’s heels


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margaret-myers-01-square-crop-1From 88.9FM Brownsville
NPR’s Audie Cornish talks with Margaret Myers, director of the China and Latin America program at the Inter-American Dialogue, about China’s involvement in the Caribbean. Over the past few years, the Chinese have financed infrastructure projects like new roads and cricket stadiums.

Transcript :


President Obama spent the day in Jamaica, where he met with the prime minister and discussed the U.S.’s role in the region. But in a town hall meeting in Kingston, the president was asked about another global power. China is increasingly a presence in the Caribbean. It’s spending billions of projects including ports, stadiums and hotels, and President Obama said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If China is making investments that are building up infrastructure or improving education or helping the people, then we welcome that. We think that’s great. The only thing is, you got to make sure you look at what strings may be attached.

CORNISH: To learn more about what China is doing, I spoke to Margaret Myers. She’s director of the China and Latin America program for the think tank Inter-American Dialogue. We began by discussing China’s most prominent project.

MARGARET MYERS: The one that’s received a lot of press of late is a hotel called Baha Mar, which is just about to open in the Bahamas. It’s a huge investment backed in some form financially by China Ex-Im Bank and is going to be, I believe, the island’s biggest resort. And so there’s quite a bit of anticipation about what that’s going to look like and what success that project is going to have upon opening. But it came with a huge agreement to employ thousands of Chinese employees. So, it was a little bit of a controversial deal at the onset.

CORNISH: So, there are strings attached?

MYERS: There were, in that case, strings attached. Exactly.

CORNISH: China has been well known for aggressively investing in resource-rich places – in countries in Africa, certainly in South America, and has been doing that for a long time. So, what is different about what they’re doing in the Caribbean? These are much smaller economies.

MYERS: These are much smaller economies, right. Which begs the question, you know, why is China so involved? Why is China so interested in the Caribbean? And one reason is because for a very long time now, for decades in fact, the Caribbean has been a location of considerable diplomatic competition between China – mainland China – and Taiwan. There are only a handful of countries that still affiliate themselves with Taiwan, diplomatically. And it just happens to be that the majority are in the Caribbean and in Central America. So, this ends up being a real hot spot in terms of China-Taiwan competition. And you know, makes, I think, the Caribbean disproportionately important for China, in terms of its diplomacy and foreign policy.

CORNISH: Do you think that China is thinking about the U.S., in moving into this territory so close to the States?

MYERS: There used to be sense just a couple of years ago that when China was operating in Latin America or in the Caribbean, that the U.S. was a factor perhaps in the way in which China engaged diplomatically, but also in terms of investment and trade even perhaps in the region. But now, it seems that perhaps the U.S. is a bit less of a factor. Across the board, Chinese diplomacy and also Chinese foreign policy seems slightly more aggressive. More recently, we see partnerships in the region between China and certain countries that would in some form have been thought to provoke the U.S. in the past, but, you know, it’s no longer seemingly a major consideration.

CORNISH: Margaret Myers thank you so much for speaking with us.

MYERS: Thank you.

CORNISH: Margaret Myers is director of the China and Latin America program for the think tank Inter-American Dialogue. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

For more on this story go to: http://88fm.org/u-s-intervention-in-the-caribbean-comes-on-chinas-heels/

IMAGE: Margaret Myers chinaandlatinamerica.com

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