Are Africa and Jamaica being colonized by China?
4 months ago Ricardo Hylton 0
(This is part one of a two part series. This week we focus on Jamaica and the Caribbean. Next week we’ll examine the Chinese in Africa).
Over the space of a few short months in 2013, the president of China was in the Caribbean. He had a checkbook. A month earlier, the vice president of the United States was also in the Caribbean. He did not have a checkbook. He left it in Washington DC. If you were a Caribbean leader, who would you welcome back?
A New World Order
Hundreds of Chinese workers are camped near the rows of trucks lining the roadways. The flag of the People’s Republic of China flies high overhead. This isn’t Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou; this is Jamaica.
As a Jamaican living overseas, I often hear gripes about U.S. influence in the world. Their cunning creation of a neoliberal, Washington consensus, post-World War II, American global order has been far from perfect. Cruel, punishing and deceptive. But if you don’t like it, just wait until China takes charge.
The Land of Garvey
There is a funny thing going on in 2017: the Chinese pretty much own Jamaica. The Jamaican government has given them land concessions. They are building fancy hotels and beach resorts. They are building schools and highways. In turn, like the cunning, scheming fox always extract from a deal, the Jamaicans have had give them the right to certain natural resources, the rights to certain waterways and if it doesn’t stop, Jamaica, ironically the land of Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley, will be the first Chinese colony in the Caribbean.
And you know why this is happening? Because the black bourgeoisie in both the Caribbean and Africa don’t have to live with the economic dislocation of the decisions they make. So if I’m the Prime Minister of Jamaica and the Chinese say, ‘listen we want to give you a million dollars for retirement, we want to build you a retirement home…and you can borrow as much money from the Bank of China as you want, I’m going to be rich by the time I leave office, that sounds like a good deal, right?’ But what about my nation? Jamaica will be struggling for the next 50- 75 years because of the inept economic decisions by selfish leaders today.
The Jamaican government agreed to give the Chinese 1,200 acres of prime real estate to build three luxury hotels with 2,400 rooms in exchange for the construction of a 67 km (41.6 miles) north to south superhighway across Jamaica. The roadway, named the “Beijing highway” since Usain Bolt allegedly declined the offer to have it named after him, will eventually be lined with luxury hotels, restaurants and bars. It is estimated to cut the drive time from the southerly capital city of Kingston to the northern resorts of Ocho Rios by nearly 60%.
Many in Jamaica are hoping that the Chinese will dig them out of their economic slump. The International Monetary Fund notes that poverty has increased 200% since 2007. While government officials remain hopeful, the trade unions and the people in the trenches are not so sure.
When Elephants Fight…
For a preview, look at Baha Mar, the $3.5 billion resort project in the Bahamas, that’s been rescued and ruined by Chinese state controlled entities, seen its founder shoved aside to placate China and now is about to the placed in the safe hands of Hong Kong’s billionaire Cheng family, longtime friends of mainland authorities and investors in Macau gaming. The biggest mystery remaining is whether the Cheng’s Chow Tai Fook Enterprises is doing a bigger favor for Beijing or Beijing is doing a bigger favor for Chow Tai Fook. The Bahamas? Forget them, they were just pawns in a game of chess; forlorn grass stranded below as Elephants fight.
In 2012, a brand new $35 million stadium opened in the Bahamas, a gift from the Chinese government. The tiny island nation of Dominica received a grammar school, a renovated hospital and a sports stadium, also courtesy of the Chinese. Antigua and Barbuda got a power plant and a cricket stadium, and a new school is on its way. The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago can thank Chinese contractors for the craftsmanship in her official residence.
China’s economic might has rolled up to America’s doorstep in the Caribbean, with a flurry of loans from state banks, investments by companies and outright gifts from the government in the form of new stadiums, roads, official buildings, ports and resorts in a region where the United States has long been a prime benefactor.
The Chinese have flexed their economic prowess in nearly every corner of the world. But planting a flag so close to the United States has generated intense vetting — and some raised eyebrows — among diplomats, economists and investors.
There are some commodities in the region that China wants. A Chinese company, Complant, bought the last three government sugar estates in Jamaica and leased cane fields, for a total investment of $166 million. In 2011, Jamaica for the first time shipped its famed Blue Mountain Coffee to China.
Several analysts in the Caribbean say they believe that China eventually will emerge as a political force in the region, with so many countries indebted to it, at a time when the United States is perceived as preoccupied with the Middle East and paying little attention to the region.
“They are buying loyalty and taking up the vacuum left by the United States, Canada and other countries, particularly in infrastructure improvements,” said Sir Ronald Sanders, a former diplomat from Antigua and Barbuda.
“If China continues to invest the way it is doing in the Caribbean, the U.S. is almost making itself irrelevant to the region,” he added. “You don’t leave your flank exposed.”
Bit by Bit
The “Beijing” highway was the largest single investment by the Chinese in the Caribbean – but not for much longer. During a visit to Beijing with her ministers in 2013, the Jamaican Prime Minister announced a project which will dwarf the road in both size and cost. It involves the Chinese building a $1.5bn deep water container port on islands in Jamaica using dredging and land reclamation to accommodate mega ships coming through the expanded Panama Canal.
But the islands – Goat Island and Little Goat Island – are internationally protected ecological sites, home to threatened species of birds, fish and reptiles.
The plan would involve the destruction of Goat Island, including wetlands, coral reefs and the largest remaining area of intact dry limestone forest in Jamaica. This deal was pursued with no discussion or transparency. The details of the port project have never been released, no plans have been put forward publicly and only by accessing information laws have we been able to get what details we have.
The invisible aliens’ concern is that international law and the Government of Jamaica declared this an environmentally protected area, so to turn around and announce while in Beijing that this port was being planned, before any discussions were held with anyone in the region, makes a mockery of our pretense to democracy. They seem to be selling off our islands not even perhaps to the highest bidder.
Who is Doing The Work?
The country’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson rejected warnings in 2013 from trade unionists that the presence of the Chinese will do little to lift Jamaicans out of unemployment, even though the then government refused to say how many local people would be employed on the project.
The Joint Industrial council – a coalition of building and construction workers – has said the Government’s claim that Chinese workers are only brought in to do advanced engineering work is “egregious and misleading” and the Chinese are doing common laborer’s work which could be done by Jamaicans. Simpson condemned the criticism saying discussion of the issue will send the message “do not invest in Jamaica” to the Chinese.
A Stealthy Seduction
China is waging an aggressive campaign of seduction in the Caribbean, wooing countries away from relationships with rival Taiwan, opening markets for its expanding economy, promising to send tourists, and shipping police to Haiti in the first communist deployment in the Western Hemisphere. And the United States, China’s Cold War enemy, is benignly watching the Asian economic superpower move into its backyard.
Recently, two Caribbean countries — Dominica and Grenada — switched allegiance to China, abandoning Taiwan, which China calls “a renegade province.” Though democratic Taiwan is self-governing, communist Beijing insists the island is part of China. The two sides split amid civil war in 1949 and Beijing has since refused to have ties with any government that recognizes Taiwan. “Democratic, market-oriented Taiwan is a thorn in its side,” said Steve Johnson, senior policy analyst at the conservative Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation. Two weeks before Dominica changed sides, Taiwan gave it $9 million. China promised Dominica $112 million over the next six years.
In the Caribbean, only five countries still maintain relations with Taiwan — the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. But China has commercial missions in the Dominican Republic and in Haiti, where China dispatched 95 police officers to join a U.N. peacekeeping force. It was Beijing’s first contribution to a U.N. mission in the Western Hemisphere.
China is overpopulated so they are always looking for ways to dump their excess population. What is truly sad is that the Chinese will turn up in South Africa poor, with nothing, but in a few years will own two or three major businesses because when the Chinese comes, they employ their own. Have you ever gone into a Chinese food store and seen anyone except a Chinese person? They don’t employ indigenous African labour. But the stupid Angolan or Jamaican leader tell their people let the Chinese come they will give you the jobs. But the jobs never materialize because the Chinese bring their own population, which makes sense from their perspective because they have so many people that need a place to go outside of China. They turn up broke and go back as millionaires.
In June 2013, during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Trinidad and Tobago, the then Prime Minister of the Caribbean nation, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in a fawning speech, had lauded President Xi’s vision saying, “We see in your China Dream a splendid opportunity for China to become a model for the world.”
Like a royalty holding court, President Xi thereafter hosted the leaders of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Suriname and Jamaica in Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad and Tobago, where he announced soft loans and investments worth US$ 3 billion as well as grants of up to $8 million for the region. President Xi’s visit was an effective and a graphic demonstration of China’s growing influence and outreach in the English-speaking Caribbean region, coming at a time when the United States had been somewhat less forthcoming with financial grants for the region.
President Xi’s visit to Trinidad was followed by a reciprocal visit by Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar to Beijing in February 2014, when, in a major breakthrough for Chinese arms sales to the region, the controversial purchase of a long-range maritime patrol vessel was agreed upon. This was again a demonstration of the growing Chinese influence over the governments of the region, which so far had been firmly under the largely malevolent gaze and geopolitical sway of the US.
The decision to buy Chinese patrol vessel also marked the first sale of a non-Western military hardware to the Caribbean nation since the end of the Cold War. In fact, acceptance of Chinese aid and investment has since become a norm in the English-speaking Caribbean, where the US has been conspicuous by its absence in respect of doling out large bilateral loans and grants. In quite a contrast, while the private American investment declined post the 2008 financial crisis, the Chinese investment in the region grew by more than 500% between 2003 and 2012, and had grown even quicker since.
Furthermore, the political compulsion of showcasing visible projects for maximizing electoral gains has rendered the region peculiarly susceptible to the allure of Chinese fiscal blandishments. A telling example was Persad-Bissessar’s purchase of the aforementioned Chinese patrol ship, which was selected against technical advice but which had the critical virtue of being deliverable prior to the elections. Trinidad’s previous government, under late Patrick Manning, too had projected the visually impressive Chinese-built National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) as a crowning achievement. Similarly, while the Bahamas pointed to the multi-billion dollar Chinese investment in the Baha Mar resort, Jamaica sought to benefit from the $750 million loan for the rehabilitation of its roads and bridges.
However, Chinese financial largesse has not come without its price as China insists on using its own contractors and laborers, bringing few employment benefits to the recipient nation. In fact, as early as 2009, Zhao Zhihai, a researcher with the Zhangjiakou Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Heibei Province near Beijing, had suggested before the National People’s Congress that sending Chinese laborers to Africa would create about 100 million more jobs and solve the problem of Chinese unemployment.
The impact on the chronic unemployment and underemployment plaguing Africa did not seem to attract any attention in his discourse. Furthermore, since Chinese laborers, whether legally or otherwise, have the propensity to stay on in the region, it could cause potential demographic shift among the small population of the islands of the region where even small numbers could have a significant impact.
In addition, the quality of Chinese construction has left something to be desired for as serious structural flaws have resulted in the closure of NAPA for more than a year with substantial costs to be incurred in its repair. Trinidad also experienced the ignominy of having to demolish an apartment complex built by China Jiangsu International Corporation as it was deemed unsafe for habitation. Even in the Bahamas, the “Chinese Dream” became something of a nightmare as the vaunted Baha Mar resort, reputedly costing $3.5 billion, has failed to open, with China Construction America (CCA) missing deadlines and facing numerous allegations of shoddy workmanship and poor construction quality.
An added complication is that with China’s Exim Bank having financed the deal, it has become virtually impossible to fire the Chinese contractors for sub-standard work. Given the strings attached to the Chinese financing, the benefit that the region seeks to derive from Chinese construction projects is therefore very questionable. Moreover, given the relative negotiating strength of the parties, it is evident that the Caribbean nations lack the means to leverage better contractual terms with the Chinese, the inevitable result being that construction contracts are skewed in favor of the Chinese contractors.
What are your real intentions?
What is yet unclear is the motive behind China’s outreach to the English-speaking Caribbean region. As a market, the islands of the Caribbean, with their tiny populations, do not offer much by way of a market for Chinese goods and services. Similarly, the resources of the region, oil and gas in Trinidad and bauxite in Jamaica, are too small and limited to offer much by way of economic incentives for the Chinese. China’s significant economic and political engagement in Latin America suggests that it does not look at the Caribbean as a gateway to that region. Rather, it can be cogently argued that the Chinese have been building their economic clout through “checkbook diplomacy” in various regions (see Africa), and that the Caribbean is no exception.
China’s push for influence among the Caribbean political elite has been replicated with an equally determined effort to court the military and the bureaucratic elite in the region, often deftly stepping in to take advantage of senseless overreactions on the part of the US such as the suspension of military aid to Barbados after it refused to sign a Bilateral Immunity Agreement (BIA), which in turn led Barbados to avail itself of China’s offer of military training and assistance.
China is continuing to increase and diversify its investments in the Caribbean region. On July 19 the Jamaican government announced that the Alpart alumina refinery in Jamaica had been sold for US$299m to the Chinese state owned entity the Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCo) owned by the Jersey-registered but Moscow-operated industrial giant, US Rusal.
According to Jamaica’s Transport and Mining Minister, Mike Henry, JISCo is expected to complete the full takeover of Alpart by November this year and will then begin a first phase of investment of around US$220m in modifying and upgrading the alumina plant to reduce costs and enhance production. Work permits are expected to be issued for around 200 Chinese technicians to achieve this and to undertake other activities.
The Minister also said that the company plans to invest another US$1.5bn to establish an industrial zone co-located with the alumina facility, which is located at Nain, St Elizabeth in the south of Jamaica. The project is expected over a four-year period to create over 3,000 new jobs.
Reflecting the political sensitivity of the continuing increase in the number of Chinese workers on the island, Mr Henry said that JISCo has been asked to provide details of the required job qualifications to ensure that “no Jamaican who is qualified for these…is left out.” He also confirmed that the company would be employing the existing Alpart staff, recruiting most former and available employees and creating around 700 new jobs from the latter part of 2016. He said that the company will be “paying great attention” to protecting the environment. Alpart had been closed from 2009 to 2015.
The acquisition made JISCo one of the top 10 producers of aluminium in China.
This Merry Dance
From afar, this merry dance by the Jamaican and other Caribbean governments with China seems a tad naïve. To allow the Chinese to have such a massive influence over our infrastructure will undoubtedly boomerang into our mortified faces in the near future. Controlling a country’s resources is even more powerful than controlling the offices of government. Because he (or she) that controls the economic resources of a nation, has those people in the tentacles of its menacing grip.
It’s amazing how brainwashed and gullible some people are. Or rather, refuse to understand what’s going on in the global scheme of things. China is no different than the U.S and Europe. In fact the same global colonizers have moved their headquarters to China. They bribe Caribbean and African leaders to accept loans for projects with stipulations that only Chinese materials can be used and only Chinese workers employed. These leaders like Dominica’s unscrupulous Roosevelt Skerrit have become extremely wealthy in the process. In the future when these leaders are gone and the countries default on the loans China will not hesitate to tighten the noose around these countries. What we looking at is the beginning of a New World Economic Order with China at the helm. The U.S is on the verge of relative decline.
Do you find it strange how the Chinese are so interested in primarily black nations? They are all over Africa but notice how they didn’t go to North Africa where the Arabs are. They’re all over the black West Indies but not in White(r) Caribbean nations like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela etc.
It would seem that the Chinese and other Asians, much like they do in America, see Blacks as an easy economic target to take over because of our disorganised state (years of oppression and destruction at the hand of foreigners, economic sanctions, unfair trading through IMF loan which European nations know Africans can never payback).
The invisible aliens remain wary of the Chinese.