A strategic challenge for the US: China and the Bahamas

A primary focus of the Biden administration’s national security policy has been the great-power relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). That relationship is multifaceted. As Harvard professor and former Defense Department official Joseph Nye points out in a New York Times Article, “The competition with China is a three-dimensional game. And if we keep playing two-dimensional chess, we will lose ”. Nye’s three dimensions are military, economic, and social, but there is an important subset of the three: regional concerns.

The activity of the People’s Republic of China in The Bahamas is an example of the three dimensions plus regional activity that merge in a direct challenge to US interests. This challenge is not theoretical; it is existential. TO recent article In the Bahamian newspaper, The Nassau Guardian, it clearly states: “The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investment and Aviation, Chester Cooper, invites Chinese investors to seize opportunities in the tourism, agriculture and tourism sectors. renewable energy and partnering with the government on projects such as the upcoming public / private partnership (PPP) airport redevelopment project. “

Specifically, during the last twelve years, China has made a series of investments in The Bahamas, including a $ 30 million grant to build a national stadium; prime loans to build a $ 3 billion megaport in Freeport; and $ 40 million to build a port off the Bahamian island of Abaco. In addition, China EXIM Bank provided more than $ 54 million in prime loans to build a four-lane highway and loaned nearly $ 3 billion to build the Baha Mar Resort. The China State Engineering Corporation bought the British Hilton Colonial as part of a $ 250 million construction project.

The PRC’s involvement in The Bahamas is not simply about its willingness to invest in the island nation. It focuses on moving The Bahamas away from the US and into China. Due to recent crises, the Bahamas, a longtime ally of the United States, is more vulnerable to proposals from the People’s Republic of China. The Bahamas were devastated in 2019 by Hurricane Dorian. Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Dear that the hurricane cost the Bahamas $ 3.4 billion, about a quarter of its GDP. Adding an economic insult to the damage, the World Bank Dear that the COVID-19 pandemic caused an economic contraction of approximately 16.2 percent in 2020.

Furthermore, unemployment and poverty levels increased as a result of these two crises. It is worth noting that, according to the US Department of State, “Despite its designation by the World Bank as a high-income country, income inequality is higher in The Bahamas than in other Caribbean countries.”

There’s also strategic considerations for the US with the Bahamas. For example, the Coast Guard has been working with the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands for several years on a program to counter the flow of drugs through the region. The Navy has a submarine test center in The Bahamas. This year, the United States government provided $ 5.9 million in boats and communications equipment to the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF). The government of the Bahamas has supported US policy toward Venezuela and Nicaragua at the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

The threat China poses to US interests in The Bahamas did not go unnoticed by General Glen VanHerck, commander of the United States Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (USNORTHCOM). On testimony before Congress This year, he said, “China continues to pursue an aggressive geopolitical strategy that seeks to undermine the influence of the United States around the world and shape the international environment in its favor. In USNORTHCOM’s area of ​​responsibility, China has made deliberate attempts to increase its economic and political influence with our close partners in Mexico and The Bahamas. ”

the Biden Administration has shown a constant strategic effort to meet the challenge of China. On your recent trip to Europe, President BidenJoe Biden US Bishops To Consider Whether Biden Should Receive Communion Barrels Of Congress Towards Year-End Clash Biden Turns On Former New Orleans Mayor Landrieu To Lead Infrastructure MORE it lifted steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the previous administration. As part of the agreement, exports from the European Union would have to be manufactured entirely domestically without inputs from China. There was also an agreement to restrict imports depending on the amount of carbon involved in their production, which would have an impact on China. Commerce secretary Gina raimondoGina Raimondo At the White House, frustration over who can ask questions Biden commemorates Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery Biden hopes to turn infrastructure law into jobs quickly MORE It recently announced that the United States would work to use European and Asian supply chains, rather than those of the People’s Republic of China.

This nuanced strategy for responding to the global policies of the People’s Republic of China must include a specific response to that nation’s commitment to The Bahamas. There are some steps that would help the Bahamas and other allies in the Caribbean and throughout Latin America know that the United States appreciates the important role they play as neighbors and allies, countering the reach of the People’s Republic of China.

USAID and Development Finance Corporation (DFC) can work with investors and aid donors to help The Bahamas rebuild its economy. The IDB and the World Bank have the resources and expertise to complement the United States’ bilateral economic engagement with The Bahamas.

As General VanHerck pointed out, the United States has strategic issues that it must consider with regard to The Bahamas. A greater commitment to the RBDF, as well as a greater commitment to drug interdiction, would help strengthen the military side of the US and Bahamian ledger.

Tourism is a primary source of income and job creation for The Bahamas. The Commerce Department, in particular, should work with the Bahamian government to rebuild this essential part of its economy after Hurricane Dorian and the pandemic. Emphasizing creative approaches like ecotourism could help with this endeavor.

It has been more than a decade since the United States had an ambassador to The Bahamas. This sends a negative signal that the relationship is not important to the US, and it is playing the game of China. The United States needs an ambassador who not only knows the Bahamas, but also understands Washington’s complicated political environment, and those in the Senate who delay nominations must cease and desist. Our national security is at stake.

The Biden administration has the opportunity to continue its policy toward the People’s Republic of China by engaging The Bahamas as a counterattack to China’s efforts to expand its influence in the US backyard.

Patrick J. Griffin, a professor at the American University, worked as an assistant to President Clinton and was secretary of the Democratic Conference in the United States Senate.

William Danvers is an adjunct professor at the Elliott School at George Washington University and worked on national security issues for the Clinton and Obama administrations.


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