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Nancy Smith

If We Don't Take the Bahamas by the Hand, China Will

September 10, 2019 - 7:00am

Gov. Ron DeSantis was right Monday when he said Bahamas hurricane response and recovery are not Florida's responsibility, they're the federal government's. 

But the federal government had better come through with more than food and temporary shelter. These long-neglected neighbors of ours need leadership. And if they don't get it from us, China is more than willing to step in and take it over. 

The fact is, helping Bahamians put their country back together again is very much a national security issue for the United States.

Estimates of property damage in the islands go as high as $7 billion. Certainly the U.S. can't be responsible for footing that bill, but the State Department can direct traffic for the recovery -- take Bahamian officials by the hand and lead them through this massive crisis so close to our shores.

China is the worry. 

If we don't call the shots in the months and years ahead, we help the Bahamas let China further in than they are already. 

As National Public Radio reported last weekend, China will, if it's allowed, "use international aid efforts as a Trojan horse to establish a key player in a base of influence," and that would put a major communist power within striking distance of the Florida coast.

Doug Manchester, NOT the American ambassador
Doug Manchester, NOT the American ambassador

For more than eight years, the Bahamas has gone without an American ambassador. In 2017 President Donald Trump nominated San Diego publisher and hotel developer Doug Manchester for the job, but Congress couldn't stop squabbling long enough to confirm him. So, for years now, while His Excellency Huang Qinguo, ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, parades in and out of the offices and homes of prominent Bahamian officials, the American Embassy is the responsibility of Chargé d’Affaires Lisa A. Johnson. Chargé d’affaires sounds like a great title probably because it's French -- certainly not because it carries anything like the same heft as an "ambassador." 

"We're not important enough to the United States to have our own ambassador," a Nassau policeman told a British newspaper reporter.

True, the Bahamas is small, with a population of only about 400,000. But it's smack in the middle of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. The Chinese certainly picked up on that. China has invested billions of dollars in building new infrastructure and industry across the islands.

Huang Qinguo, the Chinese ambassador
Huang Qinguo, the Chinese ambassador

"New roads, new businesses, new hotels, and booming Chinese immigration has led to many companies being staffed with more Chinese workers than local Bahamians," claims a story in Virgin Islands News Online. "Reports show that more than 200,000 Chinese are illegally smuggled into the Caribbean every year to open their shops or work at Chinese businesses, with many sending their money back to China."

The Chinese government even gifted a new $50 million national stadium to the Bahamas. And China’s state-owned Export-Import Bank forked out nearly $3 billion to build the luxurious Baha Mar Resort in New Providence thanks to investments like these.

Some analysts go as far as to say China now owns The Bahamas.

What few Americans realize is, China built a port on one of the more remote Abaco islands some 180 miles off the U.S. coast. It's not exactly a secret, it's just something the American government doesn't crow about. Even the locals have been concerned about China’s potential military ambitions. Before Dorian, the port was empty, unused, and surrounded by barbed wire. How much storm damage it sustained is not known.

During the port's construction, a top official with the Bahamas’ then-ruling progressive party vowed that “China will actively provide military assistance to the Bahamas and defense dialogue.”

Sen. Marco Rubio is well aware of China's presence in the neighborhood. He is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues. Fancy committee title, but all it means is, there isn't much going on in this hemisphere Rubio doesn't know about.

Rubio, like Sen. Rick Scott, is pushing a strong American presence in the Bahamas' recovery effort. Now you know why.

Here's what we know about the Chinese investment in the Bahamas and the Caribbean in general:

The China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) began construction on the port in North Abaco in 2014. “The port will be used to store a variety of building materials including steel, limestone and cement and other items, up to 10,000 tons,” reported the Jamaica Observer.

“The project is valued at $US49M which will be funded by the EXIM Bank of China and the Government of the Bahamas,” the China Harbour Engineering Company said on its website. Locals and officials of CHEC also discuss the port on this Bahamian fishing-industry website.

In 2016 the government of the Bahamas promoted the Chinese port as one of its own and as a welcome sign of a bright future for the nation.

"Bahamas North Abaco Wharf Project is a new port constructed in North Abaco Island by the government of Bahamas to relieve the pressure of Marsh Harbour and meet the constantly increasing demand for passenger and cargo handling capacity in the context of constant development of North Abaco Island," said the press statement. "It is the first people-benefiting project undertaken by CHEC in Bahamas."

One skeptical commenter's posting sums up the local lack of confidence: “I just can’t wait until the U.S. media and U.S. public wake up to the fact that their government (the Obama/Hillary/Kerry government) has permitted Red China to set up shop (including deep water stealth submarine operations) in the Bahamas only a few short miles away from Florida and the entire Eastern Seaboard. I imagine most Americans will want all senior officials of the U.S. embassy in the Bahamas, the Dept of State in the U.S. and the NSA over the past decade or so to be drawn and quartered for high treason because of their serious failure to gather and act on intelligence information in order to protect the national security interests of the U.S.”

The Progressive Liberal Party in the Bahamas, which was in the majority until the 2017 elections when it became the second most-powerful party, oversaw construction of the port during its five years of governance.

Latrae Rahming of the Progressive Liberal Party and senior Chinese Caribbean Government consultant, said in a speech in Nassau on April 9, 2016 that the Bahamas is committed to a pro-China policy.

“China will actively provide military assistance to the Bahamas and defense dialogue,” Rahming said. “China donated $1.2 million to the Bahamas to purchase military equipment so as to improve jointly the capacity to respond to non-traditional security threats. Without a doubt, the Bahamas must prudently manage the complexities within the relationship. China’s growing presence in the Bahamas warrants active policy consideration. The Bahamas continues to be courteous to the advancement of China’s political, economic, social and cultural integration with the view of safeguarding its country’s long-term interest.”

None of this can come as a surprise to Rubio, because China's menacing approach to U.S. shores has been going on for so long. Here's what reporter Bill Gertz wrote in the Washington Free Beacon in 2013, in an article headlined, “China encircles U.S. by sailing warships in American waters, arming neighbors”:

“China has been quietly taking steps to encircle the United States by arming western hemisphere states, seeking closer military, economic, and diplomatic ties to U.S. neighbors, and sailing warships into U.S. maritime zones,” Gertz wrote. “The strategy is a Chinese version of what Beijing has charged is a U.S. strategy designed to encircle and ‘contain’ China. It is also directed at countering the Obama administration’s new strategy called the pivot to Asia. The pivot calls for closer economic, diplomatic, and military ties to Asian states that are increasingly concerned about Chinese encroachment throughout that region.”

The Obama administration may be gone, but Chinese encroachment remains.

The diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and the Bahamas has been described as "warm but not well-watched."

As China prepares to open its checkbook, point its rescue ships and submarines toward the Caribbean and cash in on its close relationship with an island people in desperate need of a new start, America needs to make a priority of being a real friend to The Commonwealth of the Bahamas. That's for us to do, not a communist country half way around the world. 

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. 

Comments

Yes, the USA should continue to help the people of the Bahama's. What irked me though is the untouched areas of the Bahama's are pushing for tourism over bringing those in need from the devastated areas to the hotels. Especially concerning when those in need could be helped by their own instead of coming to the USA....

The Bahamas belong to England. Why doesn't the Queen of England spend some of the money to rebuild the Island and help her people? Maybe she needs a new crown? Come on Queeny send some support for your people.

The vast majority of Bahamians are lazy and don't care about their fellow countrymen. The pathetic response to Dorian search and rescue is proof of this. Let the Chinese have them.

The media are the ones pushing for us to take in the Bahamas and give millions to the country and don't even mention that the Brits should take in the people not us!

It is not the State or Federal Governments responsibility to use TAXPAYERS money to help the Bahamas. They are an independent country and not our responsibility. China can't afford to help.

Right on! This people who think the U.S. should pay for every emergency in other countries are complete aholes.

Nancy is right. China pledged its support to Prime Minister Minnis a week ago.

It matters not who's "Control" the Bahamas are claimed to be under. We in Florida generally consider them to be "OUR part of the Caribbean", and OURS to 'watch over'. I care not what de Santis says - Florida, Georgia, and maybe the Carolinas need to support and cradle ALL of the Bahamian island "Like" they were our own. They are an "un-official part of our borders"! Come on FEDS - help us (and them) out here...

Go ahead start sending them YOUR money.

Nancy - You are on the right side of this. Ignorance and abandonment of our national resources and human values as a nation play right into Chinese hands. They will continue to eat what remains of our lunch - until we take back smart, functional good government.

This is a very important story Americans should all be aware of, Ms. Smith, but especially Floridians who don't realize how many Chinese submarines are sliding through their waters watching their shores already. Thank you for getting it out in the open now. I am doing and will continue to do my best to circulate it.

Could be! China could rebuild those islands, hotels, casinos, cruise ports and siphon a LOT of tourism away from Florida (which might turn out to be not such a bad thing!). Throw in Cuba and China gets a pretty big presence right off the Florida coast! The Bahamian government will take the best deal that comes along. They sure can't do anything about rebuilding the Abacos and Grand Bahama on their own!

LOL!!! Bahamians are just taking China for a ride, a lot like when they invest in the US, overpay and get stuck with losses...………….And Bahamas are EU, UK responsibility though US should certainly help as we are the only ones still actually helping...……...….As the survivors are saying, only the US is helping, not even the Bahamian government did in the first 5 days what the US did and they notice things like that...............As for building the port, just what was the US suppose to do, tell Bahamians they can't?? .

The Bahamas became totally independent of the United Kingdom more than 45 years ago.

Thank you, Anonymous. The Bahamas belong to no one but Bahamians. It has been an independent nation since July 10, 1973. There are more than 700 islands, rocks and cays that make up the Bahamas. It is still considered part of the Commonwealth, just as Canada is part of the Commonwealth, and has a parliamentary system and laws based on the laws and procedures of England. But the United Kingdom has no responsibility to the Bahamas, it has only that shared cultural history. Having said that, the British Royal Navy auxiliary aid ship Mounts Bay is in the Bahamas now, the Ministry of Defence press office in London says. The ship is fully equipped, capable of carrying amphibious vehicles and includes a helicopter for rescue and surveying operations. Every year during hurricane season the British government deploys an aid ship to the region to help if necessary.

Unfortunately, the Democrat terrorist party would love for the Bahamas to go over to the communist Chinese.

Good! they will cost us way to much in the future!

Nutty comment.

...which is pretty much every comment you post.

As a part of the British Commonwealth, What is the UK doing to aid the Bahamas?

The Bahamas have an English tradition and history - but, now, and since July, 1973, the Bahamas are an independent, sovereign nation, and no longer part of the so-called British Commonwealth.

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