R. Evan Ellis
In his March 2023 annual posture statement to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, head of U.S. Northern Command General Glen VanHerck referred to the substantial commercial and other presence of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the Bahamas as “efforts to gain a foothold only 50 miles from the U.S. East Coast.”
Relatively little has been written in either the U.S. or Latin American and Caribbean media regarding PRC engagement in the Bahamas. Those activities, in both commercial and other domains, have been substantial and growing for more than two decades. Moreover, they are part of broader PRC efforts to expand its presence in the Caribbean, which is strategically important as the southeast maritime approach to the United States.
The Bahamas established relations with the PRC in May 1997. From the very beginning, the PRC has shown its recognition of the Bahamas strategic importance. Technically private Hong Kong based Hutchinson Whampoa bid for and won a concession for the Freeport Container terminal in November 2001, just four years after the Bahamas recognized the PRC. Although ethnic Chinese are a tiny fraction of the Bahamian population, the PRC has built a large embassy in the country.
As in other countries, the PRC has provided aid to the Bahamas, both after Hurricane Dorian devastated the country in September 2019, and during COVID-19, with a total of 13 batches of medical goods delivered in the four-year period between 2019 through 2022.
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