Under new leader Xi Jinping, China looks to continue the expansion of its international trade network. The communist republic’s relationships with Latin America and the Caribbean are central to that expansion, with bilateral trade between China and the region bringing in more than $15 billion per year on average, according to statistics from the state-authorized China Internet Information Center.
Over the last decade specifically, China has focused on its relationship with Jamaica, developing a number of mutually beneficial policies and infrastructure projects. Bilateral trade volume between the two countries has ballooned over that time, reaching $375 million in 2011, according to the Jamaica Observer. In the same year, the Montego Bay Convention Centre was opened with aid from a Chinese concessionary loan. Additionally, the China Communications Construction Company Limited agreed to invest $730 million with the Jamaican government to support the country’s North-South Highway Project.
Similar investments would likely be welcome within other parts of the region, and new Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Chairman Michel Martelly has already expressed his intent to open the Caribbean to foreign investors. A possible point of contention between China and the Caribbean could stem from the politics surrounding Taiwan’s sovereignty, as several Caribbean countries including Martelly’s native Haiti, still maintain diplomatic relationships with Taiwan.
China spent much of 2012 discussing new investments within Africa as well and considering projects to expand the infrastructure of developing nations such as Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. Critics of China’s fast moving investment plans believe that they take work away from local citizens, as Chinese administrators and workers are imported to complete the projects. Last year, in response to questions from Carubarena.com, former Caribbean diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders commented on China’s ability to take advantage of Caribbean countries .
“No individual country in the Caribbean can negotiate effectively with China. China is economically powerful and Caribbean countries are weak economically and militarily. These individual countries need China more than China needs them,” Sanders said.
“Therefore, China will always dictate the terms of trade, aid and investment and will be able to extract from individual governments support internationally for China’s positions, even when these positions cut against the grain of Caribbean values and traditions on matters such as human and political rights, trade unions and the right to self-determination.”