National Security

China Works to Expand Influence in Caribbean

China seeks to expand its influence in the Caribbean through offering foreign aid and government loans to developing nations, the New York Times reported Sunday.

By backing countries such as Jamaica and Cuba, Beijing hopes to leverage its regional influence to gain support for China’s geopolitical aims. 

"There are a lot of reinforcing reasons that go beyond balance sheets," Robert Ellis, research professor of Latin American studies at the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, told the New York Times. "China understands intuitively the strategic importance of that space."

Though Caribbean countries represent relatively smaller markets, they are of major strategic importance due to their close proximity to the United States. The Caribbean is also on China's radar because many of the countries that recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty are located in the region.

"China’s objective is to gradually eliminate the recognition of Taiwan," Richard Bernal, former Jamaican ambassador to the United States, told the New York Times.

Beijing also hopes for assistance from Caribbean countries in multilateral organizations. China has capitalized on influence gained through foreign investments, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, to gain control of United Nations agencies.

China's efforts to make inroads in the Caribbean have already paid dividends. Beijing declared its intention in September to seek a "permanent friendship" with Cuba. This week, Cuba followed the lead of the Chinese mission to the United Nations in calling for an end to "white supremacy" and "institutional racism" in the United States, among other talking points often used by the American far left.

These efforts occur in a larger context of significant investment in the region from China. Over the last 15 years, Chinese investment in the Caribbean in the form of low-interest government loans totals over $6 billion, and that number rises by $62 billion when including Beijing’s support for Venezuela's failing oil industry. While Washington still outpaces Beijing in Caribbean investment by a significant margin, the current status of American foreign-aid programs is a matter of some concern.

Last week, the White House ousted Bonnie Glick from her position as deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development before she was set to inherit control of the agency from the outgoing acting administrator. Glick was known for her efforts to curb China’s growing influence in developing countries.