A crowd of 17,000, almost 5% of the population of the Bahamas, turned up to watch the firework display when a new national stadium opened in Nassau, the capital, on February 25th. A celebration of “our Bahamian identity and nationhood”, said the prime minister, Hubert Ingraham. In fact the stadium was designed and paid for by China, and built mainly by migrant Chinese labourers.
China’s investment and aid looms increasingly large in the English-speaking Caribbean. Not far from the stadium, China State Construction is deploying hundreds of Chinese workers at Baha Mar, a $2.6 billion resort financed by the Export-Import Bank of China. On Grand Bahama, 80 miles off Florida, Hong Kong’s Hutchison Port Holdings runs a giant container port; a sister company owns a clutch of hotels and casinos. Norwegian Cruise Line, whose ships tower over Nassau, is half-owned by Genting Hong Kong.
Most of these investments are business ventures on commercial terms. They are welcomed by local politicians, as is the aid. Many English-speaking Caribbean countries are heavily indebted, and their economies are stagnant. But local businesses fret over competition from state-funded Chinese rivals.