By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE Chinese Embassy in Nassau yesterday denied any intention by its government to pursue geopolitical advantage in the region, adding it was disappointed The Bahamas’ relationship with China was recently cast in a negative light.
Embassy spokesman Yin Haigang said instead of the United States finger-pointing, it would be much better to do more for vaccine accessibility for developing countries, helping to create jobs and protect the livelihood of the local people.
These, he said, are the real concerns of people in this region.
The Chinese official was responding to recently published remarks in a local newspaper attributed to General Glen VanHerck, the US Air Force commander for the US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and North American Aerospace Defence Command.
While testifying before the US Senate Armed Services committee on March 16, the general said China continues to undermine US influence globally.
He warned that China is also attempting to use influence in The Bahamas by offering large-scale economic investments and material support for infrastructure projects.
General VanHerck said officials were closely looking at China’s influence specifically its attempts to influence the Bahamas, working through 5G, for example. He said the same was happening in Mexico. 5G technology is not currently available in The Bahamas, however last month Attorney General Carl Bethel announced telecommunications companies have submitted recommendations to the government for the implementation of such a network in the country.
General VanHerck was also adamant that China continues to pursue what was viewed as aggressive geopolitical strategy. This strategy sought to undermine US influence around the globe and shape the environment to its advantage.
Additionally he said in USNORTHCOM’s area of responsibility, China has made deliberate attempts to increase its economic and political influence with the United States’ close partners in Mexico and The Bahamas.
Responding in a statement yesterday, Mr Haigang said: “China has, over the years, been committed to developing friendly and cooperative relations with Caribbean countries on the basis of mutual benefit.
“China has no intention to pursue geopolitical advantage in the region, nor seek to replace anyone’s predominance in any part of the world.”
He said the remarks show a tendency of viewing the Caribbean as a backyard that no one else should get involved in.
“This is a reflection of typical Cold War mentality. The Caribbean region should not become an arena for major power competition, and regional countries should not be forced into a position of having to take sides.
“The cooperation between China and Caribbean countries is grounded on mutual benefit and mutual needs. The relevant investment and cooperation by Chinese companies were carried out on the basis of consultations on an equal footing and consistent with commercial principles and local laws and regulations. The projects China has participated in have played a positive role in improving livelihoods and creating jobs for the local people.”
Mr Haigang noted recent assistance to The Bahamas.
“In the spirit of building a community with a shared future for mankind, China has assisted The Bahamas in post-hurricane reconstruction and in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will soon provide another batch of medical supplies to this country. In the context of the ongoing pandemic, it is all the more disappointing to hear such negative comments about China-Bahamas cooperation.
“Instead of finger-pointing, it would be much better to do more for vaccine accessibility for developing countries, and for helping to create jobs and protect the livelihood of the local people. These are the real concerns of people in this region.
“The development of China-Caribbean relations does not target or exclude any third party,” he continued. “Quite the contrary, many of the projects in the Bahamas constructed by Chinese companies use design, equipment and materials from the US, are managed by American companies, and enjoyed by American tourists, too.
“All parties are winners in such cooperation. We hope that relevant countries will abandon the outdated concept of zero-sum game and view China-Caribbean cooperation from an open and inclusive perspective.
“The development of China-US relations based on coordination, cooperation and stability serves the interests of both countries and is the common wish of people across the region. China is ready to continue working with the US in this direction.”
General VanHerck, speaking at the US Senate Armed Services committee last month, also referred referred to China as remaining “among the world’s most capable and brazen cyber actors, stealing volumes of sensitive data from US government, military, academic, cleared defence contractors, and other commercial networks each year.”
This is not the first time that the US and China have faced off over the latter’s involvement in the country.
In December, the Chinese Embassy in The Bahamas said reports that China has spied on Americans via Caribbean phone networks were false and another attempt by the United States to sow discord between China and Caribbean countries.
The claims of China’s spying prompted a strong response from the US Embassy in Nassau.
At the time, the US Embassy in Nassau said trust cannot exist where telecoms vendors are subject to an authoritarian government, like the People’s Republic of China, that lacks an independent judiciary or rule of law that would effectively prohibit this misuse of data.