Cablegate: Prime Minister Christie's China Trip, the Latest in a String of Visits
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NASSAU 001515
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/11/2014
TAGS: PREL OVIP BTIO ECON SCUL CH BF ASEC
SUBJECT: PRIME MINISTER CHRISTIE’S CHINA TRIP, THE LATEST IN A STRING OF VISITS
REF: A. 03 NASSAU 2124 B. NASSAU 1412
Classified By: CHARGE ROBERT M. WITAJEWSKI FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).
1. (SBU) Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie will lead an official government delegation to China on August 14-21, continuing a two-year upswing in diplomatic exchanges between The Bahamas and China. In addition to numerous cultural programs, the two nations have exchanged high-level delegations to explore business opportunities and strengthen diplomatic ties. The majority of the Bahamian cabinet visits have been hosted by the Chinese government -- nominally to discuss Chinese support of The Bahamas’ membership in the World Trade Organization. Despite being separated by two oceans and a continental landmass, China is one of only four countries that maintains a resident ambassador in The Bahamas. The Bahamas’ largest port facility in Freeport is owned and operated by Hong Kong-based Hutchison-Whampoa. The Bahamian press gives generally positive and extensive coverage to China and interprets the growing China-Bahamas relationship as a sign of The Bahamas’ increasing importance in the world and friendship with a potential superpower. END SUMMARY.
BAHAMIAN DIGNITARIES “FREQUENT FLYERS” TO CHINA...
2. (C) Prime Minister Perry Christie is scheduled to visit Beijing and Shanghai from August 14 - 21, 2004. This will be the Prime Minister’s first official trip to China. Accompanying Christie will be his wife and daughter, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell, Minister of State for Finance James Smith, the Prime Minister’s Permanent Secretary Ronald Thompson, and two reporters. An advance team consisting of Chief of Protocol Andrew McKinney and Under Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Philip Miller SIPDIS has already departed for China. The Bahamian Foreign Ministry has been unwilling to provide details about the delegation’s itinerary, schedule or meetings, or the purpose of the trip.
3. (U) The Prime Minister’s trip to China is the latest is a stream of high-level Bahamian visitors to China since the PLP’s electoral victory in May 2002. In the past year, a number of Bahamian government officials have visited China including Cabinet-level ministers and members of parliament. On August 30, 2003, Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell and Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin both traveled to China. They met with the Chinese Minister of Commerce to discuss World Trade Organization (WTO) issues as the Bahamas prepares for WTO membership. Ministers Mitchell and Hanna-Martin also met with China’s Minister of Culture. While there, the Chinese arranged for Minister Hanna-Martin to commission a Chinese-built ship that will be registered with the Bahamas’ ship registry. Just two months later in October, Minister of Trade and Industry Leslie Miller visited Beijing, again ostensibly to promote The Bahamas’ accession to the WTO.
CHINESE PRESENCE IN THE BAHAMAS
7. (C) China is one of four countries to maintain resident ambassadors in The Bahamas. Ambassador Dongcun Jiao presented his credentials to Governor General Dame Ivy Dumont on August 21, 2003. During the swearing in, Governor General Dame Ivy Dumont thanked the Ambassador for his country’s assistance in the areas of education, agriculture, fisheries and the arts. Ambassador Jiao noted that the Bahamas and China have coordinated with and supported each other in international affairs. He further stated that the Chinese government is ready to make concerted efforts with the Bahamian government to build a China-Bahamas relationship of all-round cooperation in the interest of mutual development. Currently, the exceptionally large Chinese embassy in The Bahamas, given the paucity of bilateral business to conduct, consists of an Ambassador and six accredited diplomats. For its part, The Bahamas maintains a Consul General in Hong Kong but has announced that, following PRC suggestions, it will be establishing an embassy in Beijing and closing its consulate in Hong Kong.
8. (C) The largest Chinese investment in The Bahamas is the $1 billion Freeport container port owned and operated by Hong Kong-based Hutchison-Whampoa. Chinese dignitaries traveling to the Bahamas always visit Freeport and the port. Hutchison-Whampoa employs only five Chinese citizens in its Freeport facility, all in a management capacity.
9. (U) Madam Wu Yi, State Councilor to the People’s Republic of China accompanied by a delegation of 30 people, including six Chinese business leaders, visited The Bahamas in January 2003. During her visit to Nassau, Madam Wu presented the Bahamian government with a grant of $250,000 for various technical, agricultural, handicraft and cooperative projects. Additionally, a delegation of Chinese government officials visited Nassau on June 19, 2004, to finalize plans for the Chinese to grant the Bahamian government $20 million for construction of a national stadium.
10. (C) The Bahamas’ political and economic ties to China remain modest. Bilateral trade flows have increased, reaching approximately $95 million for the first eight months of 2003, and investment projects such as the Freeport port facility are always welcome. Some local commentators would like to believe that The Bahamas should attempt to use China as a counter-balance to the U.S. It is more likely, however, that Bahamian officials are merely using their moment in the Chinese spotlight to push for kinder WTO accession terms (at least as a starting point for negotiations with the other members) and to pick up whatever spare trade and investment projects a country of over one billion people can offer. For their part, the Chinese in The Bahamas may be a strategic move preparing for a post-Castro Caribbean. WITAJEWSKI