Discussion with Rasheed Griffith on China’s Influence in the Caribbean

One of the most overlooked regional relationships in the study of international relations is the one between China and the Caribbean. And this gap in the scholarship is further widened as the relationship is rising in international significance. To address this gap, on March 2nd, 2021, Tufts SURGE invited Rasheed Griffith to talk more about his research on the future social and economic consequences of this growing multilateral relationship between China and the Caribbean.

Mr. Griffith is the Head of Operations at Tokamak AI, the Director of the Caribbean-ASEAN Council, the host of the ‘China in the Caribbean’ Podcast, and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Future Forum.

Mr. Griffith reported that China has begun expanding its influence into areas outside of the Sinosphere. China has not only started to invest more in Caribbean companies, but it has also begun donating security equipment to their militaries. For example, in the past fifteen years, China has lent Jamaica alone around $2.1 billion to help improve its infrastructure and production of exported goods like sugar.

Furthermore, because of the recent onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, China has had the opportunity to deepen these relationships. For instance, China has gifted large quantities of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to Caribbean countries, and it has also promised to loan money to Latin American and Caribbean countries so that they have the ability to purchase and distribute large amounts of Covid-19 vaccine once it is more readily available for purchase.

This is significant to Washington because it represents how Beijing is beginning to challenge America’s hegemony in global influence. Similar to the way in which the United States sought allyship with countries inside of the Sinosphere after World War II—including Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan—this new interest in Caribbean politics could also signify that Beijing considers engaging in military conflict with the United States to be an event worthy of preparation due to the Caribbean’s close proximity to America.

Ultimately, China’s newfound interest in the Caribbean symbolizes how it is trying to redefine its relationships with other countries and expand its influence. It remains to be seen how the potential political realignment would impact American interests, most of the countries in the Caribbean would prefer to strive toward a path of political neutrality. As such, Mr. Griffith believes the United States should not worry too much about how China is choosing to become more politically involved in the Caribbean at the moment, but he advocates closer monitoring of the situations, specifically any future relationships they form.

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