- REUTERS/Thomas Peter
- President Donald Trump must take an aggressive stand toward China’s dealings in the Bahamas.
- Americans should be concerned about China’s economic and political colonization of the Bahamas.
Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and founder and CEO of American Majority.
In the wake of President Trump’s 12-day trip through Asia, he must grapple with President Obama’s failure to address China’s economic war against the US. Obama’s failure has emboldened President Xi Jinping, with the would-be hegemon now using its muscle to seize private construction projects where Americans and US companies are involved.
The $3.5 billion location was expected to account for up to 12% of the country’s GDP, but is yet to be completed. This made it a target. In 2015, China – through the beholden Bahamian government – brought about the seizure of Baha Mar. Many American companies lost millions and are unlikely to be made whole by China.
One could be forgiven if they saw the move as innocuous. It wasn’t; America lost and China won.
Over the course of five years, China – through the government-owned China Construction America and its subsidiary China Construction Bahamas – was able to drive the development into bankruptcy. Cost overruns and shoddy construction caused the original developer to file for Chapter 11. In turn, the Bahamian government seized Baha Mar.
The state-owned Export-Import Bank of China then sold Baha Mar to Henry Cheng and his company Chow Tai Fook. Cheng is not your normal businessman. He is a Chinese billionaire and has been a major player in Macau, the Chinese gambling mecca that is, economically, eight times bigger than Las Vegas, as well as a home to substantial criminal ties.
The Bahamian government could have objected to the sale, but did not.
Americans should be concerned about what China’s moves in the Bahamas mean for the United States. As a result of their interference in the Baha Mar project, China has been able to create an unfair advantage that favored Chinese companies for future projects in the region. Developments and contracts that would have had serious American bidders if there had been a level playing field. Instead, the Bahamian government has been neutered and does Beijing’s bidding.
And as the Vancouver Sun recently exposed, when Macau casinos open in other parts of the world, they bring their criminal activity with them.
In May 2017, the Bahamian people rejected their corrupt government and threw it out of office because of a bad economy and unemployment. Since China became involved in Baha Mar, the Bahamas saw its credit rating sink to just above junk.
Bahamian voters – sick and tired of their country being pillaged by the Chinese government – gave a clear anti-China mandate to the new prime minister, Hubert Minnis – whose central campaign promise was to undo China’s control of the Bahamas and sell Baha Mar to a legitimate buyer. Unfortunately, he has seemingly not listened and is letting the sale of Baha Mar go through. As a result, China sees Minnis as no different than the prior prime minister, just another pawn.
President Trump needs to send China a clear message: The United States is serious about what is taking place in the Bahamas. There will be a price to pay for illegal and/or anti-America dealings, and we will not tolerate China’s aggressive economic colonization anymore.
Trump has nominated Douglas “Papa Doug” Manchester to be US ambassador to the Bahamas. It was one of the President’s earliest ambassador nominations, which signals its importance. While Manchester is awaiting confirmation by the full Senate, his presence in the Bahamas will help the United States oppose China’s anti-US moves.
Further, he will offer the Bahamian government a willing partner for the future that would help to create jobs for both Americans and Bahamians. Manchester must start by urging Prime Minister Minnis to veto the sale of Baha Mar to Cheng and his Chow Tai Fook.
The President can do this by directing the Department of Justice and Treasury Department to prosecute China Construction America for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in its dealings around Baha Mar. China Construction America is a US-based company and thus they and their subsidiaries are subject to US law. Local media reports reveal a top Bahamian Cabinet minister attempted to secure millions of dollars in contracts at Baha Mar.
President Trump has shown a willingness to do what others have not: Take on China and its economic warfare against the United States. There is no better place for him to start than in the Bahamas.