Sep 5, 2019 - World

Foreign aid for the Bahamas could spark a new China threat

Marsh Harbour on the Abaco Islands, Bahamas. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Bahamas soon will seek billions in foreign aid after Hurricane Dorian, and the Trump administration is considering the national security implications if China rushes to help.

Why it matters: China has projected power around the globe through its infrastructure spending, and this will create an opening for massive investments just off U.S. waters.

Sources tell Axios that the U.S. is working with Bahamian officials to help them navigate the bureaucracy to pursue avenues of assistance.

  • Administration sources say it's too soon for detailed conversations on how the China rivalry could play out in the hurricane's aftermath.
  • But officials involved in diplomacy, national security and foreign assistance understand that will be part of the equation after the initial response. 

The big picture: The official Bahamas tourism site has a whole page on "Our Proximity to the United States," with one island "[j]ust 50 miles off the coast of Florida" and Nassau, the capital, a "45-minute plane ride from Miami."

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative intertwines his nation with countries throughout Asia, Europe and Africa by investing in ports, railways, power grids, gas pipelines, oil pipelines and other massive infrastructure developments.

President Trump's approach to the Bahamas could be shaped by a foreign policy that includes supporting regime change in Venezuela; interest in buying Greenland from Denmark; trying to limit the reach of Chinese telecom giant Huawei into the U.S. and allies; and the trade war with Beijing.

  • Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis was among the Caribbean leaders who visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago in March after agreeing to stand with the U.S. in supporting Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
  • In exchange, Trump promised enhanced U.S. lending and investment. The White House previewed the summit by saying Trump is "working with countries in the region to strengthen our security cooperation and counter China’s predatory economic practices."

Between the lines: Huawei has already spent years investing in telecom infrastructure and hardware in Caribbean nations, including the Bahamas. Large swaths of the Bahamas' wiring has been wiped out and must be restored.

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