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A "Transnational Middleman Minority" in the Eastern Caribbean? Constructing a Historical and Contemporary Framework of Analysis.

In this article, we present a historical and contemporary profile of Chinese immigration into the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region in general and the English-speaking Caribbean in particular, as a way of contextualizing a subsequent focus on the Eastern Caribbean island sub-group. The article is divided into three main parts. In Part 1, we set up the historical and comparative context for the rest of the article by providing a succinct introduction to the historical Chinese presence in the LAC region, and briefly profiling their social evolution from indentured workers in the colonial era to signature postcolonial roles as a fraction of the business elite (local ruling class) in the case of Jamaica. In Part 2, we provide a selective global framework for better understanding the post-1980s Chinese migration to, and presence in, the Caribbean. In Part 3, we turn to a focus on the Eastern Caribbean island-states, for which this post-1980s presence is particularly pertinent, and present some preliminary research findings on the new Chinese presence in venues marked by the absence of a pre-existing Chinese diaspora.

Historical Context: Huagong and Huashang Migrations

The small British islands of the Eastern Caribbean were not significant participants in the post-emancipation indentured labor system or "coolie trade" (comprising both East Indian and Chinese contract workers), although the Windward Islands of St. Lucia, Grenada, and St. Vincent each received a few thousand East Indian laborers, with the largest number, approximately 4,300, going to St. Lucia (Greenwood, Hamber, and Dyde 2008, 104). Of course, the East Indian indentured labor stream was vastly more important to the British West Indies than was the Chinese trade, given British colonial control of India, while the opposite was true for Spanish America, where the East Indian presence was minimal (Hu-DeHart and Lopez 2008, 11). So, while the British-controlled trade was practically synonymous with immigrant workers from the Indian subcontinent (and exceeded the Chinese migration to Spanish America by almost 200,000), the coolie trade to Spanish America was largely Chinese in origin. The British West Indies accounted for only about 7% of the more than a quarter million Chinese coolies who made their way to the Latin America and Caribbean region in the second half of the nineteenth century, the vast majority destined for sugar plantations in Cuba and Peru. The Chinese, who went to the British West Indies as indentured laborers, approximately 20,000 of them, went almost exclusively to British Guiana, Jamaica, and Trinidad (Look Lai 1993).

As Brereton and others have noted, soon after their arrival, the Chinese in the British West Indies "quickly emerged as a classic 'middleman minority,' a small ethnic group carving out a niche in the shopkeeping sector. They had virtually abandoned agriculture by the 1890s and nearly all of the men had become retail traders ..." (Brereton in Look Lai 1998, xiii). The nineteenth-century Chinese indentured flow was followed by further migrations of Chinese, which took three forms: a small return migration to China, re-migration (mostly from British Guiana) to new destinations within the circum-Caribbean region, and a new "free migration" from China, which took place in a period spanning the late 1880s to the 1920s and 1930s (Look Lai 1998,16). This new free migration was particularly pertinent for Jamaica, whose Chinese population in 1943 "was about four times that of Guyana in 1946 and exceeded that of Trinidad in 1946 by more than four thousand" (Ho 1989, 22). Evelyn Hu-Dehart (1994, 2002) has famously distinguished between the qualitatively different migrations of huagong (laborers) and huashang (merchants), and has been central to the study of different forms of Chinese migration to the Latin America and Caribbean region. The free migrations of huashang, for the most part, followed in the wake of the indentured labor migration. However, it should be noted that there were earlier Chinese merchant presences in Spanish Mexico and Peru that were offshoots of centuries-old Chinese mercantile networks in Southeast Asia. Look Lai (2010, 37) has reminded us that Chinese traders and producers had established a formidable mercantile and industrial presence in Southeast Asia that "preceded the arrival of the West in this region by several centuries," and was "not always formally acknowledged or encouraged by the imperial authorities." Through a Manila-Acapulco trade connection, these networks had extended to Mexico in the 16th and 17th centures.

In the Caribbean, a nigration of some 6,000 to 7,000 Chinese with a more or less distinct huashang geniture took place especially between 1910 and 1940, going mostly to Jamaica and Trinidad, with British Guiana, the main destination of the indentured stream, lagging in third place this time around (Look Lai 1998, 17). Indeed, in her foreword to Look Lai's 1998 documentary history of the Chinese in the West Indies, Brereton (xii) notes that "most of today's Chinese families in the English-speaking Caribbean are descended from post-1890 free migrants, not the earlier indentureds." The much lengthier, multilayered, and distinctive history of the Chinese in Jamaica presents the sharpest counterpoint to the current more singular and more recent instantiation of the Chinese presence in the Eastern Caribbean. Jamaica experienced migrations of huagong and huashang in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as two very distinct sets of circumstances, resulting in perhaps the clearest transmogrification of the image of the Chinese coolie and of the status of the Chinese as an ethno-class. In common with their counterparts elsewhere, many of the early immigrants "did not settle permanently and are not the ancestors of contemporary Jamaican Chinese" (Ho 1989, 13). The Chinese in Jamaica played a more unique intermediary role than they did in the ethnically plural societies of Trinidad and Guyana. Ho (1989, 15, 13) claims that, unlike their counterparts in Trinidad and Guyana, where they faced fierce competition from other "middleman" groups, like the Portuguese and Indians, the "only commercial competitors [of the Jamaican Chinese] were Syrians who were no match for them" (13). Bias against shopkeeper occupations from the white upper-class and brown professional class in Jamaica left the field wide open to the incoming entrepreneurial Chinese immigrants. Moreover, the Chinese in Jamaica, whose numbers had increased through kin-based chain migration fueled by strong entrepreneurial motivations, came overwhelmingly from an ethnic minority group, the Hakka, in contrast to the Cantonese majorities in Trinidad and Guyana. Ho (1989, 14) summarizes some of the findings from Lee's 1979 doctoral dissertation:
The preponderance of Hakka over Cantonese in Jamaica promoted ethnic
solidarity. In contrast to the Chinese community in Trinidad segmented
according to region of origin and linguistic ties, cultural homogeneity
among the Chinese in Jamaica enabled them to cooperate. After 1884, new
immigrants from China did not arrive in Jamaica by accident but by the
design of their Caribbean kin who wished to extend business. A
Chinatown developed in Kingston and radiated into the countryside.

In a seminal piece examining the ethno-class structure of the Jamaican ruling elite, titled "Race and Economic Power in Jamaica," Carl Stone (1991, 244-5) saw the early Chinese as part of "an intermediary grouping of minority ethnic groups [Lebanese, Jews, Browns, and Chinese] who dominated petty capitalist and small entrepreneurial sectors" and were positioned between "powerful Whites who controlled plantations and big corporations ... and the majority ethnic group [Blacks] that comprised most of the wage labour force and most of the small peasant farmers." According to him, in the post-independence period, the Chinese emerged from their modest middleman or "intermediary role," where they, along with Browns, had lagged behind the Lebanese (1) and Jews, to ultimately join these groups in "reconstitut[ing] a new and powerful capitalism which included the Whites but eliminated the latter's ascendancy and dominance" (251). Stone saw the Chinese (though still secondary to Whites, Jews, and Lebanese) as one of the groups that had been pushed "upwards and out of the intermediary grouping into becoming part of the dominant ethnic grouping in the Jamaican economy" (253). By the 1980s, despite (ultimately unsuccessful) politically facilitated attempts at inroads by Blacks, "the Browns, Whites, Jews, Lebanese and Chinese [were] evolving into a single unified ethnic minority of powerful families controlling the country's corporate sector" (262).

The evolution from indentured worker-turned-colonial "middleman minority" into an ethno-class fraction of the postcolonial ruling elite--if one broadly accepts Stone's analysis--marks the history of the old Chinese diaspora in the Caribbean, most distinctly in Jamaica. But, of course, this history did not extend to the smaller islands of the Eastern Caribbean, making them virgin territory with regard to the new, post-1980s migration into the region. This new migration has also added a novel and complicating dimension to pre-existing Chinese-Caribbean ethnic communities forged out of the formation of a colonial/postcolonial diaspora, in effect heterogenizing the sub-ethnic, class, and cultural and political identities of these communities, if it is even appropriate to label them as such. In Jamaica, for example, many of the newcomers are small merchants who avoid the larger and more established Kingston markets and who bear a striking resemblance to their Eastern Caribbean counterparts profiled below (see Green 2017 for a fuller discussion of this). Whether or not they are destined to join their co-ethnics (broadly speaking) in an ethnically bounded upward--and national--trajectory remains to be seen. What is clear is that their presence has considerably diversified the sub-ethnic and class base of the Jamaican Chinese population (Shibata 2005). The experience of Jamaica, like the Eastern Caribbean islands, a predominantly Black society, provides an important historical and comparative reference-point for the Chinese immigrant story unfolding in those islands.

Before moving on to a focus on the Eastern Caribbean, it is important to not that the bifurcated huagang/huashang model, while perfectly characterizing the colonial history of the Chinese in Jamaica, Guyana, and Trinidad, is an inadequate reflection of the diversity of the Chinese experience in the Latin American and Caribbean region as a whole. Indeed, it is largely irrelevant to the largest increments of Chinese population growth in the LAC region outside of the historical centers of Peru and Cuba. Both Hu-Dehart (2002) and Look Lai (2010, 43) suggest that some of the free migrations into the region were really extensions of, or diversions from, the Chinese migration to the US, which took a distinctive form. Look Lai describes this form as "a marginal non-white version of the large transatlantic European movements" that were "largely self-driven and self-organized" (ibid.). Today, the largest centers of Chinese presence after Peru (which maintains the lead) are in countries like Venezuela and (for the CAC sub-region) Panama, neither of which was a noteworthy participant in the colonial-era coolie trade. Venezuela's Chinese population, by some reports surpassed today only by Peru's, did not swell to its current proportions until fairly recently, growing from an estimated 20,000 in 1986 to 400,000 in the beginning of the twenty-first century (Lizcano Fernandez 2005, 201). This population experienced a number of growth spurts, beginning in the 1920s with the opening up of the oilfields, in the 1950s and early 60s, when large numbers fled revolutionary governments in China and Cuba, and, most dramatically, as a result of China's recent opening up (see Tinker Salas 2009). Secondary migration or re-migration within the Americas has also accounted for a large share of Venezuela's Chinese population growth. Panama has by far the largest and most diverse ethnic Chinese population (approximately 200,000) in Central America, representing a similar proportion of the national population (5-6 per cent) to that of Peru. In broad similarity to Venezuela, the history of the Chinese in Panama is linked only minimally to indentured labor and not at all to a plantation economy. As Siu (2005, 39) notes, "indentured Chinese labor was short-lived in Panama." Instead, the Chinese presence was driven primarily by the independent migration--and re-migration within the Americas--of merchants and workers, starting in the late nineteenth century, to centers of US/foreign investment in railroad and canal construction. In other areas like Venezuela and northern Mexico (Hu-Dehart 2002), Chinese immigrants were attracted to mining sites opened up by US and other foreign investors. Spurts in Chinese migration to Panama had a familiar pattern in this context: triggered by foreign investment enclaves, the Chinese and Cuban revolutions, re-migration within the Americas, and China's more recent opening. Significantly, the striking impact of the post-1980s opening up is evident all over the region.

Another lesson to keep in mind as we look at the Eastern Caribbean case, is the tremendous fluctuations that have occurred in the Chinese populations of the circum-Caribbean region over the last 100-plus years. The most dramatic population shift took place in Cuba, which went from having the largest population of Chinese indentureds and post-indentureds in Spanish America (approximately 50 percent or more of the entire LAC regional total) (2) to the smallest Chinese remnant today (largely as a result of the post-Cuban Revolution exodus). Significant, if somewhat less dramatic, fluctuations have also occurred in Jamaica, Trinidad, and Guyana (which has been the most important source of regional re-migration among the three). Bryan (2004, 24) reported that there were 11,710 Chinese in Jamaica in 1970, but a massive exodus in reaction to the leftist government of Michael Manley reduced that number to 5,320 in the ensuing decade. There was a third migration of ethnic Chinese (both workers and traders) to Jamaica from Hong Kong and the PRC during the 1980s, bringing about a notable distinction between Old Chinese and New Chinese even before the most recent arrivals from the PRC (Shibata 2005). Even then, the self-identified Chinese population registered by the 2011 Jamaican census comprised only 5,223 persons. Trinidad also experienced a post-independence decline in the self-identified ("unmixed") Chinese population, numbers plunging from 8,361 in 1960 to 3,800 in 2000. (3) The 2011 census registered just a slight increase in the numbers of self-identified Chinese to 4,003 persons (Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago 2011). The use of the term "unmixed" signals another significant mode of Chinese attrition or mobility--racial mixing. Lopez (2010, 215) has noted for Cuba, for example, that "the relatively low numbers of Chinese women ... led to a 'mixed' community by the mid-20 century." If mixed-race sons, in particular, were sometimes sent to China to cultivate a Chinese patrimony, this was far less true for daughters or for generations beyond the first Caribbean-born one.

In the territories with an older Chinese diaspora, three things are evident, therefore: (1) racial mixing has long been an important conduit of dis-identification from a primary Chinese identity; (2) there has been a significant post-independence exodus of Caribbean Chinese to North American and other destinations, reducing their numbers considerably before significant new post-1980s immigration occurred; and (3) new immigrations, from Hong Kong and China, have considerably diversified and transformed the Old Chinese communities. In the Eastern Caribbean, an early restlessness has already become evident among the post-1980s Chinese entrepreneurial immigrants, among whom the turnover has been as high as thirty percent since the early 1990s (authors' estimate), prompting a number of questions regarding the potential trajectories of this new population. In the next section, we look more closely at the nature of the current migration into the region, as we try to chart points of continuity and discontinuity.

A Framework for Understanding the New Migration

If we consider the historical sweep of the Chinese presence in the LAC region, a number of key factors emerge as both independently and intersectionally determinative: (1) global or world systems and the fueling of mass migration through the demand for labor and/or goods (historically, this distinguished the huagong and huashang streams); (2) the positionality and role of the Chinese state; and (3) a longue-duree tradition of independent, transnational, entrepreneurial ethnic-Chinese activity and networks (see Kwee 2013). Obviously, the operation of these variables and their mode of intersection has changed through time, the key being the movement of China from the margins to the center of global capitalist political economy. Whereas China's earlier relationship to the English-speaking Caribbean was largely driven by the requirements of British colonialism (despite belated Chinese state pushback), today, the relationship is largely driven by China's agenda, given its repositioning in the world order. Second, while the itinerant Chinese merchant may seem to be a familiar transhistorical figure, Pal Nyiri (2011, 147) reminds us that "contemporary Chinese migrant entrepreneurs have been heavily dependent on China in ways their predecessors were not." Whereas "[c]olonial 'middlemen minorities' marshaled trade between the colonies and the metropoles and made use of China largely as a source of labour, ... [f]or contemporary migrants, China is a source of labour, merchandise, and capital" (ibid.).

Arguably, however, the tradition of independent transnational Chinese entrepreneurial migration runs deep and represents some significant continuity with the past. In a detailed account, Kwee (2013), for example, has challenged both the attribution of Chinese economic supremacy in Southeast Asia (admittedly a different case) to the facilitating role of European colonial empires and the rejection of all cultural explanations of Chinese economic success as cultural-essentialist and therefore inadmissible. He makes two key arguments. First, he provides abundant evidence of the independent and widespread commercial activities of Chinese migrants and sojourners as wholesale and retail traders, contractors, commodity producers and artisans "prior to the establishment of formal colonial rule" (7). He also documents the ways in which the Chinese were able to retain their competitive edge and favored position over other "middleman" minority and indigenous groups, even after being subject to various bans and restrictions on the part of colonial and postcolonial authorities. Second, in demonstrating how the Chinese instrumentally deployed "particular types of associations for mutual aid that were based on [religious and ancestral] home traditions" (8), he suggests that there are other ways to think about culture, not as enduring internal predispositions and proclivities, but as portable and replicable institutional frameworks and organizational models that can be animated to great effect. Significantly, he has noted that while these institutions are maintained today "mostly as tradition," a "new development appeared in the 1990s, as the People's Republic of China and provincial authorities started to use these organizations to appeal to overseas Chinese investors" (30). This resonates in complex ways with anthropologist Pal Nyiri's accounts of the cultivation by the PRC of a renewed transnational ethnic Chineseness, centered in the Chinese state, among "overseas Chinese." Certainly, one of the big differences we see with the past, is the participation of Chinese migrants from all over, and not just from traditional commercial migrant-sending provinces (like Guangdong and Fujian), in entrepreneurial migration. While the age-old support institutions based on extended kinship and guanxi remain important operational tools among the migrants, the links to the ancestral village have weakened in favor of the globalizing nation-state. As Tjon Sie Fat (2009, 137) noted, in the context of Suriname, "the category of New Chinese must be understood in the context of policies which are designed to keep migrants loyal to the modernization project of the PRC."

Even beyond loyalty to nation-state, however, is the fact that the very survival of the new merchants depends on their economic ties to China, through which they continue to be transnationally reproduced or sustained. The question remains: Will the transnational conditions of their economic lifeworlds translate into sustained loyalty to the Chinese state? Will they lead to "ungrounded empires" of supra-national ethnic-Chinese capitalism and related professional networks (Ong and Nonini 1997)? Or will they prompt a bid to become part of the regional Caribbean business class, with some level of commitment to Caribbean futures?

China itself is a complex case that combines features of both the Global South and the Global North. The case of Chinese entrepreneurial migration to the Global South contradicts world-systems theory explanatory models in many ways. World-systems theory predicts that capital will flow from the core to the periphery, while migrants move in the opposite direction (Massey et al 1993, 459). The Chinese migration to the Global South is clearly inconsistent with that prediction, as the private migration flows parallel the direction and intensity of China's outbound state capitalism. Moreover, existing political economic theories of international migration focus almost entirely on the asymmetric relationship between the poorer, weaker sending state in the Third World and the richer, more powerful receiving states in the First World. However, with regard to Chinese migration to the Global South, China is a migrant-sending country with a great deal of power to exert significant political influence on the receiving countries. China is not unique in sending both capital and migrants outward, since India and other "newly industrialized countries" (NICs) are increasing their economic and political influence in Africa and other parts of the Global South too, while remaining migrant-sending states. However, China may be unique in a combination of ways: (a) the consistent and continuing selection of Global South destinations by so many of its entrepreneurial and associated labor migrants, and (b) its growing role as the most important global agent of development assistance to a wide swathe of Global South countries. From the point of view of the Global South, what is important about China, specifically as a migrant-sending country, is not so much the fact of continued mass emigration, but the type of settler-migrants for which their countries are a targeted destination (and which characterizes the novelty of the Eastern Caribbean experience)--that is, entrepreneurial migrants.

Pal Nyiri (2001, 2011, 2012), the Hungarian anthropologist, who has made a substantial and longstanding case for the emergence of a new Chinese "transnational middleman minority" in "poor" and "transitional" economies, has pointed out that the Chinese state shifted from a more or less anti-emigration stance before the 1980s to a position which "celebrat[es] migration itself as a patriotic and modern act, thus encouraging transnational practices among people who are in the process of, or just preparing for, leaving China" (Nyiri 2001, 635). According to him, after 1989, entrepreneurial migration from China developed on a mass scale, with "these new entrepreneurial migrants going to countries with no recent tradition of Chinese immigration, but where there was high demand for low-cost consumer goods produced by China and a lax regulatory environment" (Nyiri 2011,145).

In many ways, the Caribbean fits Nyiri's criteria, despite a continuous trickle of ethnic Chinese immigration into territories with a pre-existing diaspora. Although the English-speaking Caribbean territories, with the exception of Guyana, are all considered "upper middle income" to "high income" countries, most are struggling with deeply entrenched legacies of historical dependency, post-preferential economic uncertainty, neoliberalized economies, high levels of indebtedness, and small-island ecological and market-size fragility. The end of EU preferential regimes for bananas, predominantly a small-farmer crop, and sugar, the classic colonial-plantation product, has left the islands previously dominated by one or the other of these export regimes particularly vulnerable. Apart from rival diplomatic alignments between Taipei and Beijing and diversity in ethnic make-up, these territories are differentiated by size and resource base and by mode-of-production variability. The larger territories of Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and Guyana have larger populations, ranging from 2.8 million to 771 thousand in 2016, as well as a significantly more complex natural resource endowment, including oil, bauxite, gold, and timber among other extractive industries. Barbados and the Bahamas, with populations of 285,000 and 394,000 respectively, and other kinds of resource strength, could be said to belong to an intermediate group in terms of "size," while the Central American territory of Belize (despite its middling population of 367,000) and the OECS islands occupy the other polar extreme. The second division is between largely wage-labor economies and "hybrid" or "dual" small farmer/wage-dependent economies, which correlates neatly with the high income/middle income distinction, but not with size. Hence Jamaica and Guyana both belong to the (relatively) poorer group, while the OECS islands are split between the high-income islands of St Kitts-Nevis and Antigua-Barbuda, both classic-plantation-turned-classic-tourist-economies, and the middle-income islands of Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent & the Grenadines, the recent banana-exporting cluster, which are themselves becoming increasingly dependent on tourism and offshore activities. Despite the differences, what remains clear is that all the units share certain basic historically shaped vulnerabilities pertaining to infrastructural and institutional underdevelopment and economic dependency.

The new Chinese presence in the Caribbean, as elsewhere in the Global South, takes two main forms: the Chinese state (more precisely rendered as the "Chinese overseas state")--as diplomatic ally, donor/development agent, and (to variable degrees) direct purveyor, through state-owned enterprises (SOEs), of investment and trade--and the private entrepreneurial immigrant (with associated coterie of family members and workers). Most contemporary migration into the region is directly related to these two forms, and thus tends to be of two main types: state-sponsored sojourners (professionals and laborers) - associated with diplomatic and ongoing development (e.g. agricultural) missions, large-scale infrastructural donor projects, and SOE investments and operations --and private entrepreneurial immigrants, together with their privately sponsored and more peripatetic and transient workers. As in Africa, large-scale "proletarian" in-migrations tend to be state-sponsored, short-term, and project-specific, given the well-known practice by the Chinese state (and Chinese capital) of supplying its own home-contracted workforce for the large infrastructural and other donor (or contract) projects it undertakes all over the Global South. Chinese migration fueled by mass demands for labor or goods has a more particular resonance in countries of the Global South than those of the Global North, where student and skilled or professional migrant circuits occupy a vastly more prominent and expanding component. Huiyao Wang, a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, noted in a 2014 presentation that "a remarkable feature of Chinese emigration has been the growth of skilled migrants, including students-turned-migrants, emigrating professionals, academics and chain migrants." While he concedes that "student migrants and other diplomats (such as journalists)" are also increasing in the case of Africa, topping the list for that continent are "temporary labor migrants" and "independent entrepreneurial migrants." This is the pattern for the Caribbean as well.

Today, therefore, the renewed flow of Chinese into the Caribbean region is taking place under the changed circumstances of China's ascending position in the global economy and polity, and its autonomous and proactive state-to-state donor relationship with the now constitutionally independent but still economically dependent micro-states of the English-speaking Caribbean. Two specificities stand out vis-a-vis the countries of South America, particularly the largest ones: First, whereas their economic relations with China are primarily export-driven, the CARICOM countries are mainly recipients of Chinese development aid and, increasingly (like most countries), importers of Chinese products. Second, the CARICOM territories, in conjunction with the Central American countries, remain an important theater for the ongoing, if increasingly marginal, diplomatic rivalry between Taipei and Beijing. Both of these specificities are more particular to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) countries than the larger CARICOM states (all of which are diplomatically allied with the PRC).

However, there are broad CARICOM commonalities, as noted above. Richard Bernal (2016, 4) has taken pains to elaborate upon the point that, in contrast to its large-scale trade with and related investments in South American countries, "[c]apital flows from China to countries in the Caribbean have so far largely been composed of development aid in the form of loans to fund infrastructure projects, built by Chinese enterprises." Large-scale investments in agricultural and extractive resource industries for export to the Chinese market are restricted to the large Latin American countries of Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Argentina (making China their largest or second-largest export partner), and are not generally significant for the Caribbean, despite some exceptions. McElroy and Bai (2008, 228) note that "[b]y Latin American standards, the PRC's trade with the island Caribbean is modest, accounting for less than 10% of the LAC total with the lion's share going to the large mineral exporters, Trinidad, Jamaica and Cuba, which supply half of PRC sugar and a third of PRC nickel imports." (4) Investment in the tourist sector is also growing in significance. On the whole, however, "China's FDI in the Caribbean is very small, both as a share of China's FDI and as a share of the total stock of FDI into the Caribbean," amounting to US$604.45 million in 2013 (not including the US$2.6 billion port facility in Freeport, Bahamas), with US$111.3 million and US$135.1 million going to Cuba and Guyana, the largest recipients, respectively (Bernal 2016, 8, 7-9). The Caribbean has a spiraling trade deficit with China, while the South American countries' resource exports to China have sustained a more balanced trade profile, and, in some cases, a trade surplus, (5) albeit one which is badly skewed towards primary exports and which will ultimately favor China's manufactures. Not only do the EU and the US remain the most important (though relatively--and, in some instances, rapidly--declining) recipients of Anglophone Caribbean exports, but the sub-region's economic relationship to China is mainly as an importer of aid/concessionary capital and cheap consumer goods. Bernal (2015, 1414) notes that this sets the Caribbean apart, not just from Latin America, but also from "Africa and developing countries in Asia, where [exports to China] account for 10.5 per cent and 11.5 per cent, respectively."

Second, the Central America and Caribbean (CAC) sub-region is uniquely significant as one of the last remaining theaters of diplomatic rivalry between the PRC and Taiwan (ROC). Before Panama's recent (and not unexpected) shift to the PRC, twelve of the 21 states which still recognized Taipei over Beijing were in the LAC region, with all but one (Paraguay) concentrated in the CAC sub-region. Even after the succession of regional defections from the Taiwan camp that took place in the first decade of the 21st century (6) (and Panama's recent switch), the region still accounts for just over one-half of Taiwan's remaining diplomatic alliances worldwide. In addition to five Central American states, two of the largest island-states, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and three small English-speaking island-states remain within Taiwan's diplomatic fold, placing that group just one unit shy of the group aligned with China in the CAC sub-region (but dwarfed by PRC allies in the wider LAC region). Indeed, the six independent micro-states that make up the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are evenly split between the PRC and Taiwan in terms of diplomatic ties. While one might assume that it is just a matter of time before the smaller island holdouts give in to the prevailing status quo, in a 2016 white paper, Prime Minister Gonsalves vigorously defended his decision to "maintain and deepen" diplomatic relations with Taiwan. In doing so, he cited the declining strategic importance of the rivalry and the increasingly accepted modus vivendi between continued diplomatic relations with Taiwan and China's growing economic role. In a 2014 interview with one of the authors, Prime Minister Gonsalves repeatedly pointed out that while his government had diplomatic relations with Taiwan, "we do business with mainland China" (through the private sector and intermediary institutions like the Caribbean Development Bank).

Indeed, lack of formal diplomatic status in some Caribbean countries has not proven to be a major deterrent to either Chinese state-economic outreach or the private Chinese migrants, who have settled and do business everywhere in the Caribbean. Despite its predominant diplomatic alignment, Central America's trade with China has far outpaced that with Taiwan, a pattern increasingly seen among Taiwan's remaining allies (China and Latin America 2014, on-line). China has bypassed the lack of diplomatic relations in Central America by sending trade missions, establishing trade offices, sponsoring friendship associations with China, and striking, or attempting to strike, far-reaching trade deals with the various countries. China's economic prominence in Panama's Canal Zone, for example, had been evident for some time. Closer to home, the China-Caribbean Joint Business Council, the state-led institutional vehicle for fostering business cooperation with the countries of the region, includes the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Taiwan's two biggest diplomatic allies in the insular Caribbean (Bernal 2015, 1412). Moreover, within CARICOM, state-owned or semi-private Chinese firms are no longer limited to operating under the authority of state donor projects and can bid on Caribbean contracts on their own account. As Bernal (2015, 1422) explains, "Chinese firms initially made their entry based on tied aid from the government of China but have now started to win contracts through competitive bidding." Because of China's (non-borrower) membership of the Caribbean Development Bank, their activities easily cross diplomatic lines within the Caribbean sub-region when they win tenders, on equal terms with local/regional companies, through that institutional context. Prime Minister Gonsalves, for example, noted in the 2014 interview that, through CDB tenders, the Chinese have built schools and hospitals in his and other Taiwan-aligned islands. However, it remains true that those countries that have accepted the "One China" policy are the chief recipients of Chinese aid, while the others continue to rely on what appears to be less spectacular Taiwanese support.

As pointed out above, the Chinese presence in the Caribbean comes in two main forms: purveyors of what we call the "overseas Chinese state" (embassies, development assistance projects and missions, and state-owned enterprises) and private entrepreneurial migrants with their family and worker networks. In the Eastern Caribbean, the overseas Chinese state is heavily weighted towards donorship, especially infrastructural development assistance and construction projects. The list of projects funded (by outright grants or soft loans or a combination of the two) and built by the Chinese state in the Caribbean in the last twenty or so years includes state houses, roads, sports stadiums, deepwater port and airport facilities, schools, state colleges, cultural and convention centers, hospitals, housing developments, power plants, and shipyards. The OECS islands which have signed on to the One China policy have been the beneficiaries of several of the types of projects listed. Dominica, for example, has received, through grants or soft loans, a stadium, state house, stale college, roads, and a major hospital refurbishment and expansion; Antigua, a cricket stadium, a new airport terminal, community centers, a port modernization project, a facility proposed as a future university campus, low-income housing, and a power plant, among other things. (8) All told, tens of thousands of male Chinese workers have sojourned in various parts of the Caribbean during the last twenty years, typically housed in makeshift labor encampments for the entire duration of the projects, which sometimes last years. The spectacle of large contingents of foreign workers, working day and night shifts to complete large projects, has had a striking impact on these small island societies, often sparking political controversy (see Green 2014, 2015, 2017).

In the rest of this article, we focus more particularly on the private entrepreneurial immigrants who have been the main subject of our research.

The New Chinese Presence in the Eastern Caribbean

The findings discussed below come out of both collaborative research conducted by the authors in Dominica, St. Kitts, and St. Vincent, and individual research conducted by Liu in St. Kitts and Antigua at various times over the period August 2012 to May 2017. The earlier collaborative research was based on participant observation and some semi-structured, but mostly informal, interviews with about two dozen Chinese shop-owners and half a dozen workers. Interviews were also conducted with government, private sector, and other officials, including the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Liu's fieldwork has involved dozens more semi-structured and informal interviews with Chinese merchants and workers in St. Kitts and Antigua, in addition to participant observation at their various establishments.

Total numbers of Chinese immigrants for the OECS islands are estimated to range (individually) from fewer than one hundred to about three hundred. Precise figures are not always available, but estimates do exist. For example, Antigua's 2011 census enumerated the presence of 143 Chinese residents, including children; however, this number has probably increased by at least fifty per cent. Private sector representatives interviewed in Dominica in 2012 mentioned that they had conducted an informal survey which revealed 48 Chinese establishments in the main town of Roseau (Dominica interviews 2012). In a July 15, 2013, posting on Sina Weibo, (9) the Chinese Embassy of Dominica released figures which placed the precise number of Chinese resident in Dominica at 142: 98 overseas Chinese (or Chinese nationals), 41 ethnic Chinese without Chinese citizenship (29% of the total), and 3 Taiwanese (retrieved by Yan Liu from According to the release, these figures represented 29 Chinese households running 42 shops and enterprises, and employing 115 local people. Given the small size of the private sector and its concentration in the main town of Roseau (pop. 16,500), these numbers, which had increased before Hurricane Maria, represented a significant presence. An official list obtained from the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines (affiliated with Taiwan) shows 34 (private-sector) work permits granted to ethnic Chinese from 2011-2013, 31 of them to mainland Chinese. In the small OECS islands in particular, because of the specialized niche occupied by new migrants and the "small pond" into which they have migrated (see Lin 2014), these small numbers can have a socially transformative impact.

The vast majority of contemporary Chinese immigrants in the Eastern Caribbean occupy an ethnic entrepreneurial niche, either as (SME) owners or as workers. Some immigrants, particularly in the higher-income Leeward islands of St Kitts and Antigua, are remigrants from or have roots in older Caribbean Chinese communities, but most are newcomers from China. And while the largest number come from traditional migrant-sending coastal areas, the total picture is much more mixed (with everyday Mandarin more evident in some islands, like Dominica, than others). Guangdong is the most common province of origin for (mostly Cantonese-speaking) immigrants in St Kitts and Antigua; however, certain idiosyncrasies characterize each island, probably as a result of chain migration. A majority of Chinese immigrants in St Kitts, for example, are specifically from Jiangmen prefecture in Guangdong, while in Antigua they are from multiple prefectures. Another popular province of origin is Fujian, and smaller numbers come from Zhejiang, Henan, Jiangsu, Hunan, Anhui, and Hubei. In Dominica, the immigrants mostly hail from four core provinces: Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangsu, and Shandong. With many Dominican passport-holders now residing and doing business in St Vincent (allied with Taiwan), the origins there are similar.

In St Kitts, where many of the Chinese entrepreneurs have ties of business and kinship to the nearby Dutch island-territory of St Maarten (and appear to be of older vintage than other Eastern Caribbean groups), the most common businesses are supermarkets and restaurants, a deviation from the prevailing pattern of variety stores and restaurants. Interestingly, Tjon Sie Fat has pointed out that the Old and New Chinese in Suriname occupy different market niches, with the older group embracing a "supermarket" ethnic-economy model, while the newcomers are typically in the (nonfood) "baihuo business," roughly translated as 'Variety stores." According to him, "what made [the newcomers] absolutely 'new' to the general (non-Chinese) public was their shops which sold an enormous variety of PRC-made commodities for very low prices" (Tjon Sie Fat 2009, 123). In this system, the merchants purchase a "wide variety of cheap goods of uneven quality" in China and ship them in containers to the Caribbean, where they often engage in under-invoicing of the containers to evade import duties and taxes, and in order to bring the goods to the market as cheaply as possible (127). The profit margins are reportedly higher than in the supermarket business (and in the restaurant business, as we were told in Dominica), causing resentment among Old Chinese merchants in Suriname (129).

The densely stocked variety store ("baihuo")--featuring shelves and display racks crammed with a wide assortment of clothing and other wearable and personal items, as well as cheap household and electronic goods, all imported from China--has become a hallmark of the new Chinese presence. In some of the islands, particularly St Vincent, small eateries catering exclusively to low-income clients and featuring a repetitive menu of fried chicken, fried rice, and chow mein (fare clearly adapted to certain acquired local tastes) have popped up along the downtown corridors, becoming a secondary hallmark of the Chinese presence. Other businesses include home electronics and cell-phone stores, restaurants catering to a more middle-class clientele, and small light manufacturing or service operations such as window assembly, water bottling, and air-conditioning installation. Most operations are small and family-run, but some are components of multi-island businesses or multi-business operations (typically managed by extended family members), while one sees the beginnings of more upscale ventures, such as real estate development, as a condition of economic citizenship (10) in islands like St Kitts and Antigua. Some of the ancillary business activities mentioned by some of our respondents were unexpected and pioneering for the Eastern Caribbean, such as a small but robust operation exporting Caribbean lobsters to China by one variety-store owner in St Vincent. Overall, the most modest operations appear to be the tiny eateries catering to low-income customers and not dependent on imports from China (Chinese ingredients can easily be procured from nearby Trinidad). Across the economic range, chain migration often extends the original family nucleus bilaterally, with members of both the wife's and the husband's family joining their relatives in the Caribbean (see Green 2014 for some examples). A growing feature of Chinese baihuo business, whose down-market specialization in small shops selling cheap goods can be deceiving, is expansion across several islands with the assistance of extended kin networks.

A big question that drove our research was the extent to which the private immigrant and the "overseas Chinese state" were connected and how, not just because of widespread convictions at every level of Eastern Caribbean society of a master-minded, conspiratorial and sinister symbiosis between the two, but also in order to explore Nyiri's contention that China is key, in unprecedented ways, to the sustainment of this "transnational middleman minority." The offerings here will be suggestive only, especially since a much fuller exploration of this subject is expected from Liu (11) in the future.

There are many parts to this question and some are easily answered. As noted above and gathered through interviews, the variety store business in particular relies on regular supplies of goods from China (in addition to some capital and labor) and typically requires at least bi-yearly buying trips to source those goods through the cheapest possible channels, often facilitated by personal ties or relations. Indeed, in the 2014 interview mentioned above, Prime Minister Gonsalves noted that the "Syrians and Lebanese" had begun to mimic the practice of undertaking buying trips to China in a bid to raise their level of competitiveness vis-avis the newcomers. While structurally of the utmost significance, the economic or market reliance of the new shopkeepers on Chinese supplies is not deemed politically contentious (after all, the "open" Caribbean economies have been historically dominated by the retail business), except by local business people who judge the resulting competitive advantage as "unfair"--and also except in so far as the arrangements around the importation of these supplies are seen as irregular, corrupt, and tax-evading, with the explicit collusion of local governments (see Green 2014, 2015, and 2017 for a fuller discussion of these views). As Green has noted elsewhere, these private sector views are somewhat offset by ongoing strong (though not unqualified) consumer demand for the low-cost variety store offerings.

A more interesting set of questions has to do with the "macro" question of proactive Chinese state policy towards its entrepreneurial-migrant exports and their in situ operations in the Global South and the "micro" question of relations between the overseas Chinese state and the private immigrants locally or on the ground. The first question is beyond the scope of this article. We offer a few illustrative findings from Dominica and Antigua (the two PRC-aligned islands) with implications for the second question (and including considerations of the local communities).

In one of the first interviews conducted for this study in 2012 in Dominica, an embassy official offered the opinion, unprompted, that his entrepreneurial countrymen were attracted to Dominica because of an abundance of economic opportunities, and that they had the advantage of being able to offer goods at significantly lower prices than the traditional Syrian/Lebanese merchants, who had for long exercised a monopoly in the market and whose overpriced merchandise was beyond the purchasing power of poorer Dominicans. Beyond the conviction expressed in this personal observation, the embassy in Dominica was reported, in a subsequent interview with a Dominica Employers' Federation executive, to have appealed to the organization to invite the Chinese retail merchants to become members of the Federation. The executive claimed to have complied, with little success. On the other hand, we found out that, a few months earlier, the CEO of the Dominica Association of Industry and Commerce, a returnee who had lived in Canada for several decades, had been pressured to resign following complaints from local businesspersons regarding his vigorous defense of Chinese merchants (against charges of government favoritism and "unfair advantages") as likely to be economic citizens and therefore "Dominicans like the native-born entrepreneurs with an equal right to conduct business affairs in Dominica" (cited in Green 2014, n2, 43). Quite possibly, it was this experience that had prompted the embassy approach to a peer organization deemed less hostile to the Chinese merchants. Other indications of attempts by the "overseas Chinese state" to mediate the relationship between the immigrant merchants and the general public were the hosting of events such as press conferences to announce Chinese merchant donations to charitable local causes and the funding of the organized participation by the Chinese merchant community in local Carnivals in the form of "float" presentations in street parades.

Liu's findings in Antigua indicate a more systematic and successful level of intervention on the part of the Chinese embassy there, as well as a more activist, energetic, and organized Chinese-merchant community participation in local civil society, and greater synergies between the Chinese embassy and the Chinese association in this regard. Antigua was the only one of the four research islands to boast a formal Chinese association, the first of its kind in the Eastern Caribbean. The Chinese name of the Chinese Association of Antigua and Barbuda literally translates into "The Association of Chinese Expatriates and Overseas Chinese in Antigua and Barbuda." After years of encouragement by the Chinese embassy, Mr. Li, a supermarket owner who was one of the earliest immigrants from the PRC to settle in Antigua, organized the Chinese Association with some friends in 2013 and became its president two years later. The Association maintains a close relationship with the Chinese embassy, but jostles to retain its independence. For example, the embassy financed the Chinese Association's float for the 2016 Carnival to the tune of EC$15,000. However, according to one of its officers, the Association declined to accept funding from the embassy for the 2017 Carnival because it balked at the embassy's requirement that the float be adorned with political slogans. Earlier in 2017, the embassy donated EC$8,000 to the Association, which used the greater part of it to fund the Chinese New Year celebrations. The Association also established ties with the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council in China, a national-level government agency responsible for liaising with overseas Chinese (including both those living abroad and returnees). According to the Association officer interviewed, the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office had inquired about the needs of the Antigua Association and had subsequently supplied the latter's request for costumes and equipment used in the dragon and lion dance, a form of traditional Chinese dance typically played during Chinese festivals.

The Association is relatively active in civic and charitable affairs and in liaising with government institutions regarding matters of concern to the group, sometimes at the prompting of the Chinese Embassy. For example, the Chinese Embassy and the Chinese Association invited representatives from the Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda to talk to Chinese business people about concerns over recent robberies targeting small shops and restaurants on December 16, 2015. The existence of an association also facilitates formal government outreach. In July 2016, for example, members of the Chinese Association were invited to the tax bureau to be educated on new tax policies. In general, what seemed clear about the Antiguan case relative to the other islands was that the Antiguan government and the Chinese embassy had been proactive in an attempt to synergistically manage the inevitable tensions that have arisen on several fronts with regard to the new Chinese merchant presence. As Green (2017, 232-233) has shown elsewhere, this has not prevented tensions from erupting in higher-stakes situations, such as that involving a rival power supply conflict between a Lebanese-Caribbean family-owned company and a Chinese-constructed government-owned power plant. However, this particular example involves state-level corporate operations which are not the focus of this segment.

With regard to the private immigrants, Dominica presented a contrasting picture in 2012, when private sector representatives complained bitterly of the government's negligence in not apprising the Chinese of tax, immigration, and labor laws and turning a blind eye to their persistent violation of these laws. We found out that these accusations were not entirely unfounded, as we came across at least one restaurant owner, who openly admitted that she and her husband never paid taxes because they had never (12) been called upon to do so and did not know how to go about it (Dominica interviews 2012). The scale of anti-Chinese prejudice and (undoubtedly) misconceptions differed somewhat from island to island as well as by focus, but they were fueled everywhere by widespread convictions regarding a conspiracy among China, Caribbean governments, and the private immigrants as sponsored agents and secret ambassadors of the Chinese government, aided and abetted by their Caribbean state "clients." We found the highest and most vociferous level of private-sector association repudiation of the Chinese merchant presence (and convictions regarding their "illegality") in 2013 in St. Kitts, where official diplomatic alignment with Taiwan was used to claim betrayal by the government of the latter country for nefarious under-the-counter gains from China benefiting corrupt politicians. Antigua's relatively more advanced and sophisticated level of institutional mediation among the private sector, government, and the "overseas Chinese state" can be attributed in part to its lengthiest post-plantation experience in the global economy as well as its lengthiest and most sustained diplomatic alignment with the PRC (since January 1, 1983) among the OECS islands. This institutional machinery is also relatively more available to ordinary citizens as attested to by the significant number of consumer complaints lodged with the Consumer Affairs Division about shoddy, hazardous, and malfunctioning goods purchased from the Chinese shops. (13) On the other hand, Antigua may also be the setting with the most potential for high-stakes rivalries between the traditional ethnic-minority business patrons of Eastern Caribbean states and their new global state patron.


To conclude, we come back briefly to the question of the role of the overseas Chinese state in the affairs of private Chinese immigrants and in mediating their developing relationships with local communities. We, of course, reject the notion that the private immigrants represent an advance-guard of a global Chinese conspiracy to take over the world. Most of the private immigrants in the Eastern Caribbean operate small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and have charted modest individual and independent trajectories as "transnational middleman minorities." As SME merchants, they gravitate between keeping a certain distance from all state authorities and exploiting opportunities presented to take advantage of the benefits of a global Chineseness under the informal and formal patronage and protection of the Chinese state. Indeed, it has become clear from our research that the questions of a larger destiny posed above do not even apply to some small Chinese shopkeepers, whose businesses have already been extended trans-generationally to their children, who have already missed the path of migration to North America for higher education or to "ungrounded [capitalist] empires." Needless to say, for other immigrant family enterprises, the Jamaican and Southeast Asian models should not be ruled out as irrelevant.

But there are two things we have to keep in mind: First, China is on an unstoppable mission of global expansion (14) and it increasingly promotes and co-opts those it includes within its expanded version of "overseas Chinese" (among whom it counts those with non-Chinese citizenship) as agents of this mission. We leave the question of whether this expansion is "imperialist" or not for another occasion. But as to the promotion of Chinese ethnic loyalty, it is important not to engage in double standards, since the Chinese embassy's outreach to and mediation on behalf of the ethnic-Chinese immigrant community is, in many ways, standard operating procedure for embassies (though not for non-nationals), especially powerful ones, the world over. It is how they propagandize this outreach that might be of greater interest, as in the following example. Recently, following the devastation of Dominica by Hurricane Maria, the Chinese government helped to evacuate 462 Chinese nationals from the island to neighboring Antigua and Barbados, and for many, eventually to China. The evacuation, carried out by the China Railway Construction Corporation, a state-owned construction company working on projects in Dominica, was heavily publicized and heralded in Chinese state-controlled media back in China as an example of China's growing willingness and ability to assist, protect, and rescue from danger its nationals abroad (Gao 2017).

Second, the overseas Chinese state in small, peripheral Global South countries often does not have to lift a finger to make its influence felt. We encountered this time and again in the hands-off approach on the part of local governments to matters concerning the entrepreneurial immigrants that were seen as carrying a risk of alienating the overseas Chinese state if pressed. The Consumer Affairs Division in Antigua is certainly a case in point, but even more striking in this regard is the failure to install institutional mechanisms for dealing with citizen and immigrant concerns and relations, or for establishing transparency around this new economic enclave. This, of course, speaks both to the power of global China and to the weakness of the Caribbean governments. In lieu of making extensive comments about the role of Global South governments in general and Caribbean governments in particular, we offer cautionary notes by others, beginning with Campbell (2008, 108) who ended a generally optimistic article on China's "Third World solidarity"-inspired role in Africa by saying:
In the long term Africans have to guard their independence because all
big powers in the final analysis seek to act as hegemons. The major
conclusion of this paper is thus that Africans must be vigilant in the
process of building new relations with China.

Coming from a very different ideological position, Dwyer Astaphan, (15) a lawyer-businessman and ex-Minister of Government in St. Kitts (and himself hailing from a prominent Lebanese-Caribbean family), put it this way in a 2013 interview: "When a nation is in expansion mode, it expands, and it absorbs, and ... it conquers wherever it can--whether it is territory, or minds, or economic resources, or political favor, or whatever the case may be ..." (St. Kitts interviews 2013). He challenged the idea put forward by one of the authors of a "development vacuum," preferring to attribute the unfavorable circumstances of the islands to "poor leadership," leading to the danger that development assistance from rich and powerful countries would not be applied strategically to enhance, rather than to diminish even further, the Caribbean's propensity for independence, productivity, and prosperity. According to him, China was facilitating and underwriting the outmigration of its people "to ease [its] congestion and create markets" abroad. Ultimately, "this is not to fault China," for acting in its interests. He also rejected the idea of blaming either bygone colonialism or the limitations of physical size for the Caribbean's problems, citing repeatedly the "leadership" and "intellectual vacuum": "As long as we are dependent [on the politicians], we are going to be net liabilities and not net producers." Earlier in the interview, he expressed the hope that Caribbean governments "sign proper deals to make sure they don't sell out their patrimony."


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(1) This represents a slightly different view than that of Ho (1989, 13), who claimed that the "Syrians" (as most Lebanese-Caribbean people are still called to this day) were "no match for the Chinese."

(2) According to Look Lai (1998: 6-7), the LAC region received about "45 percent of the approximately 600,000 Chinese who departed for the Americas," of which about 51 percent or 142,000 left for Cuba, 36 percent or 100,000 for Peru, 7 percent or 19,000 for the British West Indies, and the remaining 6 percent were dispersed through Central America, Dutch Suriname, the French West Indies, Brazil, Chile, and Ecuador.


(4) A recent Aljazeera America on-line article roughly confirms this breakdown, putting Chinese investment, over the ten years since 2005, at $115.9 billion in South America and at $11.9 billion in the CAC sub-region (Chan 2015).

(5) Brazil, Peru, and Chile (but not Argentina) had trade surpluses of varying sizes with China in 2016. See the website

(6) For an example of a particularly contentious switch, see Grenade (2013).

(7) Interview with Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent & the Grenadines, November 2014.

(8) More recently, China has donated major disaster relief grants to both Dominica and Antigua-Barbuda in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

(9) Sina Weibo has been described as a Chinese hybrid of Twitter and Facebook.

(10) This refers to the controversial Economic Citizenship (ECP) or Citizenship by Investment Programs (CIP) now run by five of the six independent OECS countries as revenue-generating ventures. These programs, sometimes dismissed derisively as mere passport-selling scams, typically confer citizenship in exchange for a large cash fee or real estate investment. They continue to be mired in controversy, with many wealthy Chinese, Russians and Middle Easterners taking advantage of their lack of residency requirements and mostly attracted to the access gained to Global North destinations. Indeed, in our own research, we found that few of the new Chinese SMEs in the Eastern Caribbean had come in through these programs, although the numbers of resident "economic citizens" have increased. Recently, there have been a number of controversies involving the sale of passports to Iranian and Chinese nationals wanted for criminal activities by their own governments, but the facts have often been in dispute.

(11) This is one of the central questions of Liu's doctoral dissertation currently in progress.

(12) It should be pointed out that the main object of grievance related to the claim that the Chinese merchants did not collect or submit VAT (value-added sales tax) payments from the sales of their goods. It was not clear what variety of taxes our respondent was including in her claims of non-payment.

(13) What they do with such complaints is another matter. Liu was told that the staff maintained a relatively "hands-off" approach to such complaints for fear of alienating China!

(14) See Ferdinand (2016) on the "One Belt One Road" vision.

(15) Mr. Astaphan gave permission to be identified in publications using his words.
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Author:Green, Cecilia A.; Liu, Yan
Publication:Social and Economic Studies
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Date:Sep 1, 2017
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