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Antigua and Barbuda-Mainland China Deal

The People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) has recently entered a deal with Antigua and Barbuda that allows itself to have a special economic zone, with its own airline, shipping, immigration and customs center and according to Western sources, a spy command.

The special economic zone resembles many others around the world where business regulations are drawn back, with less taxation, more efficient laws and other benefits to boost business in a specified area.

Yet, it was the other concessions that worried American and British officials such as the alleged spy command and immigration center. These seem eerily similar to a “lease territory” (extraterritoriality) where a country possesses de facto temporary sovereignty in a more independent and defined way than an embassy. In this specific case, it should allow Mainland China to effectively possess a Caribbean port.

For example, Russia possessed leases in parts of Crimea for its Black Sea Fleet. This enhanced Russia’s regional power and enabled the Russian military to help take over Crimea in 2014.

The P.R.C. has engaged in similar exploits in Fiji, Sri Lanka and elsewhere through commercial ports whereby their Communist Party, Chinese enterprises and sometimes Chinese crime syndicates are alleged to work together to garner influence.

Why is Antigua and Barbuda important to the U.S. and U.K.?

Antigua and Barbuda has long been a U.S. ally with the U.S. being its biggest trade partner and only 220 miles away via the U.S. Virgin Islands (U.S.V.I.). The U.S. Caribbean presence runs so deep that American cricketers from the Virgin Islands play and root for the same national team as those in Antigua and Barbuda: the West Indies.


Additionally, Puerto Rico maintains associate member status in CARICOM (the Caribbean’s E.U.) while the U.S.V.I. is a functional partner. Antigua and Barbuda forms a key member of CARICOM.

The U.K. is even closer to Antigua and Barbuda politically and culturally as both nations share the same head of state, King Charles III, both nations work together and compete against each other in the various Commonwealth organizations, and their history is intertwined with Antigua and Barbuda being a British territory until 1981. The British maintain a Caribbean presence with multiple territories in the region that are members of CARICOM and Cricket West Indies, while Antiguans and Barbudans have a presence in the U.K. through immigration.

However, two weeks ago brought about a major change to this relationship when Newsweek reported the island nation entering into the aforementioned agreement.

Official speakers for Prime Minister Gaston Browne and the P.R.C. Embassy were quick to issue letters to Newsweek dispelling any myths that Saint John’s will become Havana 2.O and advocated that the deals were merely for the mutual benefit of each other and not meant as a way to hurt the U.S. or any other nation.

Nevertheless, American and British officials remain unconvinced and suspicious.

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