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The Antiguan Dilemma

Nestled within the tourist hotspot of the Leeward Islands sits the independent nation of Antigua and Barbuda. While many people will dismiss the nation as insignificant due to its less than 100,000 people, foreign policy experts have long considered the kingdom to be an important Caribbean power with a strong presence in regional organizations like CARICOM.

Its influence as well as its steady allegiance to the U.S. and U.K. have helped the Lesser Antilles stay a near-exclusive Western region, compared to the Greater Antilles where Cuba rears its anti-Western head. 

Yet, that all appears to have changed if American and British officials, as well as numerous Antiguan and Barbudan sources, are to be believed in the bombshell report from Newsweek two weeks ago. According to these sources, Antigua and Barbuda has entered into an agreement with the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) that will establish a special economic zone in Antigua for the Mainland Chinese, where the P.R.C. will have its own immigration and customs control, with their own airline to take in Chinese nationals, and according to Western allegations, their own spy command center too!

The Americans and British warn this could be the worst blow to the Western rules-based order in the Caribbean since Cuba fell to the Soviet-aligned Communist regime. The worries center around the alleged spy center as well as the rumored future classes on President Xi Jinping’s “political thoughts” for Antiguan and Barbudan government officials. 

Already, the terms of a special economic zone appear as a “leased territory” where the P.R.C. would retain a degree of hybrid sovereignty. This would be concerning by itself, but then the details of spies and political indoctrination paint the picture of a P.R.C. takeover. 

Thus, the U.S. and U.K. need to formulate a plan and act fast in order to stop any of these more extravagant pieces of the agreement from being realized.

The U.S. and U.K. should first re-establish major ties to the nation through their shared culture and ideals. Most Antiguans and Barbudans are Christians who support democracy. They enjoy a higher level of income and freedom than most nations largely thanks to their American and British ties and their strong institutions. Reminding Antiguans and Barbudans of this shared connection can go a long way in creating popular demand to stay within the American and British sphere of influence. This method of winning back allies has worked for America and its allies across the Pacific such as in the Solomon Islands. There, large-scale opposition to a similar P.R.C. deal led to a reduction in previous promises. Luckily for the Americans and British, the two nations have the perfect event coming to display their shared passions in Antigua and Barbuda as the U.S.A. and West Indies (Antigua and Barbuda included) will host the 2024 Twenty20 Cricket World Cup in June with all British “home nation” teams also participating. Additionally, the U.S. and U.K. should re-classify their identity to include the Caribbean via their territories instead of distancing themselves to only identifying with mainland North America and Europe respectively.

Next, the U.S. and British should re-engage Antigua and Barbuda educationally and economically. If the Xi Jinping indoctrination classes are true, the Americans and British can counteract this with increased affordable partnerships and programs tied to their secondary schools and universities. These programs can limit the effects of the Communist Party of China’s propaganda in the Caribbean island nation. On the economic front, the U.S. is the largest trading partner with Antigua and Barbuda. This is important, but Americans and the British can do more in the economy to help the government in Saint John’s alleviate any pressure from their populace. Most nations that switch allegiances to Mainland China do so for economic gain, so the U.S. and U.K. should counteract P.R.C. investment and can even use their nearby territories to connect their economies closer.

Antigua and Barbuda surely retains the right to forge its path forward, but so too do the Americans and British. Given both nations' presence in the Caribbean through territories and geographic proximity, the U.S.A. and U.K. will be greatly affected by Atinguan and Barbudan choices. Therefore, no matter which part of the alleged deals are true, American and British re-engagement with Antigua and Barbuda is very important and any actions that lead to closer relations are wise. 

Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


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