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China goes Miami Vice

Carib3 If the Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas ever gets built the way its designers foresee, it will be the largest resort of any in the Caribbean region. And China will play a huge role.

Mammoth is the only way to describe the $1.6 billion Baha Mar resort, which is to include 3,550 hotel rooms, a big casino, a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, shopping entertainment venues and lots of tropical drinks with little umbrellas in them. It will go up on New Providence Island, the most populous of the Bahamian isles and site of the capital, Nassau.

Problem is, in this economic climate, it’s not so easy to get bank lending. So China has stepped in, not only with cash but also construction know-how. And maybe laborers.

Two months ago, the chief executive of the project, Sarkis Irzmilian, let drop at a conference in Nassau that the project was facing, shall we say, a few setbacks. A press release at the time hinted that Chinese investors might come to the rescue:

Baha Mar Resorts is currently in discussion with Chinese investors regarding the future of the mega resort project. Later this month, the company will host an important delegation from China visiting The Bahamas to continue talks.

“Our Chinese friends have recognized that the current slowdown provides us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to build this project at a greatly reduced cost, and be ready to open when the recession ends and the world recovers. As we move ahead, I look forward to being guided by their wisdom and long term strategy.”

As I noted in an earlier blog posting, among the senior Chinese leaders touring the Western Hemisphere in February was Vice Premier Hui Liangyu, who stopped in the Bahamas.

A new press release from Baha Mar has just hit my desk. The State Construction Engineering Corporation signed a contract this week in Beijing to build Baha Mar, and the Export-Import Bank of China will provide project financing. Both are government entities.

“While there are various next steps we must take together with our Chinese counterparts before the project’s financing is finalized, this marks a significant milestone for the future of the project and for the growth of Bahamian tourism overall,” Baha Mar President Don Robinson said.

So will the Chinese actually own part of Baha Mar? That’s not clear to me. But what I do find rich in symbolism is the juxtaposition of the resort – to be built by state-owned companies of a nation ruled by a (nominally) Communist Party – a short boat ride away from Miami, the bulwark of Cuban-born anti-Communists. Times do change.

Also curious is a line in the latest press release promising to “to hire as many qualified Bahamians as possible to work on the project during its 2-3 year construction phase.” That is probably coded language for the following: China will ship in lots of its own laborers but will try to keep it low-key and not let them off the site. Bahamians will get some jobs, too.

Some 500 Chinese laborers were brought in to Grenada a few years to build the national stadium on that Caribbean island, stirring up some local resentment even though the stadium was a gift from Beijing. China has also sent laborers to build stadiums in Jamaica and Antigua. Then last October, some Chinese laborers kidnapped several Israelis in a pay dispute on West Caicos Island, not far from the Bahamas.



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This is a great post, definitely it got me thinking a bit more about world economy. It's funny how the world seems so much smaller, eh? Thanks Tim.

Tim J

To answer a few questions, I write the headlines for the blog. No one else is responsible. I also write suggested headlines for news articles, but editors frequently change them because layouts differ and headlines can be of different lengths. On this item, I threw Miami Vice up there as a geographical reference to a place very far from where I am (in China) without meaning to imply all the things that may be associated in some minds with that old TV program. Writing headlines is a subjective art. Sometimes you hit a homer. Sometimes it's a clunker. That's life.

Harlan Lewin

What really REALLY puzzled me were the words "Miami Vice" in the headline. What? Are we supposed to have images of Chinese government supported drug sellers, of silk jacketed sunshade wearing Chinese cops racing around Nassau. What's "Miami Vice" got to do with anything in the article? Except...it's nice to have China and Vice in the same headline. What I like to do is to replace "China" with "United States" in an article. It makes biases much clearer. So, would we be upset if the "United States" invested in building a resort in the Bahamas using American laborers. Oh, yeah, with the United States that would be private enterprise as in "Las Vegas" money. Much better, I'm sure, than a Chinese sovereign fund. More fun with fraud, extortion, illegal paybacks, etc. Would that be "Las Vegas Vice?"

johnny justice

Perhaps he says China because it is effectively the Chinese govt. that is involved. It is a STATE-OWNED COMPANY. Get it? State owned...Chinese govt. ...therefore "China"...

Lip Synch at the SuperbowlS

Meh has got a good point. For example, if something happened in Los Angeles and LAPD arrested some people, or something happened in Los Angeles and LAPD denied it was involved, it would be funny if the Chinese press reports start with titles like "the United States of America arrested XX" or "the United States of America deny XX". Despite the Chinese media's many horrible shortcomings, I've found that in such cases a mainstream Chinese paper (barring certain tabloids) usually report "LA police arrested XX" or "LAPD police denies XX". The same thing cannot be said of many western mainstream media outlets when they report on China. (The rationale for the media's practice is of course obvious---to grab eyeballs).

This particular post by Tim J., however, is fine, because what Tim reports is not an isolated event, but rather a more general phenomenon (of Chinese overseas investment during this global economic downturn).


Tim J, I'd like to get your thoughts on how headlines in news reports are developed. Specifically, many of the titles I see starts with 'China' but when one reads into the report it's actually a specific Chinese company, a group of people, or sometimes an individual. It feels misleading because when I look at the word China I tend to think of the whole country. So under what parameters do you use "China" in a headline?


That was a fun post - it sure speaks volumes about the economic condition and who is actually holding the bucks.

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"China Rises" is written by Tom Lasseter, the Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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