Thursday, April 18, 2024

VIEW FROM SHANGHAI – cONNECTIONS

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Thirteen Caribbean countries classified as borrowing member countries of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), in addition to Suriname which is not yet a member of the bank, have been participating in the Shanghai World Expo 2010, hosted by China. They are showcasing their countries in the CARICOM Pavilion.  
The other CDB member countries – Canada, Colombia, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Britain and Venezuela – are also participating in the Expo in their own individual pavilions.
A joint communiqué issued after the China-Caribbean Consultation in The Bahamas in May of this year stated: “The Chinese side expressed appreciation to the Caribbean side for its support for and active involvement in the Expo 2010 Shanghai China. The Caribbean side commended the Chinese side for facilitating the joint participation of the Caribbean countries and expressed its pleasure in contributing to the success of the Expo.”
The People’s Republic of China joined CDB in 1998, and is classified as a non-regional member of the bank. As such, Chinese contractors are eligible to bid for projects financed by CDB. Chinese firms have been involved, not without controversy, in construction projects in the region through the connection to CDB and also by way of bilateral arrangements with individual countries.  
For example, they’ve built a stadium in Grenada and the Garfield Sobers Sporting Complex in Barbados.
But Sino-Caribbean relations have a much longer history. Chinese first migrated to the British Caribbean in significant numbers in the mid-19th century and settled mainly in the former British West Indies colonies of Trinidad, Jamaica and British Guiana, now Guyana.
Chinese migration to Trinidad began with the arrival of 192 passengers on board the ship Fortitude in 1806. Most of the immigrants were sent to the sugar plantations; some became artisans, peasant farmers, butchers, shopkeepers, carpenters and market gardeners.  
Trinidad’s first governor general Sir Solomon Hochoy; its current president George Maxwell Richards; and Edwin Ayoung, whom you might know as the calypsonian Crazy, are descended from these immigrants.
In 1854, the first two ships bearing Chinese immigrant workers arrived in Jamaica. Some prominent Jamaicans of Chinese ancestry include billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael Lee-Chin; the late master musician Byron Lee; and recording artist Sean Paul, whose mother is of Chinese Jamaican heritage.
The first batch of Chinese arrived in British Guiana in 1853, to be quickly followed by two others. The period 1859 to 1867 was the peak in terms of Chinese immigration. Arthur Raymond Chung, OE, who served as Guyana’s first president, is of Chinese ancestry.  
I don’t know if there’s any relation between him and my Guyanese colleague Alan Chung, manager technology solutions unit of CDB’s IT Department, who’s also a descendant of Chinese immigrants.  
So with all these historical links, I like to imagine that some of the people I’ve been passing on the street here in Shanghai who so resemble people I know back home might share some ancestral DNA. On several levels we are all connected.  

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