The Newest Chinese Naval Base Is in… the Bahamas – The Epoch Times

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My first memory of the Bahamas was a wonderful family trip there in 1980. I remember beautiful beaches, conch shells, and remnants of the very recently departed British Empire. My parents also let us ride around on mopeds, wearing no helmets, while we were not even old enough to have drivers’ licenses in America. The British Colonial Hilton where we stayed (sounds impressive, but we were a family of modest means, and I think it was a Best Western affiliate at the time and we all crammed into one room) was the nicest hotel we had ever stayed in.

Curiously, the hotel owner is now China Construction America and has chosen to depart the Hilton System.

Even more curiously, the hotel complex is across the street from the American Embassy. Coincidence, I’m sure.

The Bahamas is not just a Disney Cruise destination, it also hosts a very important U.S. Naval facility.

In more recent times—November 2019—we took a Disney cruise to the Bahamas. It was a beautiful cruise. We especially loved the mini nation-state of Castaway Cay operated by Disney with the blessing of the Government of the Bahamas. Whatever you think of Disney’s current woke behavior, it was a memorable time in a pre-virus America—things were good, and Trump was President. Most impressive was the Skipper’s ability to stop and then back-in park a 100,000-ton cruise liner without any assistance from a tug. Global Positioning System tied to a navigation system can do wonders.

Not well known is that there is also a very important U.S. Navy facility in the Bahamas. It carries the inauspicious name of the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) and serves several purposes. It is a place where American, British, and other strategic partners send their submarines for research, testing, and preparation for actual combat patrols. I’m not going to go into any more detail, but it is an important facility.

There’s also this curious interest in the Bahamas by this little Chinese company called Huawei. They are essentially providing the entire telecommunications infrastructure for the Bahamas.

That is very convenient, especially when the extensive data generated by AUTEC must travel the same network for certain parts of its journey. I’m sure our ones and zeros receive no more special attention than anyone else’s ones and zeros during the transit of the data.

Again, like the Chinese-owned hotel across from the American Embassy, I’m sure it’s all a coincidence.

The Bahamians ask, “Where are the Americans?”

Whether it be the streets of Baghdad, Bosnia, Taiwan, or any other place I’ve worked and served, I like to ask the local population what’s on their mind. On the streets of Nassau, Bahamas, the simple question on the mind of the locals is, “Where are the Americans?” The second thing on the minds of Bahamians: a dislike of the heavy-handed Chinese presence.

Twice, Bahamians pointed at the hotel I had stayed in as a child 40 years earlier and said, “They are the problem,” referring to the Chinese ownership of the hotel and the expanding Chinese footprint.

The consensus of everyone I talked to is that the Belt and Road initiatives imbued extensively with civil-military fusion at the direction of the Chinese Communist Party, had quickly established a strong perception of the Chinese as the new colonial masters. Colonial masters with a very different approach.

Many seemed to fondly remember or look back to the days of British Rule. With the departure of the British, corruption took over, and soon mated with Chinese influence operations.

The failure of the U.S. State Department to deploy an actual ambassador–a disturbing trend.

One thing I did when I returned from the 2019 trip was to review the status and background of the U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas. Ambassadors and their staffs are the “face of the United States” to these countries and are the defining and decisive instrument of national power to assert American interests.

Unfortunately, there has not been an American Ambassador to the Bahamas since 2011, and it’s been spotty since the independence of the Bahamas in 1973. What we have in the Bahamas is a “Chargé d’Affaires.”

A Chargé d’Affaires is nice, but it’s a big statement that the United States is bored and un-interested in the country and is unwilling to post an ambassador.

Ambassador or Chargé d’Affaires, I’ve come across several in my government work that I’ve met with while visiting or working these countries that were very un-impressive and acted woke, before being “Woke” was a thing. Several times I had to restrain myself when an ambassador would make demeaning comments about America in front of our foreign partners. There is a difference between transparency and the ability for minor self-deprecating humor to build relationships and woke pandering. Foreign nationals are not impressed by the latter.

I’ve noticed a deficit of dedicated American ambassadors in many locations—Panama, and the various South Pacific Island Republics for example. And even when we do have an ambassador, they don’t appear to be asserting American interests.

The Bahamas is essentially the closest sovereign country to America; the Chinese are aggressively occupying the Bahamas, and America needs a dedicated Ambassador there fast. And an American Ambassador that unashamedly puts American interests first and is willing to help the country actively respond to the Chinese occupation forces.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Mills

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Colonel (Ret.) John Mills is a national security professional with service in five eras: Cold War, Peace Dividend, War on Terror, World in Chaos, and now—Great Power Competition. He is the former director of cybersecurity policy, strategy, and international affairs at the Department of Defense. John is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy. ColonelRETJohn on GETTR and TRUTH, Daily Missive on Telegram.

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