It is impossible to have a serious and nuanced conversation on the Caribbean's engagement with China without understanding the historical context of the Caribbean economies. When we study the arc of Caribbean economic history, a wide-scale engagement with China (as the world's largest exporter and soon the largest importer) should not be seen as any kind of hard pivot but instead the continuation of the Caribbean's long-standing trade dynamic. However, we must avoid falling into the trap of thinking that engagement with China is a zero-sum game.
In this episode I'm joined by Victor Bulmer-Thomas, Professor Emeritus of Economics at University of London and Former Director of Chatham House. He wrote what is perhaps the best book on Caribbean economic history titled 'The Economic History of the Caribbean since the Napoleonic Wars'.
"There is a great deal of pessimism in the Caribbean today - just as there was in the 1930s, 1890s and even earlier. The region has struggled to find the correct policy responses to globalisation, is increasingly marginal to the interests of most more countries, is mostly too "rich" to qualify for aid flows or debt relief, and has failed to build institutions it knows are required. Some of this pessimism is justified, but much of it is not. The Caribbean still has advantages that other less fortunate regions lack and is in a position to resolve many of its problems itself. Whether it does so depends in part on drawing the right lessons from its own historical experience." - Prof. Bulmer-Thomas
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