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Accepted Paper:

The Local Perception of China's Social Conditionality in the Caribbean  
Theodor Tudoroiu (The University of the West Indies)

Paper short abstract:

This is a study of Trinidadians' perception of China's social conditionality-the interdiction for foreign aid recipients to regulate the inflow and economic activities of Chinese entrepreneurial migrants. Accepted by political elites, this conditionality is vocally rejected by the society at large.

Paper long abstract:

This paper argues that, despite the claims of many scholars, China's development assistance is in fact accompanied by various combinations of political, economic, and social conditionalities. Using an International Relations Constructivist approach and the results of fieldwork in Trinidad and Tobago, it explores the local perception of the social conditionality imposed by Beijing on its Caribbean partners. This type of conditionality is defined as the use of incentives and sanctions to prevent the adoption by development assistance recipient states of policies that would regulate the inflow and the activities of entrepreneurial migrants from the donor country despite the negative impact of their economic actions on local businesses and workers. This is a strong form of conditionality that significantly shapes the target state's domestic policies. The case of Trinidad is examined in comparison with similar Caribbean and African examples where the presence of Chinese entrepreneurial migrants has had visibly detrimental socio-economic consequences that have frequently resulted in large-scale frustration, criticism, protests, and even riots, which are discussed extensively in the literature. Findings suggest that, in Trinidad as elsewhere in the Global South, a gap has developed between the political elites and the society at large. The former benefit from the material incentives represented by the Chinese loan-financed and constructed prestige infrastructure projects that significantly increase their political legitimacy and electoral support. The rest of the society, however, has a very negative perception of the Chinese entrepreneurial migrants' actions and strongly rejects Beijing's social conditionality.

Panel P041
The Local Perception: New Anthropological Horizons of the Chinese Presence in the Global South