China’s new American outpost – photo-essay by James Whitlow Delano

EDITOR’S NOTE As part of its programme of global expansion, China has established a foothold in the South American county of Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana). A substantial proportion of the country’s population is now of Chinese nationality, and there are major implications for the country’s economy, social stability and rainforest environment – and of course the wider region. The award-winning photojournalist James Whitlow Delano has recently visited the country and produced the following report. Please follow the links below to view the multimedia footage (divided into three parts) and visit the photo gallery. We are privileged to feature this enlightening, powerful (and beautiful) photo-essay documenting the plight of a small and little-known country, and some of the human stories behind China’s great geopolitical game. DT

China’s new American outpost


I have been documenting China for almost 18 years now. So when I was in Suriname last July, I was surprised to see large numbers of Chinese nationals working on large infrastructure  projects that hinted at preparations for resource exploitation and the discount retail sector dominated by migrant-Chinese entrepreneurs. In a nation of a half million people, Suriname is particularly vulnerable to neo-colonial dominance. The Chinese embassy has put the number of Chinese migrants at 40,000, nearly 10% of the population. Aside from Brazilians, whose giant nation borders the country, there were no significant numbers of any foreign nationality; no large contingents of Russians, Argentinians, Venezuelans, British, Japanese, Nigerians; only Chinese.

I found through confidential US Embassy communications leaked by WikiLeaks that the US government had clearly taken notice of this activity and I knew then that, through my own instincts and observations, and through reading the leaked communications, that this was a story that needed to be told. So I returned a month or so ago to Suriname to produce this story with the help of funding by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Please watch the three parts of the multimedia footage in sequence:

Part I

WikiLeaks, Chinese Soft Power & a Small Amazonian Country. (Part I short version)/ Strategic Foreign Aid & Investment. A from James Whitlow Delano on Vimeo.

Part II

WikiLeaks, Chinese Soft Power & a Small Amazonian Country. (Part II short version)/ Chinese Citizen Entrepreneurship. A from James Whitlow Delano on Vimeo.

Part III

WikiLeaks, Chinese Soft Power & a Small Amazonian Country. (Part III short version)/ A Gulf in Perception. A from James Whitlow Delano on Vimeo.

You can view the photo-gallery as a slideshow here: (Flash player needed)

WikiLeaks, Chinese Soft Power & A Small Amazonian Country – Images by James Whitlow Delano

I hope this provides greater insight into an often overlooked part of the world that soon may become important, and would welcome comments.

JAMES WHITLOW DELANO is an author and award-winning photojournalist based in Tokyo. His website is This essay was funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting






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