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Jamaicans get Caribbean Association rolling in China

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SHANGHAI, China – A group of determined Jamaicans have taken the lead in bringing Caribbean nationals across China together.

Fortified by copious cups of ginger or sorrel tea during the April 1 inaugural meeting, the Caribbean Association in China hammered out a mission statement, and pledged to be a vital support system for the regional community here. Working closely with the Caribbean Embassies in Beijing, the grouping will facilitate, strengthen and nurture Sino-Caribbean ties.

‘I believe this is an historic occasion,’ said newly-elected president Dr Nicoleen Johnson, ‘and the timing could not have been more appropriate, especially in light of the growing influx of Caribbean nationals in China, as well as (the increasing number of) Chinese in the region.’

She added that the association’s role, as spelled out in its mission statement, will be to ‘foster stronger understanding and appreciation of our Caribbean culture, strengthen Sino-Caribbean relations and serve as a support network for the Caribbean community in China’.

Navigating the cultural and commercial terrain of an Asian country of 1.3 billion can be intimidating for the increasing number of students, teachers and businesspeople who venture to this side of the world from the sunny Caribbean. In addition to the embassies, the Association will now be an easily accessible point of contact as members of the Caribbean Diaspora make their mark in China.

In addition to Johnson, a trade consultant who has been in Shanghai for about a decade, the executive board also consists of:


– first vice president Diana Walsh, a marketing and research consultant with roots in Kingston, Jamaica and the United States, who later came to Shanghai via Taiwan;

– second vice president Earl Carr, a research marketing assistant for consulting firm, McKinsey. He has roots in St Ann, Jamaica and Taiwan;

– treasurer Jazmyne Watson, a law student with a background as a financial advisor. She is from Kingston, Jamaica but came to Shanghai via England;

– and secretary Virginia Hunt, a kindergarten teacher who came to China from the United States.

They were among the initial batch of 11 founding members who had agreed during dinner at a Turkish restaurant near Shanghai’s French Concession the week before – that the time had come for the association to be formed.


Other founding members include :

– Kingston native Liza Chang, manager of MSPS International, a group that manages spas;

– student Shauna Taylor, who is from St Catherine;

– Kevin Thomas who is originally from St Elizabeth, but came to Shanghai via the US. He is now an English teacher in Shanghai;

– Charmaine Clarke, a student/journalist whose roots are in Montego Bay;

– as well as Johanna Carr and George Watson, the spouses of the Association’s second vice president and treasurer, respectively.

While the core group consists of people, with strong Jamaican ties, who are now living in Shanghai, the Association’s membership is expected to eventually expand by attracting members from the Caribbean Embassies in Beijing, as well as participants from all across China.


To date, there are only two non-Jamaicans on the membership role, Trinidadian Nicole Quan Kep, a trade development specialist who lives in Hong Kong and Julian Francis, a student from Nassau, Bahamas.


Jamaica’s Ambassador to China, Wayne McCook, who has long pushed for such a grouping, sees the Association’s role as an extension of some of the roles members of the Caribbean community have played in China over the years.

‘Members of the group have already been supportive in individual and ad hoc ways,’ he said, citing mixers to welcome new students, participation in National Day activities, and the launch of the Jamaican Embassy in 2005. ‘All play an important role in building people-to-people links and enhancing awareness of the Caribbean in China.’


Meanwhile, Johnson, the Association president, is counting on members’ continued commitment and hard work to ensure that the organization makes a difference – in both China and the Caribbean – for years to come.

‘I’m pleased with the support that we have been getting from the Embassies in Beijing, from the Caribbean nationals that are here in Shanghai,’ she said. ‘I’ve seen a lot of interest shown, especially the strong commitment displayed by the founding members. I see, already, that we will be successful because of the level of commitment we are getting.’

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Written by Staff Writer