Ja, China friends for the long haul

Published: Friday | July 19, 2013 Comments 0

The following is an article prepared by the Jamaica China Friendship Association.

In the last 10 years, China has expanded its relationship with the countries in the Caribbean and Latin American region through increased trade, aid and direct investment. Against this background, the visit of President Xi Jingping, who spent three days in Trinidad and Tobago and met there with the eight CARICOM leaders who support the One China policy, is particularly significant. He noted that Beijing would "like to expand our exchange and cooperation in politics, economic development, culture, so as to advance bilateral relations in a sound and healthy way".

At the end of his three-day visit to Trinidad and Tobago before proceeding to Central America and Washington, President Xi Jingping announced a US$3-billion concessionary loan facility to CARICOM countries for infrastructure development.

comprehensive strategic partnership

During his official visit to Costa Rica, the president signed cooperation agreements totalling US$1.5 billion that will provide resources for improving Costa Rican roads and public transit fleets, purchasing solar panels and the building of a new police school. In Mexico, the leaders agreed to lift the bilateral relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership focusing on key areas such as energy, mining, infrastructure and high technology. In order to promote trade balance, China expressed support for the increase of imports from Mexico, while Mexico promised to create favourable conditions for Chinese investors.

Throughout his visit to the region, the Chinese president also emphasised the encouragement of cultural cooperation, through exchanges between art troupes, increased tourism and strengthened communication among students, academics, journalists, and athletes. Great emphasis was placed on the role of the Friendship Associations in the region towards achieving this objective.

Having established full diplomatic relations with China in 1972, Jamaica endorsed the One China policy. The Jamaica China Friendship Association (JCFA) was later founded in 1976 with a view to increasing knowledge, friendship and cultural cooperation between the two countries. In keeping with the stated position of the People's Republic of China (PRC), all friends, large or small are valued and treated equally.

The JCFA has direct links with the prestigious and influential Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) which is a national people's organisation engaged in people-to-people diplomacy of the PRC. This association functions under the auspices of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and manages 46 China-regional friendship organisations and some 500 non-government organisations in 157 countries. Jamaicans who have participated in any of the annual tours organised by the JCFA will attest to the exceptional treatment accorded to the group on account of their special status with the CPAFFC.

At the forum on doing business with China executed last July by the JCFA in collaboration with the Embassy of China, Minister of Transport and Works Dr Omar Davies, noting the economic significance of China in the international community, highlighted the fact that one of the first criteria for doing business with the Chinese government was the principle of 'long-term development'.

It is no surprise, therefore, that since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China has become the world's fastest-growing major economy. As of 2013, it is the world's second-largest economy, and is also the world's largest exporter and importer of goods. Beijing is widely referred to as the second global superpower.

deepening the traditional friendship

Interviewed on the eve of his departure from Beijing, President XI Jingping commented on how he regarded the significance of his visit: "I visited Latin America and the Caribbean region back in 2009 and 2011 in the capacity of China's vice-president. The hospitality of the friendly Latin American people and their profound goodwill towards the Chinese people left a deep impression on me.

"The purpose of the visit is to deepen the traditional friendship between China and Latin America and expand their mutually beneficial cooperation. ... Economically, the practical cooperation between the two sides has borne rich fruits, delivering tangible benefits to both peoples. With two-way trade reaching US$261.2 billion in 2012, China has become the second-largest trading partner of Latin America and the Caribbean, which witnessed the world's fastest-rising exports to China. By investing nearly U.S$ 65 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean in accumulative terms, China has helped create much-needed jobs in the region."

Friendship implies reciprocity, and reciprocity is one of the cultural values emphasised by China. Between partners of such disparate size and circumstances, respect must be exercised to safeguard the interest of both friends. In his interview, President Xi Jingping explained: As an ancient Chinese poem goes, "A bosom friend afar brings a distant land near."

The Caribbean's relationship with China is favourably poised for the long haul.

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