Xi meets with 7 Caribbean leaders
Updated: 2013-06-03 11:41
By Zhu Zhe in Port of Spain and Zhang Yuwei in New York (China Daily)
Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Guyanese President Donald Ramotar in Port of Spain, capital of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, on Sunday. Xi also had separate meetings with leaders from Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Granada, Jamaica and Suriname. Rao Aimin / Xinhua
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with a group of Caribbean leaders during his visit in Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday, aiming to promote cooperation and realize mutual development between the world's second-largest economy and the Caribbean region.
During lunch and in separate meetings, Xi met with leaders from the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Granada, Guyana, Jamaica and Suriname, when he renewed China's efforts to support Caribbean nations' development by stepping up initiatives from the 3rd China-Caribbean Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum in 2011.
He pledged assistance in projects such as setting up one or two agricultural technology centers within the next three years, sending 100 medical workers to the region, training 100 postgraduate students, and providing 1,000 scholarships for students.
During the 2011 forum, China offered the Caribbean region a $6 billion loan to support development projects.
"President Xi's pledge to provide assistance in agriculture, education and healthcare represents a good step toward building a relationship based on a serious commitment to help Caribbean nations overcome their problems," said Ariel C. Armony, director for the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Miami.
Armony said China's presence in the Caribbean through work on stadiums, resorts, hospitals and other projects should not just be viewed as simple infrastructure donated to countries poor in resources.
"A national stadium in the Bahamas represents a celebration of national identity and a chance for citizens to assert a sense of nationhood," said Armony. "Beijing understands well that this is a way to build a long-term relationship with countries that are eager to receive attention from the global power."
Xi, the first Chinese president to visit Trinidad and Tobago since the countries established diplomatic ties in 1974, said he hopes these projects will help boost cooperation between China and the Caribbean nations.
Xi said China and the Caribbean nations should play to their respective advantages, continue to tap potential development opportunities, and increase friendly cooperation. This will help form a good partnership, with mutual respect and trust politically and benefits economically, to achieve common development and prosperity, he added.
Trade and investment ties between China and Latin America and the Caribbean have continued to increase, according to the United Nations. In 2010, the value of bilateral trade amounted to some $200 billion.
Xi began his Caribbean and Latin American visit on Friday in Port of Spain, where he met leaders of Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda. He flew to Costa Rica on Sunday and will also visit Mexico before attending a two-day summit with US President Barack Obama in California on Friday.
Xi's Latin America visit is seen as a mission to boost economic and trade ties with the region.
"Several countries in South America have developed active commercial relations with China, but there is also a growing interest in the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico in exploring greater exchange with China and its rapidly growing market for imports," said Andrew Selee, vice-president for programs at the Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank.
Zhu Zhiqun, a professor of political science and international relations at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, said the Xi's Latin America tour is a continuation of China's new diplomacy that began in the early 1990s, which also aims to promote China's soft power.
"The main aims of this new diplomacy include securing energy deals, expanding trade, investing in local infrastructure, promoting China's soft power, and projecting China as a peaceful and responsible global power," said Zhu.
Liu Zhongyi, a researcher at the Institute for World Economy Studies at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said resource-rich Caribbean countries, such as Trinidad and Tobago, can also help China to achieve energy diversification.
"With the US becoming more energy self-sufficient, the Caribbean countries need to find new markets for themselves, so China and the Caribbean countries in this area are complementary," said Liu.
Contact the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Chen Weihua in Washington contributed to the story.
(China Daily USA 06/03/2013 page1)