It is a happy coincidence that the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Maldives and China falls in the historic month when the CPC heads into its all important 19th National Congress.
Since establishing diplomatic relations in 1972, the two countries have forged a relationship of mutual trust and benefit and win-win cooperation. Several key projects are witness to this relationship, including the Sina Male’ housing projects, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building and the Maldives national museum. All these projects were executed with the generous assistance of the Chinese government. China also provided valuable assistance in the recovery efforts following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
However, it is in the past five years that relations between the two reached a level of maturity and depth never seen before. Without doubt, the foundation for this deepened relationship is the historic visit by President Xi Jinping to Maldives in 2014, the first ever state visit by a Chinese president. But what set it apart was that President Xi chose Maldives as a stop on his overseas visits in just one year of assuming office. For the government and people of Maldives, this showed the confidence and trust placed by China’s new leadership in Maldives. Over the past five years, China has forged a foreign policy based on mutual trust and respect for the sovereignty of all countries and win-win cooperation. As elaborated in May 2017 during the Belt and Road Forum by President Xi, it is a foreign policy based on friendship rather than alliance.
This has been the basis for the relationship since 2014. During President Xi’s visit several important agreements were signed which kick started a golden period in our development partnership. Work on key infrastructure projects agreed during the visit is being undertaken in earnest. The majority of work on the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, a vital infrastructure project that will link the capital Male’ to the international airport and the new city of Hulhumale’, is now complete. Work is also underway on the new runway at the Velana International Airport. Work is also underway on a new power generation plant, social housing, and resort investments by Chinese firms. We have recently concluded negotiations on a free trade agreement with China. When signed the FTA will contribute to the deepening of commercial ties between the two countries. China is a key partner in achieving the transformative economic agenda of President Abdulla Yameen, which aims to make Maldives an economic powerhouse in the Indian Ocean. President Yameen has made two important visits to China over the past five years, where he has highlighted Maldives’ strong and important development partnership with China.
One of the key global multilateral initiatives of President Xi is the Belt and Road initiative. From the very beginning, Maldives realized the importance of the initiative in terms of achieving development partnerships. That is the reason that Maldives was one of the first to sign an MOU with the Chinese government to jointly build the 21st century maritime Silk Road. Maldives’ readiness to join these initiatives reflects our trust in the current leadership of China under President Xi to bring wide ranging benefits to all countries and our desire to be part of the new multilateral partnerships being forged under China’s initiative.
Frequent people to people contact and cultural exchanges create trust and amity between countries. The past five years have seen a flourishing of understanding between our two peoples mostly as a result of the large number of Chinese tourists arriving in Maldives. Over the past five years, visitors from China have topped tourist arrival figures to Maldives, and today Maldives is the top ranked beach holiday destination and the most visited country in South Asia by Chinese people.
Maldives looks forward to a future of successful cooperation with China, holding as paramount the development needs of both peoples and the aspirations of creating a global governance system where all countries are equally and fairly represented and in which all are partners in dealing with vital issues of our times.
The author of this article is the Maldives Ambassador to China