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Q&A with China’s Ambassador to Barbados
Today, Wednesday May 30th 2012, represents the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Barbados and China. This important relationship between the two countries has been nurtured over this time and has been of mutual benefit to both nations.
News Editor Dorian Bryan recently conducted an interview with new Ambassador to Barbados, Xu Hong, to not only mark this momentous occasion but to explore the relationship between the countries and find out where it goes from here.
Barbados Advocate: Thirty-five years is a long time and relationships deepen and expand as a result. How important is the relationship between Barbados and China in your estimation?
Ambassador: China attaches great importance to developing relations with Barbados and deems Barbados a major co-operative partner in the Caribbean. Both China and Barbados are developing countries and have many common interests and concerns. On the basis of the principles of mutual respect and mutual benefit, China will make constant efforts to deepen and expand our friendship and to safeguard the common interests of developing countries.
Barbados Advocate: In terms of co-operation, this country has taken a signal step in appointing a permanent Ambassador based in your country as a testimony to our commitment to the relationship. Our Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has paid an official visit to China and key officials from your country have visited this island. Barbados has benefited from technical co-operation, what is the next step in this relationship?
Ambassador: This year, 2012, marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Barbados. In the past 35 years, China and Barbados have constantly enhanced mutual trust in politics and yielded fruitful results in pragmatic co-operation in various areas. In July 2010, Barbados opened the Embassy in Beijing and former Prime Minister Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford was appointed the first Barbados resident Ambassador to China. In June 2011, Prime Minister, the Hon. Freundel Stuart, paid an official visit to China. In November 2011, Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, Mr. Chen Changzhi, visited Barbados to make parliamentary exchanges with Barbadian counterparts. Next month, a high-level delegation of the Communist Party of China (CPC), headed by Mr. Zhang Gaoli, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, Secretary of the CPC Tianjin Municipal Committee, will visit Barbados. Our leaders have extended strong wishes to further develop the bilateral relations. On the occasion of 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between two countries, we should consolidate the foundation of mutual trust in politics, deepen the pragmatic co-operation in trade, culture, technology, education, tourism, justice and other fields and thus bring more benefits to the two peoples.
Barbados Advocate: The Chinese Government has been very supportive of the development of this country over the length of this important relationship, including stunning buildings such as the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium, and other buildings. Are there more plans to look into providing more investments of this kind?
Ambassador: China values the economic and technical co-operation with Barbados and has provided assistance in building of livelihood projects, such as Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium and Cheapside Market, which have a positive impact on Barbadian daily life. China also provides the follow-up support after the completion of projects. Last year, under the requirement of Barbados, Chinese government provided assistance to maintain and repair the electronic scoreboard of the Gymnasium and now a perfect scoreboard is in use in the Gym. This further proved China’s friendship and strong and unswerving commitment to the co-operation with Barbados. China thinks highly of the wishes and ideas about economic and technical co-operation forwarded by Barbados, and stand ready to consult and co-operate with Barbados at any time.
Barbados Advocate: Both countries signed a cultural agreement in 1980 and we have been impressed with beautiful culture in your country. This Government has expressed a commitment to the Cultural Industries and will soon pilot the Cultural Industries Bill. Can China provide assistance on this front, in the effort to make it a reality?
Ambassador: China supports Barbadian cultural industries’ development. China and Barbados could learn from each other in mutual emulation in cultural industries. China is willing to continuously organise high-standard art groups to visit Barbados and invite Barbadian artists to pay return visits as well. China wishes to make cultural co-operation with Barbados in policy-exchange, training, technical assistance etc.
Barbados Advocate: Market access remains a major concern in developing countries. Does the possibility exist for Barbadian companies to access the Chinese market? What work must be done to make this a reality?
Ambassador: In recent years, China-Barbados bilateral trade has grown rapidly. Trade volume between the two countries reached to 150 million US dollars, which was doubled that in 2010. China would like to see the rapid growth of bilateral trade, and welcome the investment and exports from Barbados. Barbadian commodities with Caribbean features, such as rum, are believed to be strongly attractive to Chinese people. Barbadian enterprises could further strengthen propagandising through Chinese trade fairs, Internet…to gain reputation and expand well-knownness in China. Both missions in Beijing and in Bridgetown would like to give assistance to the enterprises.
Barbados Advocate: In terms of bringing our two countries closer together, distance remains a major challenge. Is there major interest in Chinese nationals travelling to this country and enjoying our hospitality? Is it feasible given the other options which exist for holidays?
Ambassador: As an emerging market, the number of Chinese outbound tourists passed 70 million in 2011, 22 per cent up year-on-year. But not many Chinese people visited the Caribbean, including Barbados, due to the long distance. However, every Chinese person upon visiting Barbados praised this country for its beautiful scenery, characteristic culture and hospitable people. Both governments have co-signed a MOU on tourism co-operation in 2005. China wished to work with Barbados to build a rational institutionalisation arrangement in order to facilitate and encourage movement of people. In the meantime, China would like to extend help in Barbados’ tourism recommendation.
Barbados Advocate: We are very impressed with your country’s work on agriculture, water management and energy solutions. Does the possibility exist for help to be offered to this country?
Ambassador: China has gained certain successful experiences in agriculture, water management and energy solutions, which are all major issues of Barbados’ concern, and China is very glad to share these
experiences with Barbados through technology export and personnel training. Barbados is working on forging the “green economy” which is deeply admired by China, and China wishes to learn from it.
Barbados Advocate: In terms of economic policies, China has long enjoyed a strong and stable banking sector and currency which has helped it in these tough times, which should be commended. Can any assistance be given on fiscal strategies to cushion future economic shocks?
Ambassador: Both China and Barbados, though different in national conditions, have achieved significant success in many fields of development according to people's interests. China would like to exchange [ideas] with Barbados on governing a state and managing an economy.
Barbados Advocate: Education is very important to both countries and students from this country have been taking advantage of opportunities to study in China. How has the programme been functioning to date? Are there plans to provide even more opportunities?
Ambassador: Barbados attaches great importance to human resources construction, and has made a great success in it. Each year, several Barbadian students, supported by the Chinese government, further their studies in China and develop friendship with Chinese people, so they could be named as “Barbados’ unofficial ambassadors to China”. Last year, China sent a practised teacher to offer a Mandarin course …at UWI. As a next step, China and Barbados could develop programmes of training and study to further strengthen exchanges and co-operation among schools, colleges and universities.