by H E Wei Hongtian, Chinese Ambassador to Grenada
On 24 June 2021, the Asia and Pacific High-level Conference on Belt and Road Cooperation themed “Enhance Anti-pandemic Cooperation and Boost Economic Recovery” was successfully held online, which was participated by representatives from China and 29 Asian-Pacific countries as well as international organisations, including Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) Alicia Bárcena Ibarra.
Two initiatives jointly launched by all parties after the conference were Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on Green Development and Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on Covid-19 Vaccines Cooperation. Digging into them and we find elements that serve to enhance the practical cooperation between China and Grenada are bountiful.
Today, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed by the Chinese president Xi Jinping has developed from a blueprint to a tangible international public good which attracts the world’s attention. Inspired by the concept of “Silk Road”, an ancient network of trade routes that connected China to the Mediterranean via Eurasia landmass 2,000 years ago, the BRI reflects a convergence of interests and an increasing need for regional and global economic cooperation. The BRI combines two initiatives, which are the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It follows the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits and upholds the spirit of openness, inclusiveness and transparency. Even last year, despite the sudden outbreak of Covid-19, the BRI cooperation continued to move forward, showing remarkable resilience and vitality, and made a significant contribution to the Covid response, economic recovery and people’s livelihood of relevant countries.
The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road naturally extends to Latin America and the Caribbean regions, all interested countries are welcome aboard to take part in the cooperation and share its benefits. The Governments of China and Grenada signed the Memorandum of Understanding on the Cooperation with the Framework of Belt and Road Initiative in September 2018. In October 2019, China and Grenada co-held the China-Caribbean Conference on BRI Implementation successfully and reached broad consensus, starting a new phase in the Belt and Road Cooperation between China and Caribbean Countries. Since then, relevant authorities from both sides have been exploring rooms for win-win cooperation. Now, new opportunities are beckoning to us.
First, let us examine the Green Development Initiative. Countries which joined the initiative “reaffirm that climate change is one of the major challenges of our time, and all countries, particularly developing countries, are vulnerable to its adverse impacts”, and “call for internationally collaborative efforts to achieve green and sustainable recovery, and foster a low-carbon, resilient and inclusive post-pandemic growth”. Addressing the negative effect of climate change is a common concern of the Caribbean and accelerating recovery and building resilience are among the mainstay of Grenada’s 2021 Budget, which eyes on future development into 2035. The initiative is in line with the development concept of Grenada. The initiative further enlists promoting development and utilisation of clean energy to ensure affordable and economically sustainable energy in developing countries as a focus, which seeks to enhance international cooperation on renewables. Rich in wind, solar and geothermal power, Grenada is capable of raising the percentage of renewable energy use to 50% by 2030 and thus achieving its goal of a 40% reduce in carbon emission by 40% compared to 2010, as the Grenadian government projects. The BRI provides a platform for all parties to share information and build partnerships, so as to work together in handling climate change and other sweeping environmental issues.
Second, the initiative for Covid-19 vaccines cooperation is even more opportune at this juncture as the world is still undergoing this devastating pandemic. As the supporter of this initiative, we believe that in combating the virus, people and their lives must be put first, and stress that vaccines, as an important part of our toolkit for pandemic response, should be equitably distributed as global public good, inter alia, in a way that their availability, accessibility and affordability in developing countries are ensured. The belief in “no one can be safe until everyone is safe” is in accordance with the spirit of the statement by Caricom on access to Covid-19 vaccines and the Communiqué of the 70th Meeting of the OECS Authority. Furthermore, the initiative, on the one hand, encourages vaccine producing countries, which are in a position to do so, to support vaccine companies in providing more vaccines to the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility of the WHO; on the other hand, it supports the provision of vaccines by governments and companies to developing countries either through donation or exporting at affordable prices. As a major country, China walks the talk by fulfilling its commitment to making vaccines as a global public good by providing 500 million doses of vaccines and concentrates to over 100 countries and international organisations all over the world. As the consensus has been reached among all walks of lives in Grenada on the importance of vaccination in protecting people’s lives and revitalising the economy, China and Grenada could further enrich the content of anti-pandemic cooperation on the former foundations that has been established.
To date, China has signed 205 cooperation documents with 140 countries and 31 international organisations within the framework of BRI. The BRI comes from China but its opportunities and achievements are for the world to share. China stands ready to implement consensus reached between China and Caribbean countries through actions, bring true benefit to our people, and move forward to an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world which enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity. China is ready to ink a Joint Action Plan with Grenada on the basis of the MOU, for the official implementation of the BRI, which will further benefit the two countries and the two peoples. Unlike certain big powers that forcefully impose their rules and ideology on the others and blatantly interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs without embarrassment, the BRI hails openness, equality, mutual respect and rejects any form of foreign intervention.
The two initiatives give a hint of how inclusive and multifaceted the BRI is and how the whole world including Grenada, could benefit from it. Looking forward, China is ready to consolidate and safeguard the above-mentioned principles and foundation, effectively connect the BRI and Grenada’s “National Sustainable Development Plan 2020-2035”, and inject new impetus into cooperation between China and Grenada.