by H E Wei Hongtian, Chinese Ambassador to Grenada
Let us travel back in time to 20 January 2005, when 2 foreign ministers, one from the rooster on the Eurasia continent’s east coast and the other from the isle of spice on the Caribbean sea’s edge, shook hands across the Pacific Ocean and smiled broadly to witness a historic moment: the resumption of diplomatic relations between China and Grenada.
As soon as the agreement was reached and the Joint Communiqué was released, both of them were certain that a new era in bilateral ties had begun.
Over the past 17 years, China and Grenada have cooperated on the basis of mutual understanding, mutual respect and equality, setting an excellent example for friendly and win-win ties between countries of different sizes and political systems. 17 years has been long enough for the 2 countries’ friendship to leave its footprint.
The political mutual trust has warmed up. Grenada recognised the one-China principle 17 years ago and has never wavered in its commitments over the years. On this solid foundation, the 2 countries have granted each other their full support on issues that concern their core interests — as China defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity against foreign interference, its position is strengthened by Grenada’s support, and China and Grenada have collaborated to address global challenges such as climate change and to achieve sustainable development goals. More importantly, party-to-party exchanges underpin bilateral mutual trust — the Communist Party of China (CPC) celebrates its centennial in 2021, and the party was honoured and delighted to receive congratulations and blessings from NNP and NDC, as well as have their high-ranking officials participate in online celebrations and experience-sharing meetings.
The practical cooperation has bulked up. In 17 years, a little sapling can grow into a towering tree. So can the fruit-bearing tree of cooperation between our 2 countries. The China-aid low-income housing project, implemented in 2 phases, has delivered a total of 1,000 units of apartments to the people in need in Grenada, improving their living conditions to a large extent. As China contributed in rehabilitating and expanding the National Cricket Stadium and the National Athletic Stadium, it also earmarked grants for community basketball courts and playgrounds as well as donating sports equipment, eyeing on enhancing the cause of sports and youth development in Grenada. Since 2005, China and Grenada have collaborated on agricultural technological cooperation programs for 7 consecutive phases, with the goal of increasing food self-sufficiency and ensuring food security while exploring smart agriculture. To help shore up tourism and boost connectivity between Grenada and the world, China is funding the Maurice Bishop International Airport Runway and Road Rehabilitation Project. As the construction work is going on smoothly, the project will serve to revitalise Grenada’s economy in the post-pandemic era. Furthermore, I wish to re-emphasise that China-Grenada cooperation is based on the need of Grenada and the principle of mutual respect and equality. As many government ministers applauded, China never interfered in the internal affairs of Grenada nor imposed its own module.
The people-to-people exchanges have shot up. Amity between the people holds the key to good state-to-state relations, and heart-to-heart communication contributes to deeper friendship. China’s Ark Peace hospital ship twice visited Grenada, offering free medical care to the locals. About 200 bright young Grenadians have studied in China on Chinese government scholarships to date, and the number of Grenadians who have participated in short-term training courses in various fields in China reached about 2,000. The rich and diverse people-to-people exchanges between our 2 countries have sparked a growing interest in China and Chinese culture among Grenadians — the Confucius Classroom in TAMCC, which opened in 2015, has offered Chinese language and traditional culture classes to thousands of students, and I was particularly impressed by the Grenadian youngsters who participated in the Chinese Bridge Competition last year. Only with intensive care can the tree of friendship and cooperation grow luxuriant, and a job well done in letting the spirit of partnership embraced by all will keep the bilateral relations vibrant.
Moreover, a more enduring and consolidated China-Grenada relationship has been forged on the anvil of the Covid-19 pandemic. Faced with this global pandemic, only by forming a synergy can the world overcome the hardships. We will not forget, that when China was abruptly hit by the virus in early 2020, Grenada lent its helping hand by donating masks and voicing their strong support for the Chinese people. Following that, China has lavished its gratitude on Grenada, providing it with 7 batches of medical supplies and hosting 3 virtual meetings of medical specialists to share experience on Covid-19 response since the first report of Covid-19 case in March 2020. In addition, the 2 countries are actively cooperating on vaccines, which we expect will bear fruit soon.
Despite unprecedented changes and rising risks and uncertainties, the trend of peace, development, openness, and globalisation will continue, so will the friendship and cooperation between China and Grenada. I have 4 aspirations for our bilateral ties as I stand on the new waypoint and look ahead:
First, we should be partners that firmly support each other. We will unfalteringly back each other in safeguarding our legitimate rights and interests and in independently exploring paths of development that suit our national conditions.
Second, we should be partners in speeding up development and reinvigorating economy. We will continue to expand our collaboration space in sectors such as infrastructure development, agriculture, education, human resource training, sports, law enforcement and climate change among others. Our 2 nations have signed an MOU on jointly implementing the Belt and Road Initiative, and as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Global Development Initiative (GDI) opens up new possibilities, huge potential in our bilateral cooperation awaits to be realised.
Third, we should be partners in promoting China-CELAC solidarity. We will continue to boost general cooperation between China and CELAC, and implement the outcomes of the China-CELAC Forum’s Third Ministers’ Meeting, especially the China-Caribbean Development Centre established by China, so as to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with Caribbean countries on the implementation of the GDI. China is willing to join hands with Grenada and other CELAC member states to promote the building of a China-CELAC community with a shared future.
Fourth, we should be partners in ensuring regional openness. Latin America and the Caribbean is no one’s exclusive “backyard”, and cooperation that aims at common development should be welcomed. We will maintain close communication on regional development, strengthen coordination at the UN and other international platforms, uphold multilateralism, and play a greater role in promoting regional peace and stability.
2021 is a special year for China — it registered an 8.1% GDP growth, realised a moderately prosperous society in all respects and found a historic solution to ending absolute poverty. Now China has embarked on its new journey of realising the second centenary goal, making sustained progress toward attaining the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation, and Grenada is also striving to implement its National Sustainable Development Plan 2020-2035. The common values of peace, development, equality, justice, democracy and freedom unite us closely. As the water is wide at the full tide and the wind is strong for sailing, I am confident that under the leadership of the 2 governments and with the efforts of the 2 peoples, China-Grenada relationship is bound to enjoy an even brighter, more promising future!