Q: Mr Ambassador, thank you very much for agreeing to this interview. The ABCF is a people-to-people association, so may I begin by asking about yourself: is Barbados your first Caribbean posting? What are your personal impressions so far, about our habits, the foods we eat, the way we dress, our entertainment?
A: It is my privilege to entertain your questions. First of all, I would like to extend my sincere congratulations on the formation of the ABCF. China and Barbados have maintained a close partnership of mutual trust ever since the establishment of the diplomatic relations in 1977. The ABCF is a welcome outcome of our long-standing friendship, and it will definitely help to strengthen the people-to-people bond between our two countries in the future. The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Barbados will fully support the ABCF’s work in this regard.
As to my personal impressions of Barbados, this is indeed my first posting in Caribbean region, and ever since I arrived in Barbados on January 18th, 2018, I have been very impressed with the beauty, amenities and kindness of this country and its people. Although our two countries are thousands of miles away from each other and our cuisines and ways of dress are different, our peoples share many common values. Both Chinese and Barbadians understand the importance of hard work for the development and prosperity of the family and the nation at large, and both societies believe in caring and offering help to our friends, neighbors and people in need, wherever we can. We also share common principles such as the pursuit of justice and fairness in our own societies and internationally. Thanks to these common sentiments, I am enjoying my stay in Barbados, and I treasure the friendship and the experience of working with my Barbadian colleagues. I anticipate making more Bajan friends as time goes by.
Q: What would you state as the major goals you hope to achieve during your assignment as Ambassador to Barbados? What goals have you already achieved?
A: As the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Barbados, I always bear in mind of China’s policy of developing friendly, cooperative relations with all countries on the basis of the One-China policy and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and I am always ready to work together with my Barbadian friends to advance the great cause of building a community of shared future for mankind. My major assignment is to advance the friendship between our two countries on an equal and mutually-respectful basis, regardless of the differences in our natural environment, histories, cultures and economic size.
I am proud to say that, thanks to our close cooperation, the level of friendship between our two countries is stronger than it has ever been. I can cite some examples.
Political relationships between China and Barbados have continued to strengthen. Since Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Prime Minister Stuart of Barbados in 2013, our two countries have had frequent high-level contacts and exchanges. Last November, the Hon. Dwight Sutherland, Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce of Barbados, led a delegation to China’s first International Import Expo in Shanghai. The team displayed quality Barbadian commodities to the Chinese people and visitors from around the world. Last year in September, the Hon. Edmund Hinkson, Minister of Home Affairs of Barbados, attended the first China-Caribbean Countries Conference on Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Cooperation; the Conference aims to build a trusted social environment for people to do business and achieve success in commercial relationships. In February this year, Barbadian Foreign Minister, Senator Dr. the Hon. Jerome Walcott visited China to attend the Seventh Round of Consultation between Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Caribbean Countries Having Diplomatic Relations with China. He met with his Chinese counterpart, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi for a candid in-depth discussion on the future development of relationships between our two countries.
There is a growing number of examples of practical cooperation. In 2018, bilateral trade reached a new record high of 157 million USD. The Sam Lord’s Castle Hotel project has been progressing satisfactorily, which will make positive contribution to the tourism sector and employment in Barbados after full completion in the near future. China has also provided grants to promote projects on agricultural technical training and food security, including the Hope Agricultural Training Institute and the Centre for Food Security and Entrepreneurship.
Opportunities for people-to-people exchanges are increasing continuously. This January, the Chinese Embassy and the Central Bank of Barbados successfully held the 5th Fish and Dragon Festival. More and more Barbadians have had their first acquaintance with China, and have become interested in China’s exquisite culture through this Festival. Here I would like to express our great appreciation to Dr. DeLisle Worrell, former Governor of Central Bank of Barbados and current President of the ABCF. It is Dr. Worrell who proposed the idea of the Fish and Dragon Festival and he has worked with us to make this festival popular with Barbadians. In addition, the Chinese Government has already sent three Chinese medical teams to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and more than 4,000 persons have so far taken courses in Chinese language and culture at the Confucius Institute at the UWI Cave Hill Campus.
In addition to these, I plan to work with my Barbadian friends, including the ABCF, to further enhance the friendship between our two countries.
Q: Mr Ambassador, we have a chance to give substance to the Belt and Road Initiative as it applies to countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Do you have any thoughts as to areas in which we can benefit from BRI, or contribute to BRI networks?
A: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was first proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013. ‘Belt’ refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt, and ‘Road’ refers to the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Based on this global economic cooperative platform, China hopes to enhance cooperation with all participating countries in policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, trade connectivity, financial integration and people-to-people contacts so as to realize common development worldwide. During the past 5 years, 122 countries and 29 international organizations have signed 170 BRI cooperation documents with China. The Belt and Road Initiative has now become one of the most highly regarded international public goods.
During his visit to China in February, Minister Senator Dr. The Hon. Jerome Walcott signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation within the Framework of BRI with the Chinese government, on behalf of the Barbadian government. In April, China hosted the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing. We are very happy that our Barbadian friends took part in this Forum. Looking ahead, China will work with Barbados to further deepen our cooperation under the BRI, in areas such as the airport and seaport upgrades, renewable energy, modern agriculture, the blue economy and people-to-people exchanges. With efforts on both sides, and support and advice from institutions like the ABCF, we can raise our cooperation to new heights under BRI framework, to the mutual benefit of the peoples of our two countries.
Q: Mr Ambassador, finally, please share with us any suggestions for the ABCF, or ideas for our activities?
A: There is an old Chinese saying, ‘Friendship, which derives from close contact between the people, holds the key to sound state-to-state relations’. The ABCF can play a very important role in enhancing mutual understanding and communication between the peoples of our two countries. I am told that many of the initiators of the ABCF have personal experiences of China. Some have worked, studied or lived in China for a while; some work closely with our Embassy to advance bilateral cooperation in Barbados; and some have a desire to know more, and to have more contact with China. No matter what experiences you have or look forward to, you are more than welcome to join the ABCF’s efforts to deepen the friendship between our two countries.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Chinese people are working hard to build a better life and realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. On the other side of the Globe, Barbadians are also making great efforts towards a stronger and more sustainable economy. People-centered development and prosperity are our common goals and shared future. In this regard, China stands ready to be Barbados’ development partner. To realize all these grand tasks, we need support from our both societies, companies, universities and non-governmental organizations, and the ABCF will definitely be one of the important contributors.
Finally, I would like to wish the ABCF good luck and I look forward to its progress and success in the future!
Yan Xiusheng is Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Barbados