With the relationship between Barbados and China now longer than four decades, the two states last night celebrated that solid relationship which has reaped economic and cultural benefits.
Barbados and China jointly hosted a cocktail reception at the Hilton Barbados Resort, to which a cross-section of Barbadians along with Chinese resident here and members of the diplomatic corps turned up to be regaled with proud reflections on the ties that bind the countries.
On May 13, 1977, this 166-square-mile island broke away from the norms of the time and became the first English-speaking Caribbean country to establish diplomatic relations with the eastern state.
As Tourism Minister Richard Sealy, deputizing for Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, said in a brief address, “both of our countries and global landscape were markedly different from what we enjoy today”.
He noted that Barbados had barely passed one decade since the end of colonial rule, and the relationships that it had formed as a nation still followed the broad contours of its colonial past.
But, he said, guided by a foreign policy set out by National Hero and the island’s first Prime Minister Errol Barrow, Barbados sought new relationships as it began diversifying and modernizing its economy to benefit all Barbadians.
This island’s revolutionary outward look coincided with that of China.
“Both the People’s Republic of China and Barbados were surveying the changing international dynamics and seeking to form new strategic partners,” Sealy said, adding that “China was looking west and Barbados was looking east”.
“In spite of obvious differences, we [Barbados] concluded that we would benefit from a non-traditional bilateral relationship. And we were leaders of the region in that regard. The Government of Barbados took what was one of its most significant foreign policy decisions and established formal diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.”
Ambassador Wang Ke was thankful to Barbados in what matters most to that eastern country – its continued recognition as the only country to be called China.
“China highly appreciates that the Barbados Government keeps it commitment by unswervingly adhering to the one-China policy, and has always seen Barbados a critical partner in the region,” she said.
“Over the past 40 years, China and Barbados enjoyed increasingly enhanced political and economic cooperation and thriving people to people exchange. A lot of breakthroughs and strides were made in recent years. Looking back…I feel proud to say that China-Barbados relationship is now in its prime time.”
Ambassador Ke selected achievements in cooperation over the past five month as what she saw as “a miniature [example] of the 40 years of development of our bilateral relations”.
She reflected that just in January, “the first assignment of a Chinese medical team stationed at Queen Elizabeth Hospital started clinical services and medical exchanges with their counterparts.
“In February, the third Fish and Dragon Festival celebrating the Chinese New Year became a great hit with a huge turnout, exceeding 5,000 Barbadians at Church Village Green. In March, the agreement on mutual visa exemptions for ordinary passport holders was signed. Also, the largest presentation of teaching material from China with a value of $10 million was handed over.
“In April, financed by concessionary loans from China Exim Bank, the rehabilitation of Sam Lords Castle officially commenced. And the third Chinese language proficiency competition was successfully held at UWI, Cave Hill.
“In May, many activities were organized at the first China Week at UWI, Cave Hill, among which the first Joint Conference of Confucius Institutes in the Caribbean region convened. The inaugural Caribbean-China law moot competition was held. Young and promising students from Cave Hill Campus and China University of Political Science and Law presented a close and exciting match,” the ambassador added.
“The win-win partnership between China and Barbados is, and will, be a certainty. China is willing to share its development dividend and welcomes Barbados to get on board on China Express.”