China’s Ambassador to Barbados Wang Ke is departing the island after completing her tour of duty which lasted just under four years.
During her farewell function at the Hilton Barbados Resort last night, Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxine McClean said the Chinese diplomat was leaving behind a legacy of achievements in the areas of economic and cultural development, as she zeroed in on a recently signed agreement which paved the way for hassle-free travel between the two countries.
“The conclusion of the visa abolition agreement between our countries offers the scope for increased people to people exchanges,” McClean told the gathering.
The visa-free travel arrangement for Barbadians and Chinese came into operation at the end of May, and tourism officials here expect that it will help them cash in on China’s booming travel market.
“We get only about 600 Chinese coming to Barbados a year, and we think that coming out of this visa waiver agreement we can move that number to about 2,500 in a short time,” Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy had said at the time of enactment of the waiver.
McClean also said the recent refurbishment of the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium, which was funded by the Chinese government, was “a visible and living symbol of our partnership for all to see and enjoy”.
She also spoke of Wang’s commitment to the establishment of the Confucius Centre at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus “which will stand as further testimony to your interest in drawing our two countries and people closer together”.
During Wang’s tenure China and Barbados also signed the Treaty on Mutual Assistance on Criminal Matters and the Treaty of Extradition.
Bilateral trade also continued to increase, rising for five consecutive years, which made China the fourth largest trading partner of Barbados. Rehabilitation of Sam Lord’s Castle Resort also commenced with funding from the China EXIM Bank.
Beijing also donated computers and other teaching materials to Barbadian primary and secondary schools, while doctors and nurses from China provided health care services, including traditional Chinese medicine at the state-run Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
In her address, Wang also pointed out that China had offered ten more scholarships to Barbadian students to study at Chinese universities and that China would be providing funding for the Barbados Hope Agriculture Training Institute and UWI Cave Hill Food Security and Entrepreneurship Centre.
The outgoing envoy said that educational and cultural exchanges had become the bridge linking the two countries, “deepening the understanding between our two peoples”.