In what can be described a historic bilateral meeting during his two-day visit to Trinidad and Tobago, China’s President Xi Jinping told Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar that his efforts to promote the longstanding friendship with China are greatly admired.
Speaking on Sunday through his interpreter across the table from President Donald Ramotar and his team, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett and Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh, President Xi recalled Guyana being the first English speaking Caribbean country to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, and the mutual benefits that have accrued since.
“Since the founding of our diplomatic ties, there have been constant high level exchanges between the two sides,” President Xi Jinping said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping meets Guyana’s Head of State Donald Ramotar (Xinhua Rao Aimin)
President Ramotar said in the bilateral meeting that preceded one with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) colleagues Heads of State and the Chinese Premier that Guyana had been in solidarity with the Chinese Government and people since in the days of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), the forerunner to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
“It was in that capacity as General Secretary of the party (PPP), I visited the People’s Republic of China as a guest… one of our leaders too, another founder of our Party Mrs Janet Jagan, had the opportunity of having met with Chairman Mao and Chou-en-lai when she visited China in 1960,” President Ramotar told the Chinese Premier.
Long before the establishment of diplomatic relations, association between the two countries backdates to the mid nineteenth century when the first batch of Chinese immigrants arrived to work as indentured labourers.
They, along with other immigrant groups, the East Indians, Portuguese, and Europeans would later make their mark in Guyana’s diverse ethnic and cultural society.
Today, Chinese nationals constitute the largest portion of foreigners in Guyana, and are predominantly involved in the commerce sector.
Three years ago the Guyana Government announced automatic citizenship for Chinese nationals residing in Guyana lawfully for more than seven years and an increase in the duration of work permits, easing fears, and bringing satisfaction to many who had inquiries.
The long and proud history of friendly relations and cooperation between Guyana and China has been marked by frequent exchanges at the political, diplomatic, economic and cultural levels.
Along with the generous gifts of the Guyana International Conference Centre (GICC) and two roll on roll off ferries, the Chinese Government has been an integral partner in bauxite operations, infrastructure to boost the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector and the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project.
In health, Guyana has been accommodating visiting Chinese medical missions, and is the only country in South America to have such an arrangement. The construction of the modern Sugar Factory at Skeldon and upgrades to the country’s electricity transmission and distribution systems are also part of the Guyana/China partnership.