China-Maldives Mutual Beneficial Cooperation Should be the Consensus of All Parties
Chinese Ambassador to Maldives H.E. Zhang Lizhong
Recently, the Chinese side noticed that some individual figures have successively made false statements about the China-Maldives mutual beneficial cooperation by fabricating the so-called “land grabbing” and “debt trap”. They even further alleged that China endangers the security of the Indian Ocean region and attempted to incite relations between China and the countries in the region. If these erroneous remarks were let to go like this, the long-term interests of the development of Maldives and the people would not go unharmed in the end.
The China-Maldives mutual beneficial cooperation under the “Belt and Road” initiative aims to improve people’s livelihood and achieve mutually-beneficial and win-win results. As the first cross-sea bridge in the Indian Ocean, China-Maldives Friendship Bridge is expected to be open to traffic soon, which will thoroughly improve the traffic conditions in the Greater Male area and realize the dream of several generations of Maldivian people. The reconstruction and expansion of the Velana International Airport will bring new and greater development opportunities to the tourism industry of Maldives. Thousands of apartments built by Chinese companies and Laamu link road under China free aid are welcomed by the local people. These major livelihood projects will upgrade infrastructure level in Maldives, promote its economic and social development, bring tangible benefits to the Maldivians, and lay a solid foundation for the future development of the country.
There is absolutely no so-called "land grabbing" in China-Maldives mutual beneficial cooperation. China has just kicked off its investment in Maldives’ tourism industry. In the past four years, companies from 30 countries of European Union and neighboring region have invested 124 tourism islands in Maldives with less than seven invested by Chinese companies, ranking 6th in number, and none of these projects has been completed so far. Chinese companies are only involved in very few tourism islands in operation, which is a completely normal investment behavior.
China-Maldives mutual beneficial cooperation fully respects the will of the Maldives government and people, fully considers the needs of local development, and attaches no political conditions, which is mutually beneficial, open, inclusive and transparent. The cooperation adheres to the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and has always followed the market discipline and the internationally accepted rules. The so-called "debt trap" is entirely groundless.
The China-Maldives mutual beneficial cooperation doesn’t start from the current Maldivian Government. In July 2010, the National Museum of Maldives was built and completed with the Chinese free aid, which opening ceremony was attended by then President Mohamed Nasheed and his wife. In the same year, the Chinese tourists traveling to the Maldives surpassed the Great Britain and became the largest tourist source country up to present day. In November 2011, the foundation ceremony of 1000 units housing project in Hulhumalé was also attended by then President Nasheed. In June 2013, the government of China and Maldives officially confirmed to construct Laamu Link Road, which was completed in November 2016. In September 2014, the Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a historical state visit to the Maldives, and China-Maldives mutual beneficial cooperation has been on the fast track ever since then. The supports from the Chinese side to the Maldives and its people are consistent, and only grow stronger along-with the developments of China, should one try to identify the differences between now and the past.
The Chinese Government stands for proper settlement of the current political crisis in the Maldives through dialogue and consultation of all parties. China abides by the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. China-Maldives bilateral relationship will not develop at the expense of the interests of any third country. China-Maldives cooperation will not harm the sovereignty and independence of the Maldives at all, rather, it will bring benefits to the prosperity and stability of the Indian Ocean region.
The Chinese side believes that the development of China-Maldives mutual beneficial cooperation should be a consensus rather than difference of all walks of life and all parties in Maldives, as long as one upholds an objective and fair view to China-Maldives relationship from a long-term perspective. The practice of favoring China-Maldives relationship in the tenure, and then turning against and even denigrating it when leaving the office, should be abandoned.