(Jamaica Observer) China, once among the least liked countries by the West, is rapidly becoming best friends, at least of the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. And for several good reasons.
Not the least of these is the hefty billion-dollar loan and aid packages which Chinese vice-president, Xi Jinping said his country would unveil over the next couple of weeks in several countries in the region.
Xi Jinping was greeted with open arms by Jamaican officials just over a week ago when he arrived here after a first stop in Mexico on a six-country tour which also included Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Malta, off the Italian coast.
The Jamaicans were quietly pleased that the island was chosen for the only Caribbean stop on the Chinese vice-president’s itinerary.
Asked how China was able to offer such largesse in an environment of economic slowdown, Chinese ambassador to Jamaica, Chen Jinghua, said: “We’re not rich. However, as a country we have some money available to help our friends in the world, including Jamaica.”
It was Xi Jinping’s first visit to Jamaica and was a perfect opportunity, said Chen, for him to see for himself what the country was like, as Kingston and Beijing stepped up already friendly relations.
While here, Xi Jinping and Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding signed seven bilateral agreements totalling US$138 million (J$12 billion) on areas including trade, agriculture, infrastructural development, education and culture. The money will be divided for use on:
. Credit for short-term trade financing purposes (US$100 million);
. Supplying agriculture equipment and machinery to the Ministry of Agriculture;
. Technical co-operation for special projects (US$7.3 million);
. Construction of a Chinese garden at Hope Gardens;
. Upgrading water supply and road systems in Sligoville, St Catherine;
. Establishing a Confucius Institute at the University of the West Indies; and
. Providing concessional funding to the Development Bank of Jamaica (US$10 million)
Xi Jinping is also expected to sign bilateral agreements with the other countries he’s visiting.
Chen stressed the value China places on its friends. “In the past 30 years, we have followed a road of opening up and there have been lots of benefits to China. We are number three in terms of the size of the economy, we have raised the living standards of 1.3 billion people, have accumulated close to US$2 trillion in foreign reserves and we’ve become the fourth largest trading country in the world. All these suggest that as a country, we are stronger, much stronger than before. We have the strength, including the financial strength, to help our friends in the world,” he said.\\