Exclusive interview of Chinese Ambassador: FTA will promote cooperation between China-Maldives

Chinese Ambassador Wang Lixin. (Photo/Chinese Embassy)

Recently, in an exclusive interview with SUN, Chinese Ambassador Wang Lixin briefed the latest developments in the relations between China and Maldives, especially the celebration of the 50th anniversary of China-Maldives diplomatic relations, explained her views on relevant hot issues, as well as expounded on the content of the Global Security Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping. The full text is as follows:

Q: This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Maldives. What is your comment on the China-Maldives relations? What’s your expectation of the future development of the bilateral relations?  

A: China and Maldives are friendly neighbors and the friendly exchanges between the two peoples date back to ancient times. Over the past five decades, the most prominent feature characterizing China-Maldives relations is that the two countries have always respected each other, treated each other as equals, helped each other with sincerity, and firmly supported each other on the issues related to our respective core interests and major concerns. China-Maldives relations have become a model of friendly exchanges, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation among countries.  

Early this year, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid a successful visit to Maldives, during which the two sides signed a number of cooperation documents. State Councilor Wang Yi stressed clearly that China would always support Maldives in safeguarding its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, following a development path suitable to its national conditions, pursuing an independent foreign policy, accelerating economic and social development and enhancing its capacity for independent development. China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, the Upgrading and Expansion of Velana International Airport and the Social Housing Projects have brought transformative changes to the daily life of the Maldivians. Facts have proved that the joint construction of the Maritime Silk Road by China and Maldives serves the common interests of our two peoples. We are jointly embarking on a road towards hope, prosperity and happiness.  

I would like to reiterate that China follows the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of other countries and respects the independent choices of development paths and social systems made by the Maldivian people. The Chinese side never pursues self-interests in Maldives. The friendly cooperation between China and Maldives never targets any third party, but only helps Maldives achieve development and progress. Any attempt to obstruct or even undermine China-Maldives relations will go against the will and interests of Maldivian people. 

Looking into the future, China is ready to work closely with Maldives to consolidate mutual trust, deepen substantive cooperation and pass down traditional friendship with the guidance of the consensus reached by leaders of our two countries. We should maintain a longer-term perspective and broader vision to promote the future-oriented comprehensive friendly partnership of cooperation between our two countries with greater development.   

Q: It is reported recently that it is claimed that China ‘has grabbed the land of Maldives through infrastructure projects and brought Maldives with debt burden and debt trap by providing loans to infrastructure projects in Maldives’. What is your comment on this?   

A: The ownership of the land of all the infrastructure projects implemented by the Chinese enterprises belongs to Maldives. The allegation that ‘China has grabbed the land of Maldives’ is pure slander and has no basis at all.   To help Maldives develop economy and improve people's livelihood, China has provided financing support to Maldives at the request of the Maldivian government.

When carrying out financing cooperation, China always respects the wishes of Maldives, accommodates the demands of Maldives, takes into full consideration of the debt situation and repayment ability of Maldives, follows the principle of mutual benefit and win-win cooperation, and adheres to openness and transparency in line with the laws and regulations.   During the interview with Xinhua News Agency, H.E. Abdulla Shahid Foreign Minister of Maldives said that the coopration between Maldives and China is such a cooperation of mutual benefit and win-win results. Financing cooperation between two sides is the result of friendly consultation. It is neither decided by one side alone nor imposed by one side or the other. The so called 'debt trap'set by China is groundless and a disortation of China's foreign cooperation policy, which is simaed at destorying countries, and brining shame on the Belt and Road Initiative, as Maldives does with its cooperation with China. I believe that the Maldivian people can see through the vicious intention of the 'debt trap' narrative. 

The Chinese side attaches great importance to the debt sustainability of the Maldivian side. China is one of the few countries willing to provide bilateral financing assistance to Maldives and China-Maldives financing cooperation helps enhance the national development capacity of Maldives. China has never pressed the repayment of the debt, but rather encourages Chinese financial institutions to carry out friendly consultations with Maldives on the repayment arrangements of sovereignty and sovereignty-guaranteed credit based on market principles. China has made appropriate debt suspension arrangement for Maldives under the G20 framework, of which the Maldivian government is greatly grateful.  

We believe that solving the debt problem faced by Maldives, after all, depends on development which is the key to solving all problems. Until now, China has helped Maldives finish the building of the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, 10,000 plus units of social housing projects, the office building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and so on. The Upgrading and Expansion of Velana International Airport and new housing projects are still under construction. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, a large number of Chinese engineers and technicians have remained at their posts to ensure the smooth progress of the cooperation projects, which has made great contribution to the economic and social development of Maldives.    

Q: What is your comment on the FTA between China and Maldives?  

A: To promote the trade and investment cooperation between China and Maldives, the two sides started the negotiations on the China-Maldives Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in February 2015. After rounds of negotiations on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, the two sides reached consensus on the Agreement. In December 2017, the China-Maldives FTA was signed in Beijing. After that, China completed the preparations for the FTA to enter into force in July 2018, but Maldives has not yet completed its domestic procedures for ratification of the FTA. We believe that the implementation of the FTA will promote cooperation between China and Maldives in the fields of investment, tourism and fishery. The fact that the FTA has not come into effect goes against the expectations of the two peoples. It also causes worries for the Chinese enterprises that intend to do businesses in Maldives. They will doubt if their investment earnings can be protected in a country which is reluctant to make the FTA into effect. We hope that the relevant authority of Maldives could take into full consideration the real benefits brought to Maldives by the FTA and conclude the approval procedures at an early date.

Q: With regard to the 50th anniversary of the Maldives-China diplomatic relations, will both sides jointly hold a number of celebratory activities? Any details to share with us?  
A: Over the past 50 years, our two countries have gone through an extraordinary journey of common development and win-win cooperation. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the China-Maldives diplomatic relations, the two sides will hold a number of celebratory activities, including China-Maldives friendship storytelling, online quiz, photography and painting contests, different forums, seminars, and youth, cultural and sister-city exchanges, etc. There will be a total of about 30 activities, covering various fields of cooperation between our two countries. Among all the activities, the China-Maldives friendship storytelling is taking the lead by issuing 14 stories of friendly exchanges and cooperation between our two countries, ranging from the exchange of visits between leaders of our two countries to the experience of ordinary people, all of which reflect the extraordinary 50 years of mutual support and common development of the two countries. The heart-warming stories of friendly exchanges between our two countries have been passed down from generation to generation, which makes me more confident that China-Maldives friendship is in the fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples, and that China-Maldives friendly cooperation will definitely benefit the two peoples extensively and profoundly. China is ready to work with Maldives to take the 50th anniversary of the China-Maldives diplomatic relations as an opportunity and hold a number of celebratory activities, so as to create warm and friendly atmosphere for China-Maldives relations and promote our friendly cooperation with more good stories and outstanding achievements.    
Q: Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Security Initiative at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2022. What are the main contents of the Initiative? What is the significance of putting forward the Initiative at this moment?  
A: The world today is far from being peaceful and tranquil, as regional security hotspots keep flaring up and the European security issue receives worldwide attention. With growing threats posed by unilateralism, hegemony and power politics, and increasing deficits in peace, security, trust and governance, mankind is facing more and more intractable problems and security threats.  
It is in this context that President Xi Jinping keeping the future of all humanity in mind, proposed the Global Security Initiative. The Initiative is yet another global public good offered by China and a vivid illustration of the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind in the security field. The Global Security Initiative champions the commitment in six areas:
1. Stay committed to the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and work together to maintain world peace and security;
2. Stay committed to respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, uphold non-interference in internal affairs, and respect the independent choices of development paths and social systems made by people in different countries;
3. Stay committed to abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, reject the Cold War mentality, oppose unilateralism, and say no to group politics and bloc confrontation;
4. Stay committed to taking the legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously, uphold the principle of indivisible security, build a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture, and oppose the pursuit of one’s own security at the cost of others’ security;
5. Stay committed to peacefully resolving differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation, support all efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of crises, reject double standards, and oppose the wanton use of unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction;
6. Stay committed to maintaining security in both traditional and non-traditional domains, and work together on regional disputes and global challenges such as terrorism, climate change, cybersecurity and biosecurity.  
The Global Security Initiative stresses that we humanity are living in an indivisible security community. It sets out the core concept, fundamental guidelines, important principles, long-term goals and feasible approach of upholding and achieving global security. The Initiative focuses on both real problems bearing on the security of mankind and the enduring solution to realize world peace. The Initiative will be an important vision guiding the efforts for reforming the global security governance system, resolving the security difficulties faced by humanity, and advancing the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.