One is a low-lying tropical island nation in the heart of the Indian Ocean. The other is one of the largest economies in the world. One is known for its world famous tourism industry. The other a global superpower in terms of consumer electronics, commerce, oil, and manufacturing among several other industries. One is the Republic of Maldives and the other is the People’s Republic of China.
Yet, the two nations are celebrating 50 years of bilateral relations this year, which began in 1972. Some accounts claim that the friendly exchange between the two nations goes back even further.
Apparently, 600 years ago, the Chinese Ming Dynasty navigator, Zheng He, traveled with his fleet to the Maldives twice; once in 1412 AD and again in 1417 AD. There are other Tang dynasty documents documenting a visiting Maldivian delegation bearing gifts from King Baladitiya to Emperor Gaozong in 658 AD and again in 662 AD.
The extent of China’s assistance to the Maldives is indisputable.
The largest infrastructure development project in the Maldives to date, the Sinamale Bridge, would not have come to fruition without the generosity of China. The expansion of the country’s aviation hub; Velana International Airport – from expanding its runway to developing the new seaplane terminal – would likely have stagnated without China’s help. In fact, the country was on the front line to help the island nation in its mission to fight the Covid-19 pandemic amid the 2020 outbreak. China was the first foreign sovereignty to reach out during the crisis sanitary; from ventilator and medical equipment to doses of vaccine.
The President of the People’s Republic of China, HE Xi Jinping, extended his congratulations and best wishes to the government and people of the Maldives on this occasion. The Chinese head of state, while alluding to centuries-old friendly exchanges between the nations, said the Maldives and China have always held high regard and respect for each other; and treated each other as equal sovereigns. He emphasized cooperation by overcoming difficulties together and reaching out to each other.
Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives, HE Wang Lixin, spoke of the strong camaraderie between the two countries and its people. She went on to acknowledge the continued strengthening of diplomatic relations, which only grew stronger with challenges.
“China highly appreciates the Maldivian government’s long-standing commitment to the one-China policy. China firmly supports the Maldives in safeguarding its sovereignty, independence and national dignity and helps the Maldives in its social and economic development. China-Maldives relations have become a model of friendly exchanges, mutual benefits and win-win cooperation between countries with different systems and cultures in the international arena,” she added.
The Ambassador notes that the Sinamale Bridge is a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative, which she identifies as having brought huge changes to the island nation.
Historical timeline of China-Maldives bilateral relations;
– 1972: establishment of Maldives-China bilateral relations
– 1984: Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom paid a state visit to China in October, marking the first visit to China by a Maldivian president since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
– 1990: Construction of the Sinamale’ I and II apartment buildings
– 2005: Emergency aid worth US$500,000 provided by Chinese government to tsunami-hit Maldives
– 2007: National Museum of the Maldives, redesigned and built with a 58 million RMB grant from China
– 2008: Opening of the Maldivian Embassy in China
– 2011: Opening of the Chinese Embassy in the Maldives
– 2012: Completion of phase I of the housing development project of 1,000 units in Hulhumalé thanks to Chinese aid
– 2014: First state visit of President Xi Jinping to the Maldives
– 2014: Completion of Phase II of the housing development project of 1,500 homes in nine islands spread over five atolls
– 2018: Completion of the Sinamale Bridge
– 2018: Completion of Phase III housing development project of 1,344 units and parking facilities in Hulhumale’
– 2020: Completion of 7,000 unit Hiyaa Flat Housing Project in Hulhumale Phase II
– 2021: the Maldives receive the first batch of 200,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines donated by the Chinese government
– 2022: Expansion and modernization of the Velana International Airport (VIA) project completed with a new runway and a new seaplane terminal
– 2022: Initiation of hybrid power plants on 13 islands of the Maldives
– 2022: Renovation program for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building
Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has emphasized the decades-old bond between the two countries. Speaking of the strong ties, the head of state of the Maldives acknowledged China’s immense contribution to the social, cultural and economic development of the Maldives.
“The relationship between the Maldives and China is rooted in a solid foundation of shared historical ties, sovereign equality and mutual respect. It is also built on the Maldives’ firm commitment to the one-China principle. I am confident that the longstanding ties of friendship and collaboration we have shared over the past 50 years will continue to deepen and broaden,” President Solih said.
Speaking along the same lines and commending the Chinese government and people for their continued generosity and support, Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid said diplomatic relations between the two nations have stood the test of the time and have become relations of friendship and cooperation. He also thanked China for its contributions to the socio-economic development of the island nation.
“The Maldives will continue to make every effort to further improve our bilateral relations with China, which are based on our mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the Maldives’ firm commitment to the one-China principle,” the Maldives’ foreign minister said. said.