President of the Republic of Maldives Mohamed Muizzu paid his first state visit to China on January 10. The two heads of state announced to elevate the bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership in Beijing.
"We, as a developing country, should prioritize development partners, as President Xi emphasized during Muizzu's meetings, respecting diverse views," said Midhuam Saud, vice president of the Maldives-China Trade and Cultural Organization.
In his opinion, regional stability lies in a shared commitment to development, peace, and prosperity, as the Chinese concept "A community with a shared future for humanity".
Muizzu's pro-Maldives stance is directed towards strengthening ties with China
Saud recalled that during the presidential campaign, Muizzu positioned himself as firmly advocating for the Maldives. Stressing that friends would be those respecting Maldives' interests, in Saud's view, aligns well with China's preferences for stable partnerships.
"Unlike the past pro-India government, Muizzu plans to maintain a pro-Maldives stance. This strategy would allow fostering collaboration with China, a development partner known for non-interference, especially in areas including infrastructure development," Saud said.
Under Muizzu's leadership, Saud anticipates the deepening of ties between China and the Maldives. Muizzu's development-focused vision aligns well with China's capabilities as a strategic partner, making it likely for them to collaborate on various development projects.
Tangible fruits of China-Maldives ties have changed the lives of the Maldivian people
Ten years on, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has seen a number of major infrastructure projects launched in the Maldives.
In 2014, the Maldives joined China's 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and in 2017, China and the Maldives signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on bilateral cooperation under the framework of the BRI.
Noting that this year marks the 10th anniversary of President Xi's historic state visit to the Maldives, Muizzu said the Maldivian people have benefited greatly from the BRI, citing the Maldives-China Friendship Bridge as a symbol of the bond between the two peoples.
Saud said, "The bridge played a pivotal role in uniting three islands into one city, making the newly developed Hulhumale economically viable for the thriving economic activity and investments we witness today, which has become an integral part of daily life for everyone residing in the Greater Male region."
Meanwhile, he observed that China's shift from direct assistance to empowering self-sufficiency demonstrates a commitment to sustainable cooperation.
The China-Maldives ophthalmology center assistance and cooperation program, launched with Guangdong doctors and led by Dr. Chen Weirong from the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center (ZOC) of Sun Yat-sen University, has transformed lives in the Maldives.
"Program achievements in the last year alone highlight the profound impact of the Chinese medical team, bringing joy and restored eyesight to the Maldivian people," Saud added.
The Maldives and Guangdong complement each other strategically
From Saud's point of view, Guangdong, with its economic strength, can provide investment and expertise to support the Maldives' development goals; in return, the Maldives, renowned for its tourism and natural beauty, offers unique opportunities for Guangdong's businesses.
Statistics from the Ministry of Tourism of the Maldives show that the country received approximately 1.87 million foreign tourists in 2023, including about 187,000 Chinese tourists, accounting for 10% of the total and ranking among the top three. It is predicted that the number of foreign tourists will reach 2 million in 2024, and the number of Chinese tourists is expected to return to the top of the list.
To enhance cooperation, he believes that the two sides can prioritize joint projects, such as sustainable tourism initiatives, renewable energy ventures, and cultural exchanges.
"By combining Guangdong's technological prowess with the Maldives' environmental resources, they can create a partnership that fosters economic growth, sustainability, and cultural enrichment," said Saud.
Author | Hannah
Editor | Olivia, Steven, Nan, James
Poster | Lulu