China now the biggest investor in Jamaica with over US$2 billion
(Tiffany Holman, Contributor)
Earlier today China’s Ambassador to Jamaica Chen Daojiang held a comprehensive media briefing at his official residence in Kingston to discuss matters relating to China/Jamaica cooperation.
It is one year to the day since Ambassador Chen arrived in Jamaica. He has put paid to former US Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia’s claim that no Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica would make themselves readily available to the press.
Speaking earlier today, Ambassador Chen assured Jamaicans that he will be continuing in this vein, declaring,” This is my first media briefing since I came to this country. Going forward, I wish to continue the interactions and enhance communication with Jamaican media by organising media briefings, press conferences, arranging site visits and accepting related interviews. I also wish to have your continued support to both me and our Embassy.”
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Jamaica in 1972, the two countries have deepened their bond and seen momentum in their bilateral trade relationship.
To underscore this point, Ambassador Chen told the nine different media house representatives, “ Since 20 years ago when Chinese companies entered Jamaica, they have made a cumulative investment of US$2.1 billion in infrastructure construction, ICT, agriculture and mining industry, building a lot of landmark projects such as the North-South Highway. Pan-Caribbean Sugar Company has created 40,000 jobs directly and more indirectly. They made important contributions to Jamaica’s socio-economic development.
“Chinese companies play an active role in sharing management and technological experience with local staff and fulfilling their social responsibility. For example, Chinese companies such as China Harbour and Huawei worked together with UWI Mona and HEART to introduce training sessions, internship programs and collaborative labs, cultivating a number of talents in construction and ICT. During the pandemic, Chinese enterprises in Jamaica donated medical equipment such as masks and sanitisers and office supplies such as laptops.”
Turning his attention to aid and preferential loans, Ambassador Chen reiterated that his country would like to improve the livelihood of Jamaicans and cultivate talents. A major project in this regard is the Western Children’s Hospital now under construction which will be the largest children’s hospital in the Caribbean region once completed.
China has also granted a number of preferential loans to Jamaica on manageable terms thus allowing the Montego Bay Convention Centre, Trelawny Cricket Stadium, Norman Manley International Airport Road and MIDP to be built with low-interest Chinese loans.
But it is not all business with China’s relationship with Jamaica. A concerted effort has been made with cultural exchanges and for Jamaicans to better understand China.
Ambassador Chen made note of the China-aided Confucius Institute at the UWI Mona Campus, which was the first Confucius Institute in the English-speaking Caribbean region, allowing Jamaican students and the public to learn Chinese and familiarise themselves with Chinese culture.
The Chinese Garden at Hope Gardens built with Chinese aid is the only garden built in the Chinese construction style in the Caribbean region.
“China has provided scholarships for hundreds of Jamaican students to study in China. A total of almost 3000 Jamaicans from various fields have received short-term training. This year’s scholarship programs and training sessions are unfolding. I would like to take today’s briefing to bring good news. The number of students receiving the Chinese Ambassador’s scholarship each year will increase from 5 to 8 in all four Jamaican universities having cooperation ties with the Embassy. This will help Jamaica cultivate more talent. China will continue to support Jamaica’s education and human resource development so as to cultivate more talents for Jamaica,” said Ambassador Chen.
Focusing on China’s economic growth during his presentation, Ambassador Chen cited that China’s GDP reached RMB 28.4997 trillion (US$18.5 trillion) in the first quarter of the year, surpassing market expectations. International organisations and enterprises have now revised their growth expectations for China’s economy upward, estimating that it will contribute to one-third of global economic growth in 2023. He stressed China’s commitment to openness, inclusiveness, mutual benefit, and win-win cooperation, supporting Jamaica and other countries in their pursuit of robust, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive development.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, was highlighted as a key area of cooperation between China and Jamaica. Ambassador Daojiang Chen stated that there has been significant progress achieved through joint cooperation under the BRI framework. He mentioned the positive impact of the BRI on trade, foreign investment, poverty reduction, and economic development in participating countries. Jamaica’s early participation in the BRI as the first Caribbean country signatory reflects its commitment to enhancing bilateral cooperation.
Three major global initiatives proposed by China are the Global Development Initiative (GDI), the Global Security Initiative (GSI), and the Global Civilisation Initiative (GCI).
The GDI aims to promote robust greener and more balanced global development which aligns with Jamaica’s own development goals. The GSI focuses on addressing global security challenges through cooperation and solidarity, promoting peace and stability. The GCI highlights the importance of exchanges and mutual learning among different civilizations, fostering cultural integration and understanding.