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China-Suriname Relations at 45: Envisaging a Brighter Future

| 作者: Bu Shaohua | 时间: 2021-06-07 | 责编:
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  Over 168 years ago, a ship carrying 18 Chinese indentured labourers landed in the nowaday’s Coronie District of Suriname. With the hope of earning a living in sugar cane plantations, these ancestors didn’t know that they were actually making a historical first contact between China and the distant South American country.
  45 years ago, 1976, China and Suriname officially established their diplomatic relations, opening up a new era for the greater friendship between the two peoples.
  For 45 years, the two countries have forged a solid tie, setting a model for the Sino-Caribbean and South-South cooperation. Based on long-term mutual understanding and support for each other’s core interests and concerns, China and Suriname have established a strategic cooperative partnership, which scores high among Caribbean countries and even in the wider LAC. Suriname engages actively in the “Belt & Road Initiative (BRI)” cooperation, becoming the second Caribbean country to sign the MOU for cooperation on the BRI with China. Most importantly, leaders of the two countries have attached high importance to the bilateral relations. President Santokhi has paid many visits to China, and President Xi Jinping highly values his personal interaction with President Santokhi. On learning of President Santokhi’s infection of COVID-19 virus, President Xi immediately sent a message of sympathy and wished him a quick recovery.
  As a country with the largest number of Chinese diasporas in the Caribbean, Suriname is naturally close-bonded with China at many fronts. If you ever visit the country, you will always be impressed by the magnificent traditional Chinese building of Kong Ngie Tong Sang in the heart of Paramaribo as well as the widespread Chinese supermarkets around the country. You will surprisingly find many Surinamese citizens with pure black faces owning Chinese names. Suriname was also the first country in the West Hemisphere to recognize the Chinese Lunar New Year as a National legal holiday. 
  The shared lifeblood of the two countries is in particular vividly manifested in the midst of their fighting against COVID-19. In the very early phase of outbreak last year, President Santokhi (back then the VHP party Chairman) rapidly collected and donated as many medical goods as he could to China. As the pandemic furthering in Suriname thereafter, China also in no hesitation provided batches of necessary goods and shared precious anti-virus experience to its Surinamese partner. With the Chinese vaccines beginning to get approved by WHO recently, vaccine cooperation is now on the agenda for the two countries.
  President Xi Jinping once said, “the world is undergoing the greatest changes in a century”. The unprecedented pandemic clearly signals that we’re entering a more globalized world where both traditional and non-traditional security issues are getting closely intertwined. To address such challenges, closer cooperation is the only way out for all countries. China and Suriname are no exceptions, either. 
  We should enhance our view-exchanging on state governance between the two governments or ruling parties. 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It’s a great window of opportunity for Surinamese political parties to get a closer look at and draw experiences from Chinese people’s revolution and development history during the last 100 years. Through interactions, the CCP can also learn more from its Surinamese counterpart’s experience to govern a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.
  We should attach more focus in the new development sectors. The pandemic catalyzes the surge of digital economy worldwide. In Suriname, we have witnessed the upgrading of its telecommunication system and rollout of several mobile payment systems in recent years. As the world’s largest and most advanced digital market, China has the capacity to help Suriname to accomplish the shift of economic pattern. In the field of climate change, Suriname, along with Bhutan, are the only two countries so far having achieved carbon negative in the world. On the way for China to reach carbon neutrality before 2060, Suriname can serve as a good partner.
  We should coordinate more in regional and international arena. With China playing an increasingly significant role in the Caribbean and LAC, it’s apparently not in the interest of Suriname to be absent from the deepening Sino-Caribbean/LAC cooperation. China-CELAC forum and China-Caribbean Economic & Trade Cooperation Forum are two mechanisms which Suriname should better exploit. Within the multilateral fora, Suriname and China have been fighting shoulder-by-shoulder for a long time, contributing a lot in upholding international justice and equity. This is a fine tradition we shall never abandon.
  As a Chinese who has once worked in Suriname for several years, I have to admit that the hospitality of Surinamese friends and beautiful tropical scenery deeply impressed me. I sincerely wish a brighter and prosperous future for the China-Suriname relations.
  Happy birthday to the 45th anniversary!

The author is Bu Shaohua, an assistant research fellow at China Institute of International Studies.
Source: Dagblad Suriname Nationaal,May 28, 2021

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