January 1,1983 is a day of particular significance in the history of China and Antigua and Barbuda. On that very day,our former leaderships showed strategic vision and political wisdom in their historical decision to establish diplomatic ties between the two countries, ushering in a new era for the two peoples in their friendly interactions.Over the past 35 years,no matter how dramatic the changes are in the international arena,the friendship has withstood the test of time and moved forward steadily.
Ever-deepening political trust offers a compass for our friendship. The two countries have kept a good momentum of high-level exchanges that provides political guidance to the development of bilateral ties. Since the beginning of the diplomatic relations,Governor-General Rodney Williams and a succession of prime ministers of Antigua and Barbuda visited China,and senior Chinese officials from major governmental agencies like the Chinese National People’s Congress,the People's Political Consultative Conference and the State Council,came for a visit.In 2014,Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Prime Minister Gaston Browne at the sideline of the Summit of China-CELAC Forum in Brazil. It was followed by an official visit of Prime Minister Gaston Browne to China and his attendance to the second Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nan Jing city of China the same year, marking a milestone in the history of our friendship. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang immediately sent a condolence message to Prime Minister Gaston Browne. China did not hesitate to donate to the disaster relief,and Antigua and Barbuda also did a lot in assisting the transfer of the hurricane-impacted Chinese from Dominica. Upon the re-election of Xi Jinping as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China in its 19th Congress in October 2017,Premier Browne instantly sent a congratulatory message,reaffirming the country’s commitment to friendship with China. Frequent high-level exchanges of this kind reflects the closeness of our countries and the depth of our mutual trust. Over the years the two sides have developed a bilateral relationship featuring equality, mutual respect, mutual support and win-win cooperation. Specifically, China has all along respected the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Antigua and Barbuda, as well as its right to choose a development path in line with its national particularities. China advocates legitimate requests of Antigua and Barbuda and other small-island developing countries over issues like global financial governance,international development financing and the combat of climate change. Meanwhile, Antigua and Barbuda firmly adheres to the One-China Policy and supports China on issues concerning its core interests. The two countries are well coordinated on the international forum and forge ahead in a bid to advance international justice and fairness.
Ever-expanding economic cooperation is the bedrock of our friendship. Over the past 35 years, bilateral trade has been on a constant rise, bringing tangible benefits to the people of Antigua and Barbuda. The government and people of China are proud to have been able to provide support for Antigua and Barbuda’s national building. The Big Creek Bridge, known as the bridge of friendship, has facilitated the river-crossing in the rainy season and shortened the distance between our two peoples’ hearts. As a gateway to the world, the new terminal of V.C. Bird Airport has improved Antigua’s capacity to receive tourists and become a landmark in the Eastern Caribbean. As a comprehensive hospital in Antigua,Mount St. John’s Medical Center has laid the foundation of the country’s health care structure. Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground is not only a venue for cricket matches, but for national celebrations. The completion of Five Islands School is a boost to the country’s education sector and is expected to become a major part of Antigua Campus of the University of West Indies. Moreover, the Barbuda Community Center built with China’s assistance stood firm against the hit by Hurricane Irma,another witness to solid and tenacious economic relations between the two countries. The recently signed economic and technical cooperation agreement has injected strong impetus into the cooperation at the next stage. This coming year will see the completion of Gray’s Green Community Center,the kick-off of the construction of the Innovation and Extension Project in Port of St. John’ s and the other two community centers,as well as the implementation of the agreement on agricultural technological cooperation. I am confident that good news of more economic and trade cooperation will keep pouring in.
Ever-closer cultural and people-to-people exchange is a propeller of our friendship. The amity between the peoples holds the key to sound relations between states. Our cooperation in tourism,education, culture and health have deepened understanding of both peoples. After the Chinese government listed Antigua and Barbuda as a destination country for Chinese tourists,and Antigua and Barbuda granted Chinese citizens visa-exemption status, more and more Chinese are coming to this land of sun and sea for sightseeing. Until now, over 100 Antiguan and Barbudan students have been granted Chinese government scholarships to undertake degree studies in China. Around 200 government officials and technical personnel have been invited to China to attend short-term programs in different sectors for capacity training purposes. There have been multiple visits by Chinese artistic groups to present colorful Chinese culture and promote cultural exchanges. In the 2015 Brightness Trip,the Chinese medical team carried out some 130 surgeries on local cataract patients. As Prime Minister Browne said,in spite of the huge national differences,the two countries have developed sound friendship and cooperation,as a model of relationship between a big nation and a small one.He noted the relations between the two states are at an all-time high.
As a Chinese poem goes, “Distance cannot separate true friends who feel so close even when they are thousands of miles apart”. Far away from each other, our two countries have fostered a high level of friendship,which we should attribute to those old generation statesmen represented by Mr. Deng Xiaoping and Sir. V.C. Bird for their marvelous political wisdom. We are also grateful for the great contributions by President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Gaston Browne to push forward the bilateral relations in the new historical era. Looking into the future, we believe this relationship has a brighter prospect. The 19th Congress of CPC has opened a new chapter for China’s reform and development and also set a new direction for China’s diplomacy, creating a new opportunity for mutual benefit and cooperation between China and the rest of the world. China would adhere to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence in its effort to build on friendship and cooperation with Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua and Barbuda is welcomed to get on board China’s express train of development and the “Belt and Road” initiative.China is willing to move forward with Antigua and Barbuda on a new course featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice and win-win cooperation,and build a community with shared future for mankind.