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Visit expected to upgrade Sino-Maldivian cooperation

By ZHOU JIN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-01-06 07:05
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Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu will begin a five-day state visit to China on Monday, becoming the first foreign leader to visit the country in the new year.

President Xi Jinping will host a welcoming ceremony and banquet for his Maldivian counterpart. The two heads of state will hold talks and attend the signing ceremony of cooperation documents, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.

Premier Li Qiang and China's top legislator Zhao Leji will also meet with Muizzu separately, Wang told a daily news conference on Friday.

This will also be Muizzu's first state visit to a foreign country since taking office in November, he added.

China's relationship with the Maldives now stands at a new starting point, Wang said, adding that he believes that through the visit, the two heads of state will provide strategic guidance for bilateral relations to reach new heights.

The spokesman said that in the past 52 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, the two countries have treated each other with respect and supported each other, setting an example of equality and mutual benefits between a big country and a small one.

In 2014, Xi paid a state visit to the South Asian nation, during which the two sides agreed to establish a future-oriented all-round friendly and cooperative partnership.

Over the past decade, relations between the two countries have deepened and bilateral practical cooperation, including Belt and Road cooperation, has achieved fruitful outcomes, Wang said.

In 2022, trade volume between China and the Maldives touched $451.35 million, up 10.1 percent year-on-year, according to the Foreign Ministry.

China has been the Maldives' largest source of tourists for 10 consecutive years since 2010. The two countries issued a mutual visa-free policy in February.

So far Chinese enterprises have completed more than 11,000 social housing units in the Maldives and have extensively participated in cooperation projects in areas such as new energy, power grids, office building, garbage disposal and others.

Lin Minwang, deputy director of the Center for South Asian Studies at Fudan University, said topics such as infrastructure construction, trade and tourism are expected to feature high on the agenda during the visit.

Lin said Muizzu is well aware that strengthening the cooperative relationship with China will benefit his country, and he understands that China has the capability to assist the island country for further development.

"Under Muizzu's administration, I believe that the free trade agreement between the two countries will probably come into effect, which will play a positive role in promoting bilateral trade cooperation."

The bilateral FTA was signed in 2017, but the Maldives is yet to complete its domestic procedures for ratification of the agreement.

China has offered concrete help for the country's development and economic recovery, Lin said, adding that China's investment and constructions in the Maldives, including the Sinamale Bridge and the upgraded and expanded Velana International Airport, have improved local infrastructure.

Such improvements will facilitate visits to the country, which will also boost tourism, he said.

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