BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
The Chinese Government says it is prepared to continue assisting countries in the Caribbean and Latin American region with poverty alleviation, despite its own lingering developmental challenges. Counselor for the Department of Latin America and Caribbean, Han Jing, told journalists from the region at a meeting at China’s foreign affairs ministry in Beijing earlier this week, that while the two matters are interconnected, one should not affect the other.
The session formed part of the agenda for media workers from the region who are being hosted by the Chinese Public Diplomacy Association and the Beijing International Chinese College under a newly launched China-Caribbean media exchange programme.
He pointed out that his Government has already implemented a number of strategies to alleviate poverty among the 14 percent of its population which is still lagging behind.
Han said some private companies are also engaged in poverty alleviation projects.
“China tries to locate appropriate projects so as to propel employment and growth [in the region],” he said, noting areas such as technical cooperation in agriculture help promote a stable source of income for stakeholders.
“We have a large number of projects and methods for cooperation… the best projects are those in keeping with the imperatives and circumstances in localities,” he said.
According to Han, China and the countries of the Caribbean and Latin America with which it has formal ties, are now benefitting from the best diplomatic and economic relations in history.
He noted, too, that China and the region face common challenges, as, despite its rapid socio-economic development over the past four decades, China is still a developing country.
“We are aware of the common challenges we face together. No country can face up to these challenges alone, nor can they retreat to isolation,” Han said.
He pointed out that although China is the world’s second-largest economy, recording gross domestic product of US$1.22 billion in 2017, it still has its own problems of uneven development and an “alarming” gap between urban and rural areas. He said 14 percent of the population still live in poverty but that the Government intends to build a “moderately prosperous” society by 2021, and a modern socialist country that is wealthy and democratically advanced by 2029.
At the same time, China is pushing hard at its Belt in the Road Initiative (BRI), which was launched four years ago. The BRI is a development campaign which China plans to use to stimulate economic growth across Asia and Europe.
China says that with the countries of the region being what it sees as a “natural extension” of one aspect of the BRI — the maritime silk road — it is willing to synergize its development strategies with those of the countries of the Caribbean region, under the BRI framework.