Waheed to visit China to enhance trade

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan has revealed his plans to visit China on an official state visit next week, highlighting the continued significance of the nation to Maldivian interests.

“China is a fast developing nation and most products are being made there. Both small and larger countries are trying to establish trade ties with China. Hence we should also follow suit,” Waheed told local media upon his return yesterday from a state visit to Sri Lanka.

The last official state visit by a Maldivian President to China came in May 2010 when Mohamed Nasheed visited the Shanghai World Expo.

Nasheed met Chinese President Hu Jintao during his trip, Dr Waheed is himself reportedly expecting to meet Prime Minister Wen Jiabao next week.

The Foreign Ministry has said that more information about the visit would be released to the media in the coming days.

Ministry of Economic Development’s figures show that imports from China have more than doubled between 2010 and 2011, reaching US$68.9 million dollars.

Maldivian exports to China were reported to total just $26,000 last year, consisting largely of fisheries products.

Vice President of the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MNCCI) Ishmael Asif explained that the potential of Sino-Maldivian ties could be better realised through increased awareness of nature of the island nation.

“The Chinese are yet to understand logistics in the Maldives, including its politics,” he said. “We are trying to educate them on these things.”

He added that efforts were already being made in the field of education in order to “help us understand one another’s culture.”

In addition to trade ties, China has become increasingly important to the Maldives’ in terms of interest from tourists.

China leapfrogged the United Kingdom in 2010 to become the number one source of arrivals for the country’s travel industry.

Official figures reveal that China has provided 22.2 percent of all arrivals to the Indian Ocean nation this year – up 14.5 percent from last year.

“Most tourist arrivals to the Maldives are from China. More than 200,000 tourists come to the Maldives from China. Hence we must establish a close relationship with the country,” Waheed told reporters yesterday.

Asif added that there were great possibilities for Chinese investment in the Maldives’ tourism sector.

“For example, we have no Chinese hotel in the Maldives,” he said. “They are very interested in investment.”

The MNCCI  – whose remit is to promote trade and business in the Maldives – has had an office in Chengdu for two years. Chengdu, in Szechuan province, is the departure point for most Chinese visiting the Maldives, explained Asif.

In the wake of the rapid expansion in tourism links, closer ties have developed in the fields of aviation and diplomacy.

The rise of Mega Maldives Airlines has been particularly notable in recent years. The company, started in 2010, has more than doubled in size in the last year – operating charter flights between the Maldives and five Chinese destinations, as well as Hong Kong.

In April, the company conducted a travel road show in partnership with the Maldives Ministry of Tourism.

The company reported the cancellation of some flights after the political unrest in the Maldives in February. Although arrivals figures bounced back, the Maldives still remains on the Hong Kong Security Bureau’s travel alert system.

Disturbances in the capital at the time included the destruction of the National Museum’s pre-Islamic display. The Museum itself was a gift from China in 2010.

A Chinese embassy opened in Male’ in time for the opening of the SAARC summit last November, reciprocating the opening of a Maldivian mission in Beijing in 2007.

Indian officials were reported at the time as having concern that the move was part of China’s “string of pearls” policy which supposedly involves Chinese attempts at naval expansion into the Indian Ocean.

When asked by a reporter what the Maldives’ policy was regarding Sino-Indian competition in the region, President Waheed is said to have responded that the policy of a small nation like the Maldives ought to be to avoid too great an involvement in geopolitics.

Waheed’s first official state visit after becoming president saw him travel to India in May. The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) conducted joint naval operations with India in the same month.


11 thoughts on “Waheed to visit China to enhance trade”

  1. Does this mean flooding the market with cheap food stuff from China?

    Surely the actual traders and businessmen should be given some kind of what happening.

  2. this is a study tour for the dictator,,er post doctoral fellowship on the inner workings of the chinese politburo and their potential applications to suppress freedom in Maldives (of course for the greater good!)

  3. Coral is absolutely right. The Great Dictator needs to learn a lesson or two on how to suppress and destroy people's freedom in our nation. The timing is also quite significant. The Dictators need the assurances of full support from big brother dictatorial countries at this difficult time.

  4. Yes, it makes sense for Waheed to go there. We know the track record of the Chinese in terms of human rights and the freedom of its people. Waheed is making sure that he can borrow enough money to survive another couple of months(This is called TRADE!) But we know that the Chinese are not going to hand out money for altruistic reasons. That is not their style.They are an emerging world power and and desperate to extend their power in the Asian region. Note the fights they are having right now with Japan about a few small islands close to both countries. So, they will want to 'help' the Maldives. Secondly Waheed should go there to learn more insidious ways of keeping people down and under control. China is the perfect exemplar for this type of governance. If I may use an old cliche, 'Birds of a feather....'Waheed is therefore on a PD visit- a crash course on new ways of staying in power despite the opposition of his people. Thirdly, he knows that the West does not condone his style and motivation. New friends are needed indeed. It is a huge pity that he will sacrifice and bargain with our freedom and our rights, to get what he wants. But has it not been the case all along?

  5. @Coral & Agangatha Mithuru: Why wasn't you talking such nonsense when Waheed visited India or Sri Lanka? Alienating Maldives from China means nothing to you but may bring great loss to people on the street as well as those working hard in the tourism/trade business. Why not be realistic and contribute positively to this nation if you still consider yourselves part of it?!

  6. Both China and Maldives have authoritarian traditions.

    We have been friends with China throughout our known common history.

    Dr Waheed is rich enough to pay for his own trip.

    In many ways, Maldives has more in common with China than with India.

    The trip will bring more strength to the armed forces of Maldives.

    China has the Communist Party. Maldives has Islam.

    Communism and Islam are very much alike.

  7. This can be a fruitful trip by HEP. I wonder why Minivan interviewed Mr. Asif of MNCCI VP about this. MNCCI is a highjacked organization in Maldives by him and still there is no president for the place.
    It will be very good if Minivan can visit MNCCI office and see how they can comment on Maldives trade and HEP trip to China.
    I bet Mr. Asif will not have guts to even invite any media in his office.

  8. China is the stronges t economy in the world, even the west are begging chinese...to hell with Democracy...and yes Human rights too...where is my bloody human rights when you &8#&@s shouting and blocking the streets of Male?

  9. How can you talk about investment in Maldives when there's protest and demonstration and shouting on the street? How do you expect investment from China when there are hostile people like Coral and Agangatha Mithuru? Oh, maybe they are not Maldivians.

  10. Perhaps China might even agree to take over the airport project if GMR doesn't agree to resolve the serious issues in the Agreement.

    I bet China can do a better job in the construction and management of the Airport under a far better deal for the country.


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