Top Chinese official Li Changchun will visit the Maldives this as part of a three nation tour which will also take in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Li, described as China’s fifth highest-ranking leader, has been a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee since 2002.
An official from the Chinese embassy in the Maldives has confirmed that Li will arrive in Male’ this weekend after being invited by the government.
The official said that the background to the visit was the 40th anniversary of Sino-Maldivian diplomatic ties, but explained that there were always many reasons behind such visits which include the strengthening of bilateral ties.
Chinese state media has today reported that Li is in Islamabad meeting President Asif Zardari in order to take Pakistani-Chinese cooperation to a higher level.
Often referred to as China’s propaganda chief, Forbes magazine describes Li as the man who “controls what 1.3 billion Chinese see, hear, [and] speak.”
Most famously, Li is said to be the man behind the censorship of the internet in China, better known as the “Great Firewall of China”.
Li is one of seven members of the current Politburo Standing Committee scheduled to retire at the 18th National Congress next month.
Fellow members of the Standing Committee have toured widely across Asia and the pacific during the past month.
President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan paid an official visit to China in late August as ties between the two nations continue to grow.
During this visit Waheed finalised the details on financial assistance to the Maldives worth $US500million (MVR7.7billion) with the promise of more to come.
China has become increasingly important to the Maldives in terms of tourism although analysts suggest that the Maldives also figures in China’s plans for domination of global sea lanes – often referred to as the string of pearls theory.
India has responded to enhanced Sino-Maldivian ties by reaffirming its traditional military links with the Indian Ocean nation, as well as offering its own financial assistance.
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.
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.
The decision to open the embassy was announced during the visit of Wu Bangguo, the second highest ranking member of the current standing committee, May 2011.
Earlier this week, President Hu Jintao described ties between the nations as the “model of friendship between a big country and a small one.”