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China Friendship Association has Big Plans for Year of the Rabbit

Statement by the Saint Lucia-China Friendship Association (SLCFA) welcoming the Year of the Rabbit

The Saint Lucia-China Friendship Association (SLCFA) joined Chinese nationals in Saint Lucia last Sunday (January 22), to together welcome the 2023 Chinese Spring Festival in the Year of the Rabbit.

It was the first nationwide celebration in China since COVID-19 in 2020 and hundreds of millions of Chinese, at home and abroad, went all-out to welcome the new year and pray for better times ahead, as the government in Beijing continues to fight COVID-19 and keep the economy buoyant.

After four decades navigating the rough waters of the global political and economic systems and evolving as one of the world’s two major trading powers with the economic, military, diplomatic and political might to stay and steer the course all the way, China continues to be subjected to growing efforts to slow the pace of its progress and poison global public opinion about it.

As stated at Sunday’s celebration, in 2022, the Chinese economy remained the second largest in the world and enjoyed sound development, with GDP exceeding 120 trillion yuan (around US $17.5 trillion) and recording 3% growth.

The increased growth rate for 2023 is predicted to be 5%, which will mean a 30% increase in its contribution the world economy.

Despite a global food crisis, China has secured a bumper harvest for the 19th year in a row, creating a stronger position to ensure the food supply.

Regarding COVID-19 and as also noted at Sunday’s Spring Festival luncheon, China has always followed a policy of Putting People First and through a science-based and targeted approach, has adapted its COVID-19 response in 2023 in light of the evolving situation, to protect the life and health of the people to the greatest extent possible.

Sunday’s session also heard that 2022 marked the 50th Anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, starting Guyana and Jamaica in 1972.

Over the past half-century, especially since President Xi Jinping’s visit to Caribbean countries in 2013, the comprehensive cooperative partnership between China and Caribbean countries has kept deepening and cooperation in various sectors has yielded fruitful outcomes, setting an exemplary model of mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit and common development between countries of different sizes.

On April 28, 2022, in order to firmly seize the historic opportunity, further unleash the potential of cooperation and forge a higher level of partnership between China and the Caribbean, the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Among China and the Caribbean Countries Having Diplomatic Relations with China was held via video link.

H.E. Wang Yi, former Foreign Minister of China, promised then that Beijing will keep closer policy communication with Caribbean countries and is ready to hold the 8th Round of Consultations between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Caribbean countries, as soon as possible.

The China foreign minister also promised to arrange a visit to the region by a Special Envoy for Caribbean Affairs as early as possible and said China will continue to provide economic and technical assistance to Caribbean countries without any political strings attached.

Beijing has promised to focus on supporting key projects of interest to Caribbean countries, vigorously develop projects that benefit the people and promote practical technologies such as Juncano.

China will also continue to provide anti-pandemic supplies and vaccines to Caribbean countries until the pandemic is finally defeated and has decided to donate anti-pandemic and medical supplies to Caribbean countries having diplomatic relations with China and the CARICOM Secretariat.

China also promises to try to build a pattern of diversified and interactive people-to-people exchanges, actively consider the orderly post-pandemic resumption of people-to-people exchanges and increase the number of government scholarships and personnel training to Caribbean countries.

Presently, more than 100 students from each of the 9 CARICOM member-states with diplomatic ties with China are studying in China every year.

Beijing fully understands and supports the reasonable concerns of the small island countries and has also decided to set up China-Caribbean disaster prevention and mitigation fund.

On December 16, 2022, for example, China provided US$50,000 to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), through the CARICOM Secretariat, to purchase laboratory equipment and supplies.

Meanwhile, the SLCFA also plans to increase its contacts and coordination with other China Friendship Associations across CARICOM.

Members of the SLCFA, which observed its 18th Anniversary on November 4, 2022 and hosted a related celebratory luncheon for members on November 6, attended the Year of the Rabbit celebrations here last Sunday, where it also announced preparations for observance of its 20th Anniversary next year.

Among its plans leading to 2024 is encouragement of the post-COVID revival of People-to-People Friendship between China and Saint Lucia, and CARICOM citizens, through engagements with local and regional partner associations and related China solidarity entities.

The SLCFA also plans to propose creation of a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Federation of China Friendship Associations.

The SLCFA also indicated last weekend that it plans to approach the Ameena Gafoor Institute and UK-based former Guyana Ambassador to China Dr David Dabydeen, to possibly co-host an online workshop on ‘Chinese in the Caribbean’ in February, to coincide with Saint Lucia and Guyana’s Independence Day and Republic Day anniversaries, on February 22 and 23, respectively.

SLCFA also reaffirmed last weekend it is committed to work with fellow associations across the region to revive and energize Caribbean solidarity for China, with renewed spirit, in The Year of the rabbit — and beyond.

January 24, 2023

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