By Ray Chickrie
PARAMARIBO, Suriname — President Desi Bouterse of Suriname will undertake a state visit to China beginning November 27. In 2013 Bouterse last visited China. The president will also visit Cuba and Serbia according to a press statement without giving specific dates for the Cuba and Serbia visits.
The statement from the government news agency quoted foreign minister, Pollack-Beighle, “China is no longer the same as 20 years ago.”
“China is one of the two fast-growing economies in the world and for Suriname the prototype of how a country can develop on its own feet. It is now the right time for Suriname to deepen the relationship with the country”, Pollack-Beighle said.
China has emerged as a top investor in Suriname funding several projects in the country. When Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, was in Suriname in September 2018, the two countries “signed a cooperation document on co-building the Belt and Road, which has opened up a broader prospect for bilateral cooperation,” according to the Chinese news agency.
Pollack-Beighle said, “both countries understand that they need each other despite their size and population.”
President Bouterse will leave Suriname on November 25, after the independence celebration in Moengo. During the three-day visit, Bouterse will hold bilateral meetings with Chinese president Xi Jinping and prime minister Li Keqiang. In addition, talks will be held with companies interested in investing in Suriname according to the release.
“President Bouterse will also take the opportunity to speak with Surinamese students in China and lay a wreath at the People’s Heroes Monument in Shanghai. In the city of Hangzhou, which maintains a sister relationship with Paramaribo. There will be a meeting with the governor of that city and businessmen.”
In response to the large delegation that will travel with the president, the government said, “Due to the importance of this visit, some ministers are also part of the delegation to China. Their presence also has to do with the fact that several agreements will be signed.”
“In less than 10 years the Chinese have set up hundreds of companies, shops, casinos and restaurants in this small South American state, which reaches deep into the Amazon jungle. They have widened asphalt roads and built social housing. A television channel, with a staff of about 20, now broadcasts in Mandarin Chinese on Suriname networks.
In 2011 the Southern Commercial Bank opened in Paramaribo. A group of Chinese businessmen purchased the Fina Bank. Chinese nationals are now estimated to control around 90 percent of the country’s supermarkets, small grocery stores, and food shops. All the main parties in the recent election fielded a prominently placed candidate of Chinese heritage,” Nicolas Bourcier, wrote in the Guardian in June 2015.
China is building several hospitals in Suriname and funding affordable housing projects in the country. China is also likely to fund the expansion and modernization of Suriname’s Johan Pengel International Airport (JAP), with approval from parliament.