The Chinese Embassy in Antigua has officially opened and already, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has pegged it as a “diplomatic hub” for the Eastern Caribbean.
“The size of this residence is such that it symbolises the strong relations that exists between both our nations” … “I believe the relationship between Antigua & Barbuda and the Peoples Republic of China, is such that it would serve as an example of diplomatic relations among states,” he said.
The embassy will house administrative offices and accommodation for the resident ambassador as well as other embassy staff.
However, Mr. Browne hopes that countries in the Eastern Caribbean will also house their diplomatic offices there. The $23 million investment sits on five acres of land in Marble Hill that was gifted to the PRC by the government at a symbolic price at a cost of XCD$1.00.
January 1, 2023, will mark 40 years of diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
The building is therefore seen as a tangible representation of the four decades of partnership, of which the prime minister admits, Antigua & Barbuda has been on the receiving end.
“China has used its resources to help people grow, especially the poorer countries in the world. I’m of the view that is the model all countries should follow,” he said.
He said, China’s assistance has amounted to an aggregate investment of about one billion dollars over the past 20 years. Mr. Browne acknowledged the several major infrastructural projects funded by China to include:
- Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium
- V.C Bird International Airport
- Deep Water Harbour cargo port expansion
- Mount St John’s Medical Centre (now the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre)
- Sir Novelle Richards Academy
- UWI Five Islands
- Solar Light projects on Barbuda
The PRC is also currently working with the government to develop the Booby Alley Social Housing Project and to build homes in Barbuda and Bolans using an almost XCD$100 million grant.
In October 2018, the government accepted the grant from the People’s Republic of China to construct 250 homes – 50 of which will be erected in the Booby Alley area, 50 in Bolans and another 50 on Barbuda.
Antigua & Barbuda was the first country in the Eastern Caribbean to establish ties with the PRC in 1983.
His Excellency Sir Rodney Williams who was part of Sir Vere Bird’s first delegation to China, said the consistency of the bilateral relationship between those two countries contributed to the decision to build their regional diplomatic headquarters on Antigua.
During the ceremony government officials including E.P Chet Greene, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Immigration & Trade, remained committed to the ‘One China’ policy, inclusive of Taiwan. A commitment that has not gone unnoticed by the PRC.
Her Excellency Zhang Yanling, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to Antigua and Barbuda shared similar sentiments, noting that the relationship between the two countries is built on “mutual respect and interests”.
“The Chinese people will never forget that Antigua & Barbuda is the first Eastern Caribbean country to establish diplomatic relations with China, the government’s constant adherence to the one China principal ad the valuable support in international affairs,” she said.
China’s financial support to develop infrastructure in Caribbean countries has been criticized by the United Sates – an important economic partner to the region – whose government believes it is a move by China to expand its global footprint and influence.