A batch of COVID-19 vaccines donated by the Chinese government arrived at Guyana’s Cheddi Jagan International Airport on March 2, demonstrating the strength of the time-honored friendship between China and Guyana.
The vaccine is the biggest hope for all countries to save lives and restore their economies. However, the “vaccine nationalism” being practiced by some of the developed countries has pushed Caribbean nations, including Guyana, into a disadvantaged position.
A communique issued at the 32nd Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Governments of the Caribbean Community admitted that due to the relatively small procurement volume, it was difficult for Caribbean countries to obtain vaccines.
The COVAX program that is trying to ensure everyone in the world has access to COVID-19 vaccines can only meet 20 percent of the needs of these countries, which still lags far behind the goal of immunizing the entire population in the region.
Since August last year, the new Guyanese government led by President Irfaan Ali has taken measures to protect the life and health of the Guyanese people with a responsible attitude, achieving remarkable results in curbing the deadly virus.
However, the virus continues to spread in the country, which has greatly impacted the economy and people’s livelihoods, and the youth unemployment rate exceeds 30 percent.
Despite the gap between China’s limited production of COVID-19 vaccines and the huge demand, China responded immediately to Guyana’s request for aid and provided Guyana with a batch of vaccines in the shortest time and the fastest speed, helping to safeguard Guyana’s front-line medical workers, the elderly and other vulnerable people.
China has played an exemplary role in assisting Guyana and other countries in the Caribbean region. President Ali sent a letter to President Xi Jinping to express his heartfelt thanks, stressing that China’s move is “a further testimony to the excellent relations which our two countries enjoy and the unwavering support of China for our COVID-19 relief efforts”.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Guyana in March 2020, China has provided 11 batches of anti-pandemic materials to the country, including nucleic acid extraction apparatus, more than 10,000 testing reagents and over 100,000 masks, as well as ventilators and oxygen generators.
China has also shared its anti-virus experience with Guyana through bilateral and multilateral videoconferences. Chinese enterprises in Guyana have also adopted measures to take good care of local employees and have donated materials to help local communities fight against the pandemic.
The recent vaccine cooperation has set a new example for the practical cooperation between China and Guyana. The two countries have treated each other as equals respecting, understanding and supporting each other and they have deepened their mutual political trust, further enhanced their economic and trade ties, and promoted personnel exchanges and fruitful pragmatic cooperation in various fields.
Last year, against the background of shrinking global trade and a 16.9 percent drop in Guyana’s foreign trade, the bilateral trade between the two countries rose by 78.7 percent to $570 million, of which Guyana’s exports to China exceeded $300 million for the first time, with a year-on-year growth of 5.63 times.
Chinese enterprises have invested more than $2.7 billion in Guyana, directly creating thousands of jobs for local people.
Chinese enterprises have built airports, roads, telecommunication networks, the power grid and water plants in Guyana, which have greatly improved the local infrastructure. Guyanese Minister of Public Works Juan A. Edghill said, “All the transformative projects in Guyana are built by Chinese.”
In November last year, the power cable under the Demerara River in Guyana was damaged by tugboats. China responded to Guyana’s emergency call and coordinated with Ningbo-based Orient Cable Co to send a technical team to carry out emergency repairs, ensuring the power supply for the capital Georgetown during the Christmas holiday.
A total of 231 doctors have been dispatched to Guyana in 16 teams to help improve local medical services since 1993.They have not only treated patients 1.3 million times free of charge in major hospitals, rescuing more than 30,000 patients, but have also often conducted medical outreaches in the hinterland to provide free services for patients who were not convenient to travel long distances.
China-Guyana economic and technological cooperation projects also play an indispensable role in Guyana and benefit its people. For example, the Chinese-funded Arthur Chung Conference Center has become an important venue for Guyana to hold domestic and international events.
Two China-donated container scanners have greatly increased the efficiency of Guyana’s cargo clearance. Police cars funded by China have boosted the fight against crime. And the two ferries Kanawan and Sabanto provided by China have made it easier to cross the Essequibo River.
President Xi had a telephone conversation with his Guyanese counterpart on March 16, saying that China and Guyana should take the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic ties next year as an opportunity to push for more cooperation results and lift bilateral relations to a higher level.
President Ali reiterated that Guyana firmly abides by the one-China principle, regards China as the most important cooperative partner for Guyana’s national development, and is committed to strengthening relations with China.
This year marks the first year of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), and is also the start of Guyana’s “new economic era of prosperity”. Pragmatic cooperation between the two countries boasts a solid foundation, great potential and new opportunities.
As long as the two sides adhere to the consensus reached by the two heads of state and the Belt & Road Cooperation document signed in 2018, as well as the basic principles of consultation, co-construction and co-sharing, the China-Guyana friendship will continue to grow stronger, and the mutually beneficial partnership will bear more fruit and be a model for South-South cooperation.