By Wei Qiang
Chinese President Xi Jinping is going to pay a state visit to Panama at the invitation of Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela. It will be the first state visit by a Chinese president to Panama in history and a significant milestone in the development of the newly established China-Panama diplomatic relations.
Before President Xi’s visit, the grand launching ceremony of the book The Silk Road and Panama, written by Panamanian economist Eddie Tapiero from the Panama Canal Administration, was held in Panama City.
The Silk Road and Panama is so far the first monograph in Latin America that systematically shows the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by President Xi.
In the book, Tapiero systematically describes and analyzes the historical origin, background, and essence of the Belt and Road Initiative, and scientifically expounds on how Latin American countries including Panama took part in the construction of the Belt and Road and the bright future these countries will harvest.
Panamanian mainstream media and various circles of the society have paid high attention to the book. In the days following the launching of the book, almost all the journalists and Panamanian think tank scholars I met were reading the book.
Moreover, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and foreign envoys to Panama asked to buy the book one after another.
Such enthusiasm for the book is a vivid evidence of the fact that though China and Panama just established diplomatic ties one and a half years ago, the Chinese experience, Chinese wisdom, and Chinese solutions have already generated strong attraction, appeal, and affinity in the Panamanian society.
On June 13, 2017, President Xi and President Varela resolutely made the historic decision on the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Panama, opening a new chapter of bilateral relations between the two countries.
Since then, China and Panama, with the common aspiration for jointly building the Belt and Road, have quickly turned their complementary advantages into fruits of pragmatic cooperation.
So far, the two countries have signed a dozen of agreements on cooperation in such fields as trade, investment, maritime transport, civil aviation, finance, agriculture, quality inspection, tourism, and infrastructure, demonstrating firm political willingness to seek win-win results and common development.
Besides, China and Panama have signed bilateral cooperation agreements on Belt and Road, steadily pushed ahead with bilateral negotiations on the China-Panama free trade agreement (FTA), and launched a direct flight from Beijing to Panama City.
It’s also worth mentioning that at the first China International Import Expo (CIIE), Panamanian enterprises, for the first time, sold the national brand Panama Exporta, which included fruits and other high-quality featured agricultural products, as a national effort to promote agricultural development.
The brand Panama Exporta, created to help revitalize agriculture and realize the diversification of agricultural structure for Panama, finally entered the Chinese market with nearly 1.4 billion people.
In the mean time, the two peoples have shown increasing aspiration for enhancing bilateral exchanges and mutual understanding. The Confucius Institute at the University of Panama has begun providing classes for local students, while young Panamanian students have come to China in batches for study or training.
Scholars, think tanks, and media of the two countries have enjoyed close and dynamic exchanges, offering advice and suggestions for the development of China-Panama ties.
Additionally, a series of activities have brought excellent cultural feasts for the mind of people in Panama, including the 2018 National Day reception and concert held by the Chinese Embassy in Panama, the Chinese drama dance show “To Meet the Grand Canal”, and the story-sharing session on China-Panama friendship.
With its location advantages as a center of international transportation and a regional hub of aviation, logistics, and finance, Panama will play an important role in China-Latin America cooperation on joint construction of the Belt and Road.
Taking the historic state visit by President Xi as a starting point and under the guidance of the two leaders, the two countries will continuously consolidate political mutual trust, promote connectivity, accelerate integrated development, and make every effort to pursue common prosperity.
I believe they will make further contributions to the co-construction of an open, innovative, and inclusive world economy and the joint building of a community of common destiny for mankind, through jointly constructing the Belt and Road and building the China-Panama community of common destiny and the China- Latin-America community of common destiny.
(Wei Qiang is the Chinese Ambassador to Panama)