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Suriname - China Relations

The government's pro-China politics grate against popular sentiments. Maintaining the uneasy balancing act between its international political commitment to the People's Republic of China and its domestic commitment to resentful constituents continued to challenge the government of Suriname. The Chinese presence in Suriname remains controversial because the public fears Chinese workers will first take away their jobs, and then, open shops and take away their business opportunities. The Government of Suriname is sometimes mocked and criticized in the media for its lavish praise and attention to China, as well as its slavish adherence to the "One China Policy."

The Chinese likely look to resource-rich Suriname as a potential supplier of wood, bauxite, and oil and have invested heavily in developing a strong relationship with the GOS via major construction projects and exchange visits of VIPs. The press's yellow journalism tactics provide counterpoint to the eager acceptance of Chinese friendship by the Government of Suriname (GOS). The image of Suriname as a colony of China was rampant. While the GOS cozying up to China despite its poor human rights and environmental record was disheartening, the blame leveled by the press on ethnic Chinese for many of the nation's problems was borderline racist.

The Creole-based National Party of Suriname (NPS) is the largest coalition party in 2006, and controls the Presidency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is not uncommon to hear rumors that the NPS tried to strengthen the Chinese presence in order to offset its intra-coalition rival, the Hindustani-based United Reform Party (VHP). Hindustanis have traditionally dominated the business and trade sectors in Suriname.

Suriname is one of the countries with the largest overseas Chinese population in the Caribbean area. The Surinamese public is biased against recent immigrants from China. These "new Chinese" are accused of entering Suriname illegally, and receiving preferential treatment in obtaining residency permits and business licenses. Their economic competition is feared, and viewed by Surinamers as unfair. Racism is one result, and calls for stricter immigration policy are another. The widespread anti-Chinese bias complicates government of Suriname (GOS) efforts to maintain a close political relationship with China.

According to one local newspaper report in 2007, twenty to thirty Chinese immigrants entered Suriname on every KLM flight, and at least 10,000 "new Chinese" have entered Suriname since 2000. Such numbers impacted this small nation of a half million people, and led one local politician to say Suriname "rolls out the red carpet." Often, the "new Chinese" are on their way to the United States, sometimes via further stops in the Caribbean, and some are trafficked, particularly for labor. Suriname also has an integrated population of ethnic Chinese from the previous century, and many of the critics of the "new Chinese" invasion distinguish between the two groups.

The near universal assumption of the Surinamese public is that the "new Chinese" come by illegal means, aided by corrupt Surinamers and a mixed network of legal and criminal Chinese organizations. Once arrived, the Chinese are accused of receiving residence and business permits within days or weeks. This draws fire from Surinamers who sometimes wait years for permits. In the words of another squatter: "the Chinese have priority. Chinese shops have mushroomed across the country, by the hundreds in the capital and by ones and twos in tiny interior villages. These shops and the economic pressure they put on Surinamers drives much of the antipathy towards the "new Chinese." Youth in the interior complain of not being able to find work at the shops.

Despite mutual commitment of Suriname and China to their bilateral relationship, progress in achieving tangible results is slow. China's hopes of tapping into Suriname's riches have been tempered by bureaucratic processes, ill-conceived projects, environmental concerns, and public opinion. However, the potential is great, and Chinese firms and the Chinese Government are showing interest in some opportunities, for example, in bauxite mining, offshore oil exploration and drilling, and palm oil production. Chinese Government and private firms have also financed and built roads and constructed the Surinamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters, in part to buy good will with the GOS and the public. However, it is difficult to assess the environmental impact, if any, of these projects. The repaving of the road from Paramaribo to Lake Brokopondo by Chinese road companies would open up the interior of Suriname to increased agriculture and logging.

On November 27, 2019, President Xi Jinping held talks with President Desi Bouterse of Suriname at the Great Hall of the People. The two heads of state announced the establishment of China-Suriname strategic partnership of cooperation. Surinames leader moved his country closer to China after a visit to Beijing in November 2019. During his visit, President Bouterse stated: Suriname firmly pursues one-China policy and supports Chinas grand cause of national reunification. He returned to Suriname with a promise of $300 million by the Chinese government to upgrade airports and roads and install solar power and 5G services.

Xi Jinping pointed out, Suriname is one of the first Caribbean countries to establish diplomatic relations with the Peoples Republic of China. Since the two countries established diplomatic relations 43 years ago, we have always supported, understood and trusted each other. China-Suriname relations have been at the forefront of the relations between China and Caribbean countries for a long time, and can be considered a model of friendly relations and equal treatment between countries of different sizes. The development of bilateral relations is in an important historical period, and the Chinese side is willing to work with the Surinamese side to take the opportunity of the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative to uplift bilateral relations to new heights.

Xi Jinping emphasized, China and Suriname should adhere to and carry forward the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and continue to understand and support each other on issues involving respective core interests and major concerns. The Chinese government and the Chinese people are determined to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and national unity, and thank Suriname for its strong support. The Chinese side will also, as always, support the Surinamese side's efforts to safeguard national sovereignty and accelerate economic and social development. The two sides need to deepen cooperation in traditional areas such as infrastructure construction, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, communications and energy, and explore cooperation in new areas such as new energy, digital economy, tourism and ocean economy.

Xi Jinping pointed out, China and Latin American and Caribbean countries are developing countries and constitute an important part of international emerging forces. The Chinese side has always respected the right of Latin American people to choose their own development path and supported the process of Latin American integration and the handling of regional issues through dialogue and consultation. The great development of China-Latin America relations in recent years has brought tangible benefits to both sides and also contributed to promoting regional prosperity and stability. The Chinese side is willing to work with the Latin American side to advance the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative and promote China-Latin America cooperation for in-depth and practical development in line with the principles of equal treatment, mutual benefit and win-win results.

Desi Bouterse extended congratulations on the 70th founding anniversary of the People's Republic of China, and believed that under President Xi Jinping's leadership, socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era will surely be a success and will bring benefits to the Chinese people and people around the world. Desi Bouterse said, my visit to China carries historical and political significance. Suriname and China enjoy a long-standing friendship. The Surinamese side firmly upholds the One China principle and supports China in realizing the great cause of reunification. Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs, and the Surinamese side resolutely opposes any interference in China's internal affairs. The Chinese government is entitled to take counter-terrorism measures to safeguard China's security and stability, especially in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

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Page last modified: 26-03-2020 18:46:09 ZULU