YESTERDAY marked 40 years since Jamaica established diplomatic relations with the People´s Republic of China in what was then a bold, politically correct and far-sighted decision by the Michael Manley-led Government of the day.
This action was consistent with the Administration's commitment to non-alignment in foreign policy, in contrast to Sir Alexander Bustamante´s famous "We are with the West" stance.
It was bold because it was done at the height of the Cold War and preceded by seven years of the formal re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States of America and China.
It was politically correct because it was done when the fallacy of Taiwan as the legitimate Government of China was being maintained by several governments. Today some countries still give diplomatic recognition to Taiwan in preference to China. This allegiance is usually bought and paid for by a steady handout of Taiwanese aid.
It was far-sighted as subsequent developments have proven, notably, the emergence of China as an economic and political superpower with nuclear capability. The expansion of economic ties in the last decade between China and Jamaica in the form of trade, aid and investment is a vindication of the decision to pursue a One-China Policy.
It is worth noting that while it was Mr Manley who initiated the new policy, it was Mr PJ Patterson who nurtured it and set in motion reciprocal visits between Beijing and Kingston.
China´s receptivity to close relations was a reflection of the fact that Jamaica has always had the courage of its convictions. Jamaica is seen by China as a leader among the Caricom countries and being in the physical centre of the Latin America and the Caribbean region, hence has become the entry point for China in the Caribbean.
Emblematic of the China-Jamaica partnership is that China Habour Engineering Company has made Kingston its Caribbean headquarters. China has been a major source of development assistance in recent years, particularly in the construction of buildings, roads and infrastructure. It is true that aid is tied to using the services and labour of Chinese firms but every country has its national interest to pursue.
The foreign investment agency of the People's Republic of China has purchased three sugar factories and leased 30,000 hectares of cane-growing lands from the Government of Jamaica. It will invest $156 million in improvements in fields and factories over a four-year period.
Out of 40 years of friendship has evolved a vibrant economic partnership just at the time when traditional trading links are suffering from the ill effects of the global economic crisis. Trade has grown but Jamaica exports almost nothing to the vast Chinese market while imports from China grow rapidly.
Jamaica has also failed to tap into the massive flow of Chinese outward investment, opting merely to borrow. This is a pity because prospects for Chinese investment in the Jamaica are encouraging, especially in tourism, offshore mining, fishing and agriculture. China is also a huge, rapidly growing and untapped market for tourism and entertainment.
We salute the governments of China and Jamaica, the foresight of Mr Michael Manley and the diplomacy of Mr Patterson, and look forward to a future of deepening friendship and cooperation.