Maldives Ambassador talks cultural exchange

By Yin Yeping Source:Global Times Published: 2015-2-8 19:08:01


Mohamed Faisal encourages Chinese tourists to experience the way of life in the Maldives. Photo: Li Hao/GT

The Maldives has captured the hearts of Chinese tourists. In 2014, the Maldives played host to 1.2 million tourists and 31 percent of them were from China. The total number of Chinese tourists to the Maldives outweighed the country's population.

Meanwhile, the bilateral relationship between China and the Maldives has reached its highest level in their diplomatic history. Since Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit last September, both sides have agreed to expand cooperation in the tourism industry, building infrastructures and cultural exchange. They are also working toward making a bilateral free trade agreement this year.

The newly appointed Maldives Ambassador to China Mohamed Faisal has been in office for just three months, but he already has a host of plans for 2015. The Global Times (GT) sat down with the ambassador and asked about his hopes for the future relationship between the Maldives and China.

GT: Chinese President Xi Jinping has on several occasions discussed building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and the Maldives has shown interest in participating. How will China and the Maldives work together on this?

The maritime silk road initiative is a very important project for the government of China and the Maldives. China is now the world's biggest economy and is in the position to assist countries like the Maldives. The Maldives already signed the MOU (memorandum of understanding) last November to jointly develop the maritime silk road. We look forward to more development in this regard.

GT: What are the things that require more attention in your relationship with China?

The Maldives and China have had a very good relationship since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972. This relationship became even better recently after high level visits by President Abdulla Yameen to China and then by President Xi Jinping to the Maldives. We have a future-oriented, all-round friendly and cooperative partnership, which I would like to upgrade to a strategic partnership in the future. There is a lot of scope for Chinese investment in the Maldives, both public and private. I would like to see Chinese markets opened for our products, especially our fish and seafood, and I would like to see the Maldives included as one of the countries that can receive an on-arrival 72-hour visa in China. I would also like to see cooperation in regards to opening up more cities in China for direct flights to improve connectivity and exchange.

GT: This year is the 50th anniversary of the independence of the Maldives. Will the Maldivian embassy host any celebration activities in China this year?

Fifty years of independence is a significant historic moment for us. In China, the Maldivian Embassy will host a celebratory reception and cultural performances. We will also host a photo exhibition in China, which will showcase photos taken by Chinese tourists in the Maldives. We may bring some Maldivian movies to China as well.

GT: What do Chinese people need to know about the Maldives?

Chinese tourists should engage more with the local Maldivian people and learn more about our culture. Of course, we don't have ancient art and artifacts or many historical sites, but we have a unique culture that can form part of a "lived experience" during Chinese tourists' stay in the Maldives. For instance, they can travel to an island where they can see how people in the Maldives live, fish and cook.

GT: How do you plan to boost cultural connections between the Maldives and China?

We have very unique music and dance that we can present to the Chinese. I don't think that Chinese people know we have very talented painters in the Maldives, so we might have an art exhibition in China. I also would like to see more sports exchanges. As a part of our 50 years of independence celebration, the embassy is planning to host a ping pong tournament.

It will also be good to have more Chinese tourists to the Maldives. Our aim for this year is to get 1.4 million tourists, and I hope that the half of them can be Chinese.

Posted in: Press Release, Enterprise

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