What does Maldivian president visit’s break with tradition signify?: Global Times editorial
Published: Jan 06, 2024 12:28 AM
China-Maldives relations. Photo: VCG

China-Maldives relations. Photo: VCG

Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu will pay a state visit to China from January 8 to 12, becoming the first foreign head of state to visit China in the new year. This is also President Muizzu's first state visit to a foreign country this year.

Both China and the Maldives attach great importance to this visit, and the two countries are expected to reach a series of cooperative agreements in the fields of politics, economy, culture, and green development, as well as to promote the bilateral relationship to a new level. 

Many foreign media outlets have noticed that Muizzu will break from tradition by visiting China before India. In fact, after last year's Maldivian general election, much of Indian and Western public opinion immediately labeled Muizzu as "pro-China."

From this perspective, it seems that the Maldives' foreign policy has only two choices: either rely on India or turn to China. These voices completely ignore the fact that the Maldives is an independent sovereign country with legitimate interests and demands. As Muizzu has said before, the Maldives has no intention of getting involved in the geopolitical struggle between bigger powers and will cooperate with all countries, including India and China.

Indian and Western public opinions always view the Maldives through the lens of the competition between China and India. For them, the Maldives, due to its strategic importance, has become a piece of meat in the struggle between China and India. They have shown a hurt mentality when looking at the development of China-Maldives relations. In their view, only when the Maldives complies with India can they feel relieved. Moving closer to other countries is seen as a form of "betrayal." This is firstly a lack of respect for the Maldives. Secondly, they have been measuring China's corn by their own bushel. Chinese diplomacy is a true implementation of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, treating all sovereign countries equally regardless of size, respecting their sovereignty, not interfering in their internal affairs, and not targeting third parties.

Furthermore, in the development of relations between China and the Maldives, there is no requirement for the Maldives to sour relations with India or any other country, without exclusivity and without involving third-party conditions. In contrast, India tends to adopt a domineering stance toward its neighboring countries. China's scientific research vessel is preparing to dock for supplies in a Sri Lankan port, prompting an immediate protest from the Indian government. With Bangladesh set to hold elections soon, India is once again concerned about the possibility of a repeat of the Maldives' "anti-Indian" stance. Even former Maldivian president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, considered by India to be pro-Indian, dismisses the notion, stating that the development of relations with China and India is not viewed as a zero-sum game. Indeed, even though a country is deemed "pro-China," it does not necessarily mean it is "anti-India."

The Maldives, with its enchanting white sandy beaches and tranquil azure waters, is the epitome of a tourist paradise in the minds of the Chinese people, never to be equated with the "battlefield" of competition among major powers. In recent years, China and the Maldives have strengthened cooperation through the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, successfully completing projects such as the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, the housing project in Hulhumale, and the expansion of the international airport. These projects address the actual needs of the Maldives' national development and people's livelihoods, serving as another exemplary model of China fostering good-neighborly relations, friendship, sincerity, and mutual benefit with its neighboring countries.

After taking office, President Mohamed Muizzu told the media, "I am a pro-Maldives person. For me, Maldives comes first, our independence comes first… I am not pro or against any country." This is equivalent to sending the same signal to all countries willing to engage in normal exchanges with the Maldives, and opening the same door. The progress in China-Maldives relations is not achieved through any magic by China, but by consistently adhering to mutual respect and support, setting an example of equal treatment and mutually beneficial cooperation between large and small nations. This right path of state-to-state interaction not only benefits the people of China and the Maldives, but is also worth considering as a reference for all countries wishing to develop normal diplomatic relations.