Mia Mottley: China and Barbados share a commitment to putting people first

In this recent episode of the CGTN series Leaders Talk, Zou Yun interviews Mia Mottley, the first woman Prime Minister of Barbados, during her official visit to China in June.

Comparing what she has seen in China this time to her previous visits in 2004 and 2007, Prime Minister Mottley refers to the palpable changes in terms of China’s growth. This growth has continued to fuel the global economy despite recent challenges. She cites climate change as one of the challenges that “unite us in common purpose”. Small island developing states, the Barbadian PM notes, are on the frontline in the fight against climate change. They are the “canaries in the mine” and the world might have seen quicker action had people listened to their concerns.

Zou Yun notes that Mottley has a special bond with China in that she shares an October 1st birthday with the People’s Republic of China. Barbados, the Prime Minister notes, established diplomatic relations with China 46 years ago as an act of courage and on the premise that China and the Chinese culture and civilization are worthy of respect. Noting that a commitment to putting people first is a foundation of the two countries’ relationship, she praises China for its adherence to the principle of equality between big and small nations. An example was the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many countries had refused to provide vaccines to countries like Barbados on the grounds that their market share was too small, but China had provided her country with 30,000 doses of vaccine. She had personally gone to the airport to receive the first batch. 

When some countries had criticized Barbados’ strong relationship with China, she had retorted that since independence, her country had resolved, under successive governments, formed by different political parties, to be, “friends of all, satellites of none.” This had dictated Barbados’ recognition of China in 1977 and also its friendship with Cuba and Venezuela.

In 2021, Barbados had become the world’s newest republic, removing the late Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. Mia Mottley describes this as being about finishing the journey of independence – which started with the emancipation from slavery in 1838, continued with women gaining the vote in 1944, independence in 1966, and removing the UK’s Privy Council as the final court of appeal in 2005. A non-Barbadian head of state, she explained, was no longer acceptable to our people. This was about “the business of nation building” and overcoming the legacy of racism that was intrinsic to British colonialism.

Moving to the conclusion of the interview, Prime Minister Mottley described her mission as being to improve people’s lives and to fight injustice. It cannot just be that the market determines that the victors should live well. The levelling hand of the state is also needed to bring as many people as possible to development.

The full interview with the Barbados Prime Minister is embedded below.

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