Antiguan PM: China-Antigua relationship is one of the closest in the world between a big and a small country

Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, a small island state in the Eastern Caribbean, paid an official visit to China from January 22-28, becoming the first leader from the region to visit China in 2024.

During his visit he was interviewed by Wang Guan for the CGTN series Leaders Talk. 

Prime Minister Browne noted how small island states are extremely vulnerable in today’s world, citing as contributory factors, climate shocks, the COVID pandemic, the impact of conflicts and wars, limited resource endowments and the debt burden.

He sees the relationship with China as crucial to Antigua’s ability to meet these challenges. His country was one of the earliest in the Eastern Caribbean region to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic, 41 years ago. 

Today he says that their bilateral relationship is one of the closest in the world between a big and a small country. Antigua has a population of less than 100,000. 

China’s contribution to global peace and prosperity, the Prime Minister says, is unmatched. He sees it as being driven by President Xi Jinping’s philosophy and noble vision of a shared future for all. He describes President Xi as easily the most powerful and respected leader on the planet. Antigua and Barbuda is a beneficiary of China’s benevolence in many aspects of its development, not least in poverty alleviation.

In 2018, Antigua became the first country in the Eastern Caribbean to sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This has had a beneficial impact on many aspects of the country’s development, for example in the renovation and extension of the port in the capital, St. John’s. Funding for this could not be obtained from the World Bank or the IMF and Browne categorically rejects any suggestion of a Chinese ‘debt trap’. Rather, he views China as the most benevolent country on the planet, adding that this and other projects could not have been accomplished without its concessional loans and aid.

Another example he cites is that of agricultural cooperation. This is aimed at taking steps towards food security. At present, some 80% of the food consumed in Antigua is imported, mostly from the United States, with contributory factors being the lack of a sufficient labour force and the exacerbation of the county’s natural aridity due to the impact of climate change. China’s assistance in modernising and replacing the country’s water supply infrastructure is playing a key role here.

With regard to Taiwan,  Browne says that his country is a consistent supporter of the one-China principle. This will not change under his leadership or that of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party, which he leads.

The full interview with Prime Minister Gaston Browne is embedded below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *