Even without athletes, China was a key participant in the Indian Ocean Island Games in Mauritius
In July, athletes from seven countries and regions gathered in Mauritius for the 10th Indian Ocean Island Games. At the 10-day event, Mauritian athletes bagged 92 gold medals, topping the gold medal tally. When it was celebration time, many Mauritians said that one more country had participated in the games. And although it did not send athletes to compete in the games, it could be seen everywhere. That country was China.
The games' main venue, the muti-sports complex center located in Mauritius' Cote d'Or, was built by China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) with support from the Chinese government. This is the largest sports center in the country and the first stadium that meets Olympic standards.
The Chinese construction team overcame many challenges to complete the landmark building in just nine months, in time for the Games. Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth hailed it as a real gem.
Besides, before the games, the Chinese embassy helped repair the Moka Region Football Stadium and sponsored sports training equipment for the Mauritian Ministry of Youth and Sports. Also, with the Chinese embassy's support, Mauritian weightlifters traveled to Tianjin in China to undergo more than 50 days of training. The Mauritian weightlifting team won 22 gold medals at the games, more than that in any other discipline.
Mauritian Minister of Youth and Sports Jean Christophe Stephan Toussaint specially invited the Chinese ambassador to the weightlifting finals. Toussaint said the Chinese ambassador was the best person to award the prizes as China had provided the athletes with the best training conditions and contributed to every medal they won.
But China's contribution to the games is only a microcosm of China-Mauritius friendly cooperation.
China was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic ties with Mauritius; that was 47 years ago. Since then friendly and cooperative ties have developed in various fields.
China has helped Mauritius build airports, dams, TV stations and hospitals. Dozens of Chinese companies run businesses in Mauritius, contributing to the country's economic and social development, and China is one of Mauritius's major trading partners. In October, the two countries officially signed a free trade agreement, the first between China and an African country. The deal provides an institutional guarantee for deepening economic and trade ties, benefiting enterprises in both countries.
Culturally, the two countries share a natural bond. More than 300 years ago, Chinese people had come to work on the island. And today, Chinese people play an important role in Mauritius's economic and social development. Chinese culture has thus become an important part of Mauritius.
Mauritius is the only African country that has designated Spring Festival as a statutory holiday. The Mauritius China Cultural Center is China's first overseas cultural center. Every year, local people look forward to and participate in the Spring Festival Parade, the Dragon Boat Race during the Dragon Boat Festival and the Food Festival during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Such is the enthusiasm among Mauritians to attend these festivals that in the past two years it was not easy to get a ticket. These events are jointly hosted by the Chinese embassy, the Chinese Cultural Center and the Chinese community in Mauritius.
This year, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese embassy and the China Cultural Center hosted a Chinese song competition, a painting competition themed "China-Mauritius Friendship", and an essay contest themed "China in My Eyes". The event was a big hit.
There is a great demand to learn Chinese in Mauritius, with people flocking to Chinese language teaching centers run by the Chinese Cultural Center. Also, more and more students from Mauritius go for higher studies in China while Mauritius is a favorite destination for Chinese tourists.
In July 2018, President Xi Jinping paid a visit to Mauritius. Two months later, Mauritian Prime Minister Jugnauth attended the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. And officials of the two countries have been exchanging visits and meeting more often to promote China-Mauritius friendship.
The reason China-Mauritius ties have been developing for almost half a century is that China believes in equality and mutual respect and has never interfered in Mauritius's internal affairs. The relationship between China and Mauritius is a microcosm of China-Africa ties. For a long time, thanks partly to their common historical experience, China and Africa have embarked on a unique road of win-win cooperation.
China adheres to the principles of sincerity, practical results, affinity and good faith, and upholds the values of friendship, justice and shared interests. It has formed an increasingly close community based on common interests and a shared future with African countries. President Xi announced the 10 cooperation plans at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit in Johannesburg in 2015. And at the Beijing FOCAC Summit last year, China proposed to focus on implementing the eight major initiatives with African countries, providing $60 billion in funds support. This will not only promote practical cooperation and exchanges between China and African countries in various fields, but also benefit the African people, including Mauritians.
The Indian Ocean Island Games in Mauritius has come to a successful end, but friendly ties between China and Mauritius will continue to develop. Mauritian friends often say that China is one of Mauritius's most important partners. Mauritius will catch up with the train of China's development. Based on the principle of equality and mutual respect, the relationship between China and Mauritius is a good example of South-South cooperation and worthy of a gold medal.
The author is China's ambassador to Mauritius. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
(China Daily Global 11/15/2019 page13)