By Ariana Gordon
FORMER Guyana Ambassador to China Professor David Dabydeen has said that Guyanese must see the Chinese as an important partner in development, rather than invaders in their country.Speaking with the Guyana Chronicle, Professor Dabydeen said this country can benefit a lot from China by attracting Chinese tourists and grant aid, but the media have to stop “cussing up the Chinese.”
According to him, some of the 100 million Chinese tourists will eventually make their way to the Caribbean, many of whom will come to Guyana, only if the “cuss down culture” stops.
“Chinese tourists we will get slowly, but our newspapers have got to learn to stop cussing up the Chinese, the more [we cuss] they [Chinese] go to other countries for holiday. Why would they come all the way here if they know they are not welcomed?” he asked.
He believes locals have to be “less sensational and more objective and truthful.”
“Instead of opening up our mouths and cussing, we should study and think first and then pronounce,” Professor Dabydeen said.
The Chinese, he said, are not unwise and are aware of what is being said about them. The Chinese Government educates its citizens, and as such, they are cognisant of the things said about them.
“The Chinese government tells them, so when we cuss up Chinese, it gets back to China one way or another and the Chinese say, ‘I am not spending my dollars here.’ We got to stop doing that; we should be critical when we need to be critical and supportive when we need to be supportive,” Professor Dabydeen, a distinguished scholar in literature, said.
When Guyana established relations with China in 1972, it was the first Commonwealth Caribbean country to do so, and ever since the two countries have maintained cordial relations.
Guyana has approached China for assistance in several major infrastructural projects, including the Amaila Falls Project, the new Demerara Harbour Bridge and a deep-water harbour.
“Today, the Chinese are the only nation really with enormous amounts of liquid cash to help developing countries in a variety of areas, but especially in infrastructural development.”
China has assisted Guyana in the building of the International Conference Centre at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, now renamed after Guyana’s first President, Arthur Chung; the funding of ferries; the provision of scholarships; military training as well as medical outreaches to Guyana.
“Basically, the Chinese money is a mixture of aid or grants and concessional loans — loans at low interest, non-market rate,” Professor Dabydeen said.
The assistance Guyana has requested from China for the projects tops US$1 billion, at different rates.
China, he said, is now “the bank of the world” and is “rapidly replacing America in terms of development aid and lending for development projects.”
“China is very interested in the Caribbean and Latin America, because China needs the mineral wealth of these countries and the agricultural products of these countries. It is also investing in Latin America and the Caribbean,as it sees vast economic opportunities in the Region.
“Guyana has a rich history and many of its prominent leaders are descendants of Chinese. These include former Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett and First Lady Sandra Granger.
“Guyana’s first President Arthur Chung was also of Chinese extraction.
“They have been here for 175 years and that means our relationship with China will always have a lot of potential for greater cooperation,” Professor Dabydeen said.
He also said considerable attention must be given to local Chinese as they are a bridge to China. And China, he said, is the future.
In this light, the former ambassador to China is advocating that Guyanese learn the Chinese language.
“There are several thousand young people in England-which is where I live- learning Chinese in schools. Some schools have made Chinese obligatory. China is the future; and if we want to be part of the future, we have got to be there.”
He said while it is important to be critical of corrupt practices, Guyana needs China as a partner in development in the years ahead.
Professor Dabydeen resigned from his post when the new government came to power in the May 11 elections.
He told the Guyana Chronicle that during his time in China, he encountered no challenge. His role was to speed up whatever applications Guyana has made for funding and to lobby Chinese financial institutions to support developmental projects.
While there, he promoted the art and photography and many Chinese photographers visited Guyana and took photographs of the country’s landscape. These were showcased at exhibitions in China.
Professor Dabydeen has no immediate plans for the future, and said contrary to reports, he was never approached by the government, but if approached, he will consider any offer made. He intends to continue his job at the University of Warwick.
“I am an academic and a writer as well, my job at the University of Warwick is there,” he told this publication.
By Ariana Gordon