CHINA, on February 1, welcomed the annual Lunar New Year, observed in 2022 as Year of the Tiger.
It’s the most important celebration of ancient Chinese culture and the grand national spectacle was distinguished by different colourful presentations including traditional songs and a multitude of performances entertaining millions of Chinese families.
This year’s Spring Festival Gala featured major themes such as the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC), revitalisation of rural activity, an ecologically focused civilisation, the Winter Olympics and space achievements.
On Sunday, Chinese President, Xi Jinping, during a reception at the Great Hall of the People, sent greetings to Chinese of all ethnic groups, as well as to compatriots in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan — and those living overseas.
He said all the party’s achievements over the past 100 years had come about through “Unity and hard work”, which he noted as “the most notable spiritual symbol of the CPC and the Chinese people.”
“As long as the 1.4 billion Chinese people are always united and the 95 million party members always stand close to the people for a shared future, we can surely continue to create impressive miracles in the new journey ahead of us,” President Xi said.
Guyana, as the first English-speaking Caribbean nation to recognise China (in 1972), has maintained strong ties with the People’s Republic, irrespective of which party is in office; and the 50 years of People-to-People Friendship has manifested itself in more than 50 ways.
Looking back to previous cooperation, China’s Ambassador to Guyana, Guo Haiyan, says: “The governments of both countries adhere to a people-centred philosophy of development. So, in the past 50 years, all the projects China assisted Guyana with reflected the principle of serving the people.”
She also reflected on the history of Chinese in Guyana, noting that they arrived as early as 1853 and have been hardworking contributors to the country’s economic and social development.
Ambassador Haiyan also expressed a desire to see more fruitful cooperation in promotion of the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s global transport infrastructure initiative and Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy.
Foreign Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Robert Persaud, has also lauded the deep and abiding relations between Guyana and China since they established diplomatic ties on June 27, 1972.
It all started when Chinese first came to Guyana, but how and when did that happen?
History records that 14,000 Chinese arrived in British Guiana between 1853 and 1879 on 39 vessels bound from Hong Kong to fill the labour shortage on the sugar plantations engendered by the abolition of slavery and smaller numbers arrived in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Suriname.
By any estimate, 14,000 Chinese in 26 years is no small number in comparison to the then population.
It also reflected the size of immigration from China to Guyana, but what it doesn’t show is the quiet contribution of Chinese to the development of Guyana and their equal role as immigrants who contributed to the formation of the Guyanese personality that emerged with independence in 1966.
The 39 Chinese vessels that left Hong Kong for Guyana during those 26 years were akin to the British and other European vessels that delivered significantly more Indians during the Indentureship period, many of which originally transported slaves from Africa.
Like Chinese everywhere else, those arriving in Guyana quickly adapted and quietly adopted those means to ensure their safety, prosperity, community and cooperation, in a different society, staying out of politics but always deeply-engaged in trade and commerce, hospitality and related services.
It was also therefore no surprise that Arthur Chung, a Guyanese of Chinese extract with parents from Fujian Province, became the first President of Guyana.
And it should be no surprise that the Chinese Embassy in Guyana is the biggest in Georgetown today.
Guyana, as the Caribbean’s administrative headquarters, located on the South American continent, places the two countries in the best position to develop multilateral ties with the English-speaking Caribbean and neighbouring Latin American and Caribbean states.
Guyana and neighbouring Suriname also have lots of possibilities for bilateral projects to build common infrastructure under the Belt & Road Initiative.
But in the year of the 50th anniversary of Guyana-China ties, one missing element is the absence of a functioning Guyana-China Friendship Association, an essential entity for pursuit and promotion of People-to-People ties.
Friendship Association also exist in all CARICOM countries with ties with Beijing through the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) and Guyana has been represented at all gatherings in China and in the Latin American and Caribbean region at friendship levels, as well as at political levels, with both PPP and PNC teams attending most such gatherings, underlying the fact that friendship with China is backed across-the-board.
This Chinese Lunar Year will be dedicated to the cycle of the water tiger, as each year corresponds to one of 12 animals that determine the qualities of those born under its sign.
Legend has it that the wise Jade Emperor summoned the animals to a race to choose those who would be part of the zodiac and first came the rat, then the buffalo and the tiger came third — as a symbol of strength and courage.
Strength and courage is also being shown in Guyana today at the beginning of the first quarter of the Third Millennium, with the Government undertaking people-oriented plans and projects alongside medium and long-term projections aimed at making life better for all Guyanese.
Guyana is also showing strength and courage in its determination to ensure the benefits from the nation’s oil and gas fortunes reach all the people.
Therefore, in that sense, with all that happening in the Year of the 50th Anniversary of Guyana-China ties, this can also be seen as a Year of the Tiger for both China and Guyana.