Jamaica was among the first Caribbean countries to establish diplomatic ties with China in 1972 – just 10 years after the Caribbean nation gained its independence. The following year, China opened the doors of its embassy in the island’s capital of Kingston. Since then the partnership between the two countries has been described as one of friendship, solidarity, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.
These Jamaican ladies were in attendance during the island’s 60th anniversary celebration held in Beijing last August.
The relationship between China and Jamaica began long before 1972 and dates back to the mid-1800s when Chinese workers were used to supplement the existing labor on the island. At that time, most of those who came to Jamaica, and the Caribbean at large, were from southern provinces like Guangdong and Fujian. Many were contracted for short term periods of three and five years. Since then, the country witnessed an influx of Chinese immigrants that continued into the late 20th century, including this author’s maternal and paternal great grandfathers who immigrated to Kingston circa 1910 and married Jamaican women soon after.
With the approval of Resolution 2758, the People’s Republic of China officially takes its seat at the United Nations.
Jamaica and China formally establish diplomatic relations.
China opens its first consulate in Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston.
Jamaica’s Deputy Prime Minister David Coore makes the first official visit to China. That same year China provides Jamaica with a grant of $5 million to assist with development projects.
Vice-Premier Geng Biao of the State Council pays the first official visit to Jamaica.
Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley visits China and signs a number of Cooperation and Loan Agreements.
Vice-Premier Qian Qichen meets with Jamaican Prime Minister Percival Patterson to discuss an aid grant from the Chinese government.
Vice President Zeng Qinghong pays an official visit to Jamaica and signs 8 agreements including the Water System Rehabilitation and Extension Project [...]
After the original bridge collapsed in a hurricane, China Harbour Engineering Company completes the new Rio Grande Bridge on time and within budget.
Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Jamaican President Portia Simpson-Miller at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller visits China and meets with Chi-nese President Xi Jinping, during which they discuss ways to strengthen bilateral coop-eration in areas such as trade, investment, tourism, and education.
State-owned industrial group Jiuquan Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. acquires 100% stake in Alumina Partners of Jamaica (Alpart) from UC RUSAL. Alpart operates a bauxite re-finery in Nain, Jamaica.
The North-South highway, connecting Kingston to Ocho Rios, opens after three years of construction. The project was both financed and built by CHEC (China Harbour Engineering Company) for USD720 million and includes a 50-year concession to recover costs.
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness visits China and addresses opening session of the China International Import Expo in Shanghai.
Jamaica receives 200,000 doses of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine recent-ly, half of which were donated by China with the remainder purchased by the Jamaican government.
President Xi Jinping exchanges congratulatory messages with Governor-General of Jamaica Patrick Allen to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Antonia Hugh, former Jamaican Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China (back right) and Melissa Pryce, Deputy Head of Mission (far right) shares lens time with these children who performed during the island’s Diamond Jubilee celebration in Beijing last August.
THE ONGOING CONTRIBUTIONS OF CHINESE JAMAICANS
Chinese migrants quickly became an integral part of the economic, political and social fabric of Jamaican society. Economically, Chinese-Jamaicans have been pioneers in every aspect of Jamaican life. Some noteworthy Chinese-Jamaicans include Michael Lee-Chin who has been featured in Forbes. He is a Jamaican-Canadian billionaire with a net worth of USD$1.4 billion. He is also the Director of the National Commercial Bank and the Founder and Chair of Portland Holding Inc. among other positions. Another esteemed Chinese-Jamaican is Karl Hendrickson, the founder of the Continental Baking Company. His son Gary ‘Butch’ Hendrickson, is the current head of the business and has been hailed by the Jamaica Gleaner as a “national success story.“
Politically, many Chinese-Jamaicans have been involved in the country’s government since the island’s independence in 1962. Among the island’s current Chinese-Jamaican politicians are: the Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, who serves as the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of National Security. The Hon. Delroy Chuck completed his Law studies at St. Catherine’s College at the University of Oxford and currently serves as the Minister of Justice.
Culturally, Chinese-Jamaican Clive Chin, is among one of the country’s most renowned Reggae producers having been involved with legendary artists and performers, namely: Bob Marley and the Wailers, Alton Ellis, Gregory Isaacs and Lee Perry, just to name a few.
Having just completed this year’s carnival season in Jamaica, Byron Lee, another famous Chinese-Jamaican, will always be remembered especially at this time of the year, for his popularization of Soca and Calypso. These two musical genres are a quintessential aspect of carnival, a festival that is particularly popular in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago but also in Jamaica and other Caribbean islands. Many young people would be familiar with Tessanne Chin, yet another Chinese-Jamaican artist, who is most well-known for being the season five winner of NBC’s singing competition The Voice. Jeanette Kong is a Jamaican-Chinese-Canadian filmmaker who is known for her role in directing and producing several films that serve to document the experiences of other Chinese-Jamaicans. These include Finding Samuel Lowe, The Chiney Shop and Half: The Story of a Chinese-Jamaican Son. In 2014, Kong’s films were screened at the Institute of Jamaica in celebration of 160 years since the arrival of Chinese people to Jamaica. While, this is by no means an exhaustive list, it does illustrate that Chinese Jamaicans have significantly contributed to the overall fabric of the country and continue to excel at the national, regional and international levels.
Melissa Pryce, Deputy Head of Mission (right) and Christalee Dacres [To insert title] both from the Jamaican embassy, are seen presenting a gift bag to a lucky participant during the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Day event earlier this year.
Jamacian and Guyanese designers and models share lens time during the 2019 Caribbean cultural event.
CHINESE INVESTMENT IN JAMAICA
To date China has invested heavily on the island with projects like the North-South Highway, the Palisadoes Road leading to the Norman Manley International Airport and the Rio Grande Bridge; all of which were completed by China Harbor Engineering Company. The Alpart Bauxite-Alumina refinery was purchased by the Chinese state-owned entity Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company in 2005, thrusting Jiuquan into China‘s top 10 aluminium producers.
China’s philanthropic efforts on the island further underscore the country’s commitment to South-South cooperation. In partnership with the Jamaican government, China continues to award annual scholarships to Jamaicans seeking to pursue tertiary education in China. The establishment of a Confucius Institute, at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies, serves as the first of its kind in the Anglophone Caribbean. In the field of healthcare, China’s “Bright Journey Eye Care Mission” has been an ongoing project that provides hundreds of Jamaicans with free cataract surgeries.
During the height of the pandemic, China also donated much needed medical supplies, personal protective equipment and Sino-pharm vaccines. China continues to illustrate its solidarity to Jamaica through its ongoing assistance in the form of aid, personnel and strategic development projects; the aforementioned projects provide just a brief summary of China’s engagement.
Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee and Appleton rum are seen on display
JAMAICA’S COMMITMENT TO CHINA
In 1972, Jamaica was the first Anglophone Caribbean island to embrace the “One China Policy” and was among the first Caribbean countries to sign a memorandum of understanding in support of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In order to further promote the flow and travel of Chinese tourists and business personnel to the island, the government lifted the visa requirement for all Chinese nationals, enabling more Chinese people to travel and stay in Jamaica for up to 30 days. A number of other Caribbean countries have followed suit by waiving the visa requirement for Chinese tourists. Jamaica is committed to furthering its strategic partnership with China as the two countries continue ongoing talks in the fields of commerce and trade, tourism, medicine and education.
Designs by Ashely Martin of Jamaica were showcased during the 2019 Beijing Expo. where the Caribbean Caucus of Embassies in Beijing held a cultural extravaganza entitled, "Culture in the Tropics".
CHINA – JAMAICA GOLDEN JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Jamaica and China, the Jamaican embassy hosted a reception on February 9 at the St. Regis Hotel in Beijing. His Excellency Xie Feng, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China; Ji Wei, Deputy Director General of the American and Oceanian Department of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries; Wang Wei, Deputy Director General of the Latin American and Caribbean Affairs Department; His Excellency Tian Qi, Former Ambassador to Jamaica and Chen Chong, Chairman of the Yibin Wuliangye Group Import and Export Co., Ltd were among the dignitaries present.
At the event the Embassy of Jamaica and the Jintai International Friendship Theme Post Office unveiled a commemorative letter cover that combined distinctive elements of both countries. The cover was designed and produced by Director Yuan Xikun and Deputy Director Ma Xiaoling, both from the Jintai International Friendship Theme Post Office. It features the national flags of China and Jamaica as well as noteworthy sports figures from both countries, namely, Liu Xiang of China, and Usain Bolt OJ, CD, of Jamaica. The cover symbolizes the Olympic spirit of both countries and represents the longstanding bonds of friendship and mutual support.
Antonia Hugh, former Jamaican Ambassador to the People's Republic of China strike a pose after unveiling the commemorative cover.
WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON?
Both countries are actively work to boost multiple areas of joint collaboration in terms of healthcare, trade and commerce as well as education. Chinese workers are currently working alongside Jamaicans to complete the construction of a 220-bed facility that will specifically cater to children living on the western end of the island.
These kids join in the fun as they learn some of the latest dance moves during the 2019 "Culture in the Tropics" event.
As it relates to trade and commerce, Jamaica continues to export a wide variety of items to China including: iron, steel, bauxite and aluminum, lobster, coffee, tea and spices. Efforts are currently being made to engage more Chinese companies, with the hope that more companies will view the island as an opportune place for business.
Xie Feng, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (right) is seen cutting the celebratory cake with Antonia Hugh, former Jamaican Ambassador to the People's Republic of China.
“We recently had a number of Chinese entrepreneurs visit the island to further get a better understanding of our local market and we envision that they will choose to invest in Jamaica.
Negotiations are also underway regarding the export of Jamaican cigars to China. We are anticipating additional partnerships with China for further cooperation in both health infrastructure and education,” remarked Melissa Pryce, Chargé d' Affaires at the Jamaican Embassy in Beijing.
With the reopening of China’s borders and the lifting of all Covid-19 protocols, travel between the two countries and the Caribbean region at large, is expected to resume this year. Cultural exchanges are also expected to pick up the pace and the Caribbean embassies in China are no exception. The Jamaican Embassy will be engaging in a number of promotional events for Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, rum and cigars. The first event is slated to take place at the MAHA Members Club on May 23rd and the embassy will also be participating in the first Chaoyang Coffee Festival in June. The Embassies of Jamaica, Grenada, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, The Republic of Dominica, The Republic of Suriname, the Republic of Barbados, and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago will jointly host a Caribbean cultural extravaganza on May 27 in Beijing.