By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Georgetown is once again re-emerging as the diplomatic capital of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and will welcome a high level visit from the foreign minister of China, Wang Yi and a large delegation to Guyana this weekend, September 21-22.
Wang Yi will also pay a visit to neighbouring Suriname, where a large Chinese diaspora exists.
In Guyana, Wang Yi will hold talks with President David Granger, and vice president and minister of foreign affairs, Carl Greenidge to discuss bilateral cooperation, a release from the Guyana Public Information (DPI) confirmed. However, the Chinese minister may also discuss the issue of Chinese nationals’ safety in Guyana due to the level of crime. It has been a concern for Beijing.
Guyana also has other grievances regarding some Chinese projects and investors in the country.
The two countries have strong economic ties. China has funded several ongoing projects in Guyana, including the controversial Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) redevelopment project to the tune of US$150 million.
The airport construction started in 2013 and is yet to be completed, and now has a new completion date set for 2019.
The government of Guyana said, “Guyana and China have maintained a vibrant programme of mutually beneficial cooperation through frequent and diverse activities, including successful exchange visits at the highest level.”
Foreign Minister Wang Yi will also visit Suriname, a strong ally of Beijing that has welcomed Chinese to settle there. President Desi Bouterse visited China in 2013.
This could very well be the first Chinese foreign minister to visit Guyana in decades and the first of its kind to Suriname.
One diplomat commenting on the visit said, “First the Americans and now the Chinese. Make no mistake, the Guiana Shield is already in the eye of the world.”
A large US congressional delegation, the first of its kind, recently visited Guyana and Suriname.
From “Rags to Riches”, “a nation that did not expect to win the lotto”, “soon to be the richest corner of South America” have been some of the headlines Guyana has made recently, with media attention from the New York Times, Financial Times, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, the BBC and CNN.
According to the United States Geological Survey, an estimated 13.6 billion barrels of oil and 32 trillion cubic feet of natural gas probably exist in the Guyana-Suriname Basin.
US ExxonMobil and Tullow Oil have found substantial oil reserves offshore Guyana, and this is why the countries of the Guiana Shield are drawing diplomatic attention from all corners of the world and more countries are planning to open diplomatic missions there.
Guyana is estimated eventually to pump over one million barrels of oil a day.
Guyana is one of the poorest country in CARICOM and has borrowed heavily from China, but with this new found oil and gas wealth, and renewed confidence, Greenidge wants to rebrand Guyana on the “world stage” when he addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York.