China respects the choice made by people in the Maldives and hopes the country can maintain stability and development, a foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday following the recent presidential election.
Geng Shuang made the comments at a regular press briefing, in response to a question about China’s expectations for the future development of ties between the two countries.
“The Chinese side congratulates the Maldives on the smooth holding of the presidential election and Mr. Solih on his election as the President,” said Geng. “We respect the choice made by the people in the Maldives and hope that the Maldives can maintain stability and development. China and the Maldives enjoy traditional friendship.”
President Abdulla Yameen, who conceded defeat to opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, sought closer ties with Beijing and it was widely reported that his exit would be a blow to China because of its heavy financing of projects.
A change in government could signal a change in relations with China, it was reported. Former president Mohamed Nasheed said he would renegotiate Chinese debt and also accused Beijing of land-grabbing.
But China has rejected the criticism and defended its investment.
“In recent years, our bilateral relations have maintained a sound momentum of growth,” Geng said at the briefing. “Our two sides have conducted mutually beneficial cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, which has yielded fruitful outcomes.
“We are willing to work with the Maldives to continue to cement traditional friendship and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation so as to deliver benefits to our two countries and two peoples.”
Andrew Small, an expert on China and author of The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics, told the Maldives Independent earlier that Beijing would have counted on the survival of Yameen’s government.
“The Maldivian Democratic Party has been strongly critical of Chinese investments and debt-dependency,” he said.
“But Beijing is also very pragmatic and they will look to work with the new government to ensure the continuity of as many of their investments as possible, to mitigate the fallout and reputational costs for the Belt and Road, and to ensure that decent political relations are maintained.”