Mauritian and Chinese relations date back several hundred years, when Chinese traders first visited the African island nation. A multicultural country that is considered the easiest place to conduct business in Africa, Mauritius is an strategically important partner for Beijing. Mauritian Ambassador Miao Kwong Lee Hon Chong gives us his perspective on this bilateral relationship.
What is the foundation of Sino-Mauritian relations?
The first Chinese overseas cultural centre in Africa was built in Mauritius in 1988, a testament of our historically important relationship. Although the Chinese community in Mauritius is small in numbers, it has played an important role in many aspects of Mauritian business and culture. It’s important to remember that Mauritius is a country of immigrants and our ancestors come from Asia, Africa and Europe, with China being an important part of our ancestry. Links between Mauritius and China go back to the 19th century when we saw a large influx of Chinese migrants coming from Southern China to Mauritius to seek a better future. To this day, the Mauritian way of life is based on the strong belief that no ethnic community in our society should feel marginalized, a principle that helps ethnic Chinese flourish here.
What impact does Chinese investment have on Mauritius?
The imprints of China’s contribution to our infrastructure landscape cannot be ignored: China has invested in the New Airport Terminal, the Plaine Wilhems Sewerage Project and the Bagatelle dam, which is currently under construction. But the most important project the Chinese are involved in would be the development of our harbor. At this time, I am glad to announce that negotiations have reached an advanced stage with Chinese interests already involved in the Jin Fei Special Economic Zone to develop the new Port Louis Harbor.
What makes Mauritius such a competitive African economy?
Mauritius was ranked the best place to do business in Africa by the World Bank in 2015, as well as the Forbe’s survey for Best Countries for Business in 2014. Today, Mauritius offers an ideal environment for investment in terms of its institutional and legal framework and the availability of skilled personnel. Mauritius has taken a number of steps to implement the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recommendations, particularly concerning the issue of tax information exchange, and we aspire to become an international arbitration centre for Africa. Indeed, the financial services sector is fast becoming an important pillar of our economy, contributing around 10 percent to the GDP. Over the years, Mauritius has been able to develop its financial services sector, particularly by creating a conducive and stable macroeconomic environment.
What signs tell you that Sino-Mauritian relations will continue to improve?
We have recently signed a new Bilateral Air Services Agreement with China that allows for 28 flights a week between our two countries. This has incited growth that can be maintained. Tourist arrivals from China increased from approximately 4,000 in 2003 to some 89,000 in 2015, which is a very strong signal for the potential of Chinese tourists in our tourism industry. In that regard, the Mauritius Embassy to Beijing extends its full support and cooperation to all initiatives taken to promote Mauritius as a tourist and investment destination.