|Outgoing Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Barbados, Wei Qiang, being interviewed by Assistant Information Officer, Shamkoe Pil??. (A. Gaskin/BGIS)|
Watching the finals of the national road tennis championships and seeing the Atlantic waves crash into the coral cliffs at North Point in St. Lucy, are some of the wonderful memories that outgoing Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Barbados, Wei Qiang, took with him when he returned to Beijing, the capital city of his homeland, at the beginning of the month.
Completing his tour of duty to this island, Ambassador Wei pointed out that since his arrival to these shores in 2009, he acquired a great liking for Barbados.?? "I left with mixed sentiments.?? I worked on the island, but I also enjoyed life very much."
Reminiscing on time spent in Barbados, the 49-year-old envoy said the experience was "a great honour and a huge responsibility".??
"I had been appointed by my Government, by our President, to be the Chinese Ambassador here in Barbados…?? It was quite a new experience because this was my first time serving in a foreign country as Ambassador," he explained.?? He has worked in the Foreign Service of China for close to 20 years and represented his homeland in several Latin American countries.?? Ambassador Wei also served as a liaison between China and the Organization of American States.
Affirming that he came to these shores with enthusiasm to represent his country "correctly and well", the Chinese diplomat said that one of his most important tasks was the "promotion of mutual understanding and knowledge between the people of Barbados and the people of China".
From left to right: Barbados Ambassador to CARICOM, Robert Morris, Barbados Ambassador to China, Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Barbados, Wei Qiang and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Steve Blackett in conversation at the Engaging China Seminar held in December 2011. (FP)
"Our countries are geographically separated by a huge distance and we have different historical and cultural backgrounds.?? Even with globalisation and new technologies, I think we still don’t know each other well enough," Ambassador Wei lamented, adding that building trust on both sides was essential for the facilitation of business between Barbados and China.
During his tour of duty, the Chinese envoy was instrumental in facilitating high- level parliamentary exchanges between both countries.?? He was an active catalyst in the recently concluded Engaging China Seminar, held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre in December 2011, and was very visible at the 2010 Shanghai Expo.??
Within the context of his work, Ambassador Wei explained that his most memorable experience was accompanying Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart, to China in June 2011.????
"The event itself was a top level exchange between our leaders.?? It has profound and far-reaching significance to intensify our bilateral cooperation," the Head of the Diplomatic mission noted, added that "for us, at the working level, to be able to do more concrete things, we should count on the support, approval and endorsement from our leaders."
Noting that Prime Minister Stuart impressed his Chinese counterpart, the envoy remarked, "It is very important from a diplomatic and political point of view that we have our top leaders meet face-to-face among themselves."??
Disclosing that he, too, was impressed with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, he pointed to the great level of importance he (Prime Minister Stuart) placed on education.
"[He said one of the] most valuable resources for the development of Barbados is its [people].?? Intellect, human capacity building and education are of the utmost importance for a country that lacks natural resources, and we agreed with him because, like Barbados, China places great importance on the education of its people."
"Education is an important area where our two countries should carry out further, mutually beneficial and meaningful cooperation, and it has been happening as we have many Barbadian students studying in China," he said, further stating that a Chinese lecturer had been allocated to the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus to help bridge the knowledge, cultural and language barriers between both countries.??????
|Ambassador Wei and his family??????|
Bridging that gap himself while living in Barbados, Ambassador Wei also sampled Bajan cuisine and culture.?? Lauding this country’s indigenous sport, he fondly recalled when he watched the national road tennis finals with the Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley, staff from the Chinese Embassy and his family.
"Undoubtedly, for me, the road tennis is the most impressive thing about Barbados’ popular culture.?? It was completely beyond what we expected, [even with] China [being] a ping pong (table tennis) nation… Playing tennis on the road, the same way we play on the table, was something very amazing and entertaining for us," he laughed. Admitting that he was not bold enough to play the game, he jokingly said, "It looks harder and [seems like it] requires more stamina and physical energy."
Acknowledging that most Chinese people preferred to eat Chinese food when aboard, Ambassador Wei confessed he broke the norm and developed quite an appetite for souse, fried plantain, rice and peas, and beef stew.?? He declared that
Barbados was the best island for fish and his favourites included flying-fish, barracuda, snapper and dolphin.
While in Barbados, Ambassador Wei took the opportunity to explore all 166 square miles of this isle. ????Professing that he liked the west coast for its "gentle sea that feels so good" and the east coast because "it gives the feel of the wilderness", the Chinese envoy declared that North Point in St. Lucy was the best place to relax.??
"It is a wonderful place to view those huge waves. ??It is so beautiful and spectacular, I am never tired [of going] there and I like that place very much," he added.
Concluding that he will always remember Barbados, Ambassador Wei thanked the people he worked with at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, his staff and the media.??
Stating that the latter "had been a great help in improving bilateral relations and understanding between the people of Barbados and China," he affirmed, "Barbados has left a deep impression in my mind and my heart.?? I will always remember this country and its people."