President Mohamed Muizzu has held meetings with several top-ranking Chinese officials, including Major General Zhang Baoqun, Deputy Director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China, and Ren Shengjun, President of the Export-Import Bank of China. These high-level diplomatic engagements, indicating a significant deepening of its bilateral relations with China, come amidst a backdrop of escalating diplomatic tensions with India.

During the meetings, President Muizzu expressed his appreciation towards the Chinese government for its unwavering support and assistance to the Maldives, according to the President’s Office. He underscored several key developmental initiatives facilitated by China in the Maldives, including the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge and numerous social housing projects.

Ren Shengjun, the President of EXIM China, emphasised the historical ties, cooperation, and mutual respect between China and the Maldives, the President’s Office said. He acknowledged the Maldives’ early participation in the Belt and Road Initiative and affirmed EXIM China’s readiness to foster positive collaborations with the Maldives.

President Mohamed Muizzu meeting with Ren Shengjun, the President of the Export-Import Bank of China, accompanied by Wang Lixin, the Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives (L) | Image courtesy: President’s Office

In the face of objections from India, the Maldives recently played host to a Chinese research vessel. The Chinese Foreign Ministry clarified that the vessel’s activities are strictly for peaceful research to advance scientific knowledge.

However, this strengthening of ties with China comes when relations between the Maldives and India are deteriorating. President Muizzu’s recent foreign policy decisions indicate a preference for ties with China, and he has requested that India withdraw its troops stationed in the Maldives.

China has also committed to providing nearly US$130 million in grant aid to the Maldives. This aid will be spent on several projects identified by the government, with most of the aid going towards developing Malé’s roads.

President Muizzu made his first overseas state visit to China. At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, this visit resulted in the deepening of bilateral ties through a series of agreements across a wide array of sectors.