China, Panama close partners with strong people-to-people ties

By Han Xiaoming, Chen Xiaowei, People’s Daily

“Chinese people are unforgettable for Panama,” says an exhibition caption at Panama Canal Museum located in the center of Panama City’s old town.

The Museum was built in late 19th century. The various collections in it showcase the Panama Canal’s vicissitude, and narrate the century-old relationship between Chinese people and the Canal.

“Friendly interactions between the people of our countries could date back to more than 160 years ago when the first group of Chinese arrived in Panama to help with canal and railway building,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his signed article published on Panamanian newspaper.

On this hospitable land, Chinese people eventually stayed, became part of the local communities, and joined the Panamanian people in their just cause for sovereignty over the Canal in 1964, which became a special memory of the Chinese people for a generation, Xi noted.

Panama has set up a special national day for Chinese ethnic group in Panama, built a park to mark the Chinese-Panamanian friendship, and established a monument to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Chinese arrival in Panama. They are symbols of the people-to-people bond between the two countries.

A special photo exhibition was held by the museum to showcase the history of the Panama Canal, at which a photo of the Chinese cargo carrier Cosco Shipping Panama passing through the newly expanded Panama Canal attracted attention.

China is now the second largest client of the Panama Canal, and Chinese vessels are frequently sailing through it.

Over the one and a half years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China-Panama ties have got off to a good start, delivering tangible benefits to the people of the two countries.

In April, the first direct flight connecting China and Panama was officially launched. Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela addressed the celebration ceremony, saying that the flight was a bridge between the two countries, and also between Asia and Central America, the Caribbean region and even the whole Latin America.

It would reinforce the relations between China and Panama, and strengthen the economic and trade cooperation and people-to-people exchanges, Varela said.

Over 20,000 Chinese visited Panama in 2017, and Panamanian President hopes the figure to double this year.

Bilateral exchanges are not limited to tourism. Panama was the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean region to sign a memorandum of understanding to jointly promote the Belt and Road construction.

The first Confucius Institute in Panama is up and running. By the end of this year, China will have trained about 6,000 Panamanian officials and professionals in various fields, and close to 1,000 Panamanian students are now studying in China.

As the “China fever” in Panama and the “Panama fever” in China are heating up, people in both countries are eager to know each other better through more exchanges, Xi remarked in the signed article.

The China-Panama relations couldn’t have achieved such progress without the people of both countries. Today 280,000 Panamanians are of Chinese origin, and they are blood ties to deepen friendship between China and Panama.

Joining hands, the Chinese and Panamanians will give play to the late starter’s advantage, speed up the development of bilateral ties, put cooperation on a steady and sustained course, and jointly contribute to a brighter future and a more prosperous world.

Students of the Confucius Institute at the University of Panama are having class. Photo by Zhu Dongjun from People’s Daily

The monument erected in 2004 marks the 150th anniversary of the Chinese presence in Panama. Photo by Zhu Dongjun from People’s Daily

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