By Alirio Polsbroek

PARAMARIBO, April 26, 2024 – When the Surinamese President Chandrikapersad Santokhi returned  from a week-long state visit to the People’s Republic of China on April 20, 2024, it was clear that during this visit the two countries tightened the knots to an unbreakable point. It is also clear that President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative has the admiration of Suriname. President Santokhi put this admiration into words, saying upon his return to the Surinamese media: “the Belt and Road Initiative is one that plays a very important role in bringing development for a lot of nations and people and we are making good use of it and we (Suriname) benefit from the BRI”. 

On behalf of the Surinamese nation, the president, made it clear in China during his visit, that the BRI helps to boost connectivity in the region and that it is also transforming Suriname into an economic hub in South America. President Santokhi mentioned two projects to elaborate. He referred, for example, to roads built in Suriname under the Belt and Road Initiative, which help villagers in remote areas and he also referred to the hospitals that played an important role in  controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Timeline of how Suriname ‘belted’ the new Silk Road 

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the China-Suriname strategic cooperative partnership, which was established in 2019. In May 2018, China and Suriname agreed to deepen their pragmatic cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and during a meeting in September of that same year, this was reconfirmed in Paramaribo between former Surinamese President Desiré Bouterse and visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. At that meeting Wang said that “China appreciates Suriname’s support and participation in the co-building of the Belt and Road”. He also emphasized  that both sides should promote the all-round development of bilateral ties on the basis of consolidating political mutual trust driven by the co-building of the Belt and Road Initiative. 



Surinamese President Desiré Bouterse (1st R) meets with visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi(1st L) in Paramaribo, Suriname on September 23, 2018. Both sides pledging to enhance ties between the two countries. (Xinhua/Cui Yuanlei)

Bouterse in return said :“the Surinamese government is committed to deepening bilateral exchanges and cooperation in infrastructure construction, tourism, cultural exchanges and other fields, and will continue to actively support and participate in the Belt and Road construction”.

In November 2019, Suriname and China signed the cooperation plan in Beijing, to jointly advance the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative. Suriname sees the joint construction of the BRI as an opportunity to upgrade bilateral strategic relations. “Suriname stands ready to work with China to safeguard multilateralism, international law, and basic norms of international cooperation relations”, President Desiré Bouterse said to the Chinese people and President Xi Jinping at this historical event.



President Desiré Bouterse and President Xi Jinping meet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 27 November 2019. At this meeting Xi said: “The development of bilateral ties is in an important historical period, and China is willing to work with Suriname to take the opportunity of the Belt and Road cooperation to uplift the ties to new heights”. (Xinhua)

Bouterse’s successor, Chandrikapersad Santokhi, underlined this agreement last month, to his excellency President Xi by saying: “China’s BRI helped turn my country into a key hub in South America”. These words emphasize the importance of the initiative for Suriname and are a pledge, that no matter which person holds office of President to Suriname, continuation of BRI in Suriname is insured. No smear campaigns against the Belt and Road Initiative by others, will have a negative impact on the way Suriname has embraced BRI, and the way Suriname believes the important role BRI will play in the development of the country and the rest of the world.


 President Chandrikapersad Santokhi and President Xi Jinping meet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 12 April 2024. At this meeting Xi said:“ China welcomes more high-quality and distinctive Surinamese products to enter the Chinese market, and stands ready to deepen cooperation with Suriname on joint Belt and Road construction”. (Xinhua)

Why Suriname ‘belted’ the new Silk Road 

Surinamese analysts agree that over the last four years, closer ties with China have effectively changed Suriname’s economy and that Beijing has bolstered its commitment to the country with a comprehensive shared development scheme that goes beyond trade, finance, and the economy. It sets the foundation for great development, thanks to China’s proposed win-win ties of cooperation. China has become a partner of Suriname and vice versa. It is proven that close China-Suriname ties have turned into tangible projects in the areas of infrastructure, services, and transportation and led to safer and more reliable financing schemes. For example; just two weeks ago, China remitted debts of Suriname dating back before 2013, according to the Surinamese minister of Foreign Affairs, Albert Ramdin.

China has been a major contributor to Suriname’s development goals since The People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Suriname formally established diplomatic relations on May 28, 1976, and continues to do so. The Chinese government has provided millions of US dollars in humanitarian emergency aid to Suriname, and hundreds of machineries for agricultural and construction purposes have also been donated. A hospital and different sports facilities are just some of the projects that can be mentioned as part of a long list. 

With the help of China, Suriname’s weak economy has the possibility to grow strong if the cards are played right. There is proof that the geo-economic and geopolitical center of world power is shifting away from the Atlantic, which was controlled by Western nations and marked by the North-South inequality. The emerging “multilateralism” between China and Suriname, will lead to greater equality in international relations and greater balance between the different regions.

China has been the great ‘powerhouse’ when it comes to providing financial aid to Suriname, with more than 600 million American dollars in loans over the past years alone. Thanks to the BRI, help is not only provided in the form of money but also in the form of  policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and the people-to-people bond.  These are the five priorities of this initiative as stipulated by President Xi Jinping at the unveiling of his idea in 2013.

Why this special bond between China and Suriname? 

On historical level. Where does this ‘love affair’ between these two nations originate from? These two countries are literally on the opposite sides of the globe. How come their ties are so strong?

First of all, when we look at Suriname’s  history we see that it has welcomed Chinese immigrants with open arms for the past 170 years. And, even to this day, Suriname keeps welcoming new immigrants from China. That’s why Suriname has one of the biggest Chinese communities in the Caribbean. There is no part of the country where you will not find a Chinese family or descendants, living their daily lives. 

On cultural level. The Chinese influence has been a part of Suriname’s identity since as early as in 1853 when the first Chinese laborers came all the way to the country.

Over the past 170 years, they and those who came after them and all their descendants have found themselves a new home, working hard to integrate into the local community and contributing to Suriname’s economic development and cultural diversity. That’s why the People’s Republic of China has invested in cultural enhancement programs between the two countries. Cultural events organized by the embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Suriname are very well attended and appreciated by a fast Surinamese audience. These activities enhance Suriname’s diversified culture. Organizing a steady stream of cultural events keeps the Chinese part of the Surinamese culture alive and enriches it.

Because of the acceptance of the Chinese culture, Suriname is the first country in the Western Hemisphere to designate the Chinese Spring Festival as an official national holiday. The Chinese Culture is incorporated into Suriname in such a way, that it is impossible not to acknowledge that there is more between these two countries than just friendship. 

On political level. The bond between the two countries has grown from being historical and cultural partners, to diplomatic one-minded nations. Suriname has constantly adhered to the one-China policy and has respected China’s core interests since the establishment of diplomatic ties more than 40 years ago.

On the 12th of April 2024, President Santokhi, once again, ensured the Surinamese point of view in a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Beijing. “Suriname firmly adheres to the one-China principle and supports China’s efforts to promote national reunification”, he said, expressing hopes of working with China to implement global initiatives. China in turn expressed its support to Suriname in safeguarding national sovereignty and independence and in following a development path suited to its national conditions. Premier Li pointed out that China is ready to strengthen coordination and cooperation with Suriname in the United Nations and other multilateral mechanisms, actively implement the Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative and Global Civilization Initiative, better respond to climate change and other global challenges, and promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.

Two bonded nations

It is clear that the ties between the two nations is much more than just politically-, economically-, diplomatically- or culturally motivated . It is a historical bond that started 170 years ago when the first group of Chinese immigrants came to the country. It got a jumpstart more than 40 years ago with the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two nations. And since 2013, the relation has taken to the skies with opportunities that are based on bonds, that go beyond friendship under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.  Suriname has firmly and fondly embraced the Belt and Road Initiative.



SOURCES: People’s Daily
                     Communication Unit of The Surinamese President(CDS)
                     Belt and Road Portal
                     Xinhua news agency
                     Times of Suriname archives