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The Maritime Silk Road and China–Maldives Relations

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Asia-Pacific Political Economy book series (PASTAPPE)


Maldives occupies a crucial place in China’s 2013 Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) given the country’s geostrategic location in the Indian Ocean. Chinese policymakers, academics, and media commentators have recently highlighted the need for China to participate actively in the Indian Ocean and develop a robust relationship with Maldives in order to protect its resource flows and position itself for power transition in the region. China has stepped up contacts with Maldives and is actively pursuing the MSRI plan of laying down dual-use infrastructure projects in the region. This chapter argues that Chinese relations with Maldives are expanding and that this is reflected in high-level visits, the provision of aid and loans, the construction of infrastructure projects like the strategic iHavan project, the expansion of tourism, and free-trade talks.

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    However, a former foreign minister of Maldives, Ahmed Naseem, argued that his country had never been part of the Silk Road before and that the MSR has other motives. See the interview with Rajiv Sharma, “Maldivian Conundrum: Will India Risk China’s Ire by Militarily Intervening in Malé?” March 16, 2015,é-2155393.html. Another contrasting opinion is offered by former Vice Foreign Minister Ali Hameed who said, “Looking away from a purely economic standpoint, the Silk Road I hope will also be a platform to exchange cultural values as well as be an asset for academic and research orientated initiatives, whereby both countries can share expertise, … I believe strongly, that the time is ripe for the ancient Silk Route to be reborn again and to develop a bridge of connectivity, friendship and mutual development for China and the Maldives.” Quoted in “Maritime Silk Road to Bring Closer China-Maldives Ties: Former Maldives Senior Official,” Xinhua, June 9, 2014.

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    “China and Maldives,”

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    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2005 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2005), 223.

  20. 20.

    The joint communiqué on this occasion mentioned that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the PRC. See “Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Maldives,” October 14, 1972,

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    For this chronology, “China and Maldives,”

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  24. 24.

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  26. 26.

    “The President felicitates the Chinese President on the Occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Maldives and China,” The Maldives, October 14, 2002,

  27. 27.

    “President Gayoom and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji Inaugurate the Fourth Phase of the Malé Housing Project,” The Maldives, May 17, 2001,

  28. 28.

    “The Maldives and China hold official talks,” The Maldives, May 17, 2001,

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    “Premier Zhu Rongji Held Talks with Maldivian President,” May 17, 2001,

  30. 30.

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  31. 31.

    Han Jie, “Chi Haotian Meets with Maldives Guests,” Xinhua Hong Kong Service November 12, 2001.

  32. 32.

    “Chinese Defense Minister Meets Maldivian Delegation,” Xinhua, November 12, 2001.

  33. 33.

    A.B. Mahapatra, “China Acquires a Base in Maldives against India with Some Help from Pakistan,” July 27, 2001,

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    “The President Identifies China’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol ,” September 4, 2002,

  35. 35.

    “The President Meets the Vice Premier of the Chinese State Council,” March 29, 2004,

  36. 36.

    “The Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, Calls on the President,” June 13, 2004,

  37. 37.

    On this occasion, Li met with the Chinese staff of the Shanghai Construction Group who were involved in the construction of Ministry of Foreign Affairs building. See “Li Zhaoxing Holds Talks with Maldivian Foreign Minister,” April 2, 2005,

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    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2006 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2006), 231. When the Wenchuan earthquake hit Sichuan Province in 2008, Maldives made a donation of $50,000. See Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2009 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2009), 227.

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    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2008 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2008), 200 and China’s Foreign Affairs 2012 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2012), 205.

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  44. 44.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2013 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2013), 216.

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    This section is based on my article at “Maritime Silk Road: Increasing Chinese Inroads into the Maldives,” IPCS, November 13, 2014, See also Yang Yi, “Chinese President’s Visit to Enhance Ties with Maldives, Sri Lanka: Foreign Ministry,” Xinhua September 9, 2014.

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    A six-lane bridge connecting Malé to the airport island Hulhulé, the “China-Maldives Friendship Bridge” estimated at $100–150 million. “China-Maldives Friendship to Bridge Opportunity Gaps,”

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    The anti-Indian rhetoric of some parties in Maldives and China’s new role in the island nation is said to be the basis for Prime Minister Modi’s Indian Ocean diplomacy recently, when he skipped Malé but went to Sri Lanka, Seychelles , and Mauritius . See Darshana M. Baruah, “Modi’s Trip and China’s Islands: The Battle for the Indian Ocean,” The Diplomat, March 11, 2015, It is also said that under Indian influence the Addu Summit of the SAARC had insisted on “institutionalization” of the SAARC instead of expanding it with new members (like China).

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  64. 64.

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  65. 65.

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  66. 66.

    Eva Abdullah, one of the 14 parliament members who opposed the amendment, was cited as saying that this measure would lead to Maldives becoming a colony of China. Zachary Keck, “Get Ready: China Could Build New Artificial Islands Near India,” National Interest, July 29, 2015,

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  69. 69.

    Quoted by Azra Naseem, “From Maldives, With Love,” Dhivehi Sitee, April 26, 2012,

  70. 70.

    “Threat of a Coup with the Assistance of Mercenaries Is Still Imminent—Vice President,” Miadhu, January, 13, 2013.

  71. 71.

    See Azra Naseem, “Like Water for Politics: Lessons from Malé Water Crisis,” Dhivehi Sitee, December 9, 2014,é-water-crisis.

  72. 72.

    Hong cited at “Spokesman: China to Continue to Aid Maldives,” Global Times, December 10, 2014,

  73. 73.

    “China and Maldives.”

  74. 74.

    In 2000, over 5000 Chinese tourists visited Maldives and in 2001 it increased to 6707. See “Maldives Embarks on Advertising Tourism in China,” January 1, 2002,

  75. 75.

    People’s Republic of China, Development Resource Council, “An Analysis on the Contribution of China’s Economic Growth to Global Economic Growth,” 2015,

  76. 76.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2011 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2011), 234.

  77. 77.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2012 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2012), 205.

  78. 78.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2013 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2013), 216.

  79. 79.

    “Chinese Dominated Tourism Sector Evolves to Offer More Choice,”; and Yin Yeping, “Maldives Ambassador talks cultural exchange,” Global Times, February 8, 2015,

  80. 80.

    “Maldives Courts Chinese,” Global Times, March 15, 2013,

  81. 81.

    Yang Feiyue, “Maldives Reaches Out for Chinese Investment,” China Daily, October 21, 2015,


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Kondapalli, S. (2018). The Maritime Silk Road and China–Maldives Relations. In: Blanchard, JM. (eds) China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative and South Asia. Palgrave Studies in Asia-Pacific Political Economy. Palgrave, Singapore.

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