Xi Travels to Maldives in First Visit by Chinese Head of State

President Xi Jinping travels to the Maldives this weekend in the first visit by a Chinese head of state to the island nation of fewer than 400,000 people that faces the threat of rising sea levels due to global warming.

Xi will meet his counterpart, Abdulla Yameen, during his two-day visit expected to be focused on trade, tourism and climate change, China’s Foreign Ministry said Sept. 9.

“Maldives is along the maritime Silk Road Xi proposed last year,” said Cheng Fengjun, a professor at Peking University who specializes in South Asia studies. “His state visit can show China attaches importance not only to big countries along the route but also small ones.”

China has been the biggest source of tourism in Maldives for the past four years, according to the Foreign Ministry in Beijing.

Maritime economic cooperation and tourism will be high on Xi’s agenda, while Yameen will push for talks on climate change, Xinhua News Agency cited Ye Hailin, a researcher at South Asia Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as saying.

Maldives has appealed to developed countries to do more to curb global warming.

“Without mutual efforts and their help, we’ll disappear from this planet,” Ahmed Latheef, the Maldivian ambassador to China, said in an interview with Chinese state media in 2010.

“There is more potential for maritime cooperation between Maldives and China under Xi’s new Silk Road plan,” said Peking University’s Cheng. “Maldives is a small pearl along the route.”

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