Wei Qiang, Chinese Ambassador to Panama, applauds Clipper Race after visiting Sanya Serenity Coast
Following recently established diplomatic relations between China and Panama, the inaugural Chinese Ambassador to Panama, Wei Qiang, has described the Clipper Race as an inspiration and a positive step for Chinese sailing after being invited to meet with crew from Chinese entry Sanya Serenity Coast in Panama City.
Mr Wei Qiang became the first Chinese Ambassador to Panama after the two countries established diplomatic ties in 2017. And in the spirit of the connection between China and Panama, he was invited by the topical resort city of Sanya to tour Clipper Race yacht Sanya Serenity Coast whilst it was berthed at Flamenco Marina.
During the tour, the Sanya Serenity Coast crew on board gave the Ambassador a taste of what it is really like to spend weeks at sea on a 70-foot ocean racing yacht whilst racing 40,000 nautical miles (nm) for eleven months around the world.
“I think they are heroes, they are legends, they are incredible,” says Mr Wei Qiang.
“I admire them very much especially after I took a tour around the Sanya Serenity Coast yacht and saw that the crew live and race full time with everyone on board!”
Mr Wei Qiang met representatives of Sanya and members of the Sanya Serenity Coast team that had just raced from Seattle to Panama, including one of the Ambassador Crew representing the city of Sanya, Shan Yang Yang, who will also be taking part in the upcoming 2,000nm race from Panama to New York.
The Ambassador comments: “It is very significant to see two great cities like Sanya and Qingdao taking part in the race when earlier in her history China was such a sailing power. I think as a country we are now becoming more aware of sea affairs, of going out on the sea to expand our horizons and that is very important for our nation’s development.”
He also admires the role the Clipper Race is playing in promoting Sanya and Qingdao across the world, adding: “It is a powerful business tool for China. So, as a Chinese Diplomat, I am very pleased to see Chinese people taking part in this kind of activity.”
Sanya has also been taking its advantage of the global race route to forge and develop business, tourism and trade relationships as the Clipper Race stops in ports around the globe. For Sanya, Panama is a hugely significant stopover for the Chinese entries and crew, given China’s long history with the Central American Nation. Since the late 19th century, China has played an important part in the industrial development of Panama, as Mr Wei Qiang explains: “More than a century ago the first Chinese people came here to Panama on board a boat as well to participate in the building of the Panama Railway. During both the French and American periods of the building of the Canal a lot of Chinese workers took part in the construction so that was the beginning of the history of Chinese migration to Panama”
Today, China is one of Panama’s biggest trade partners and is the second biggest importer. Panama’s Chinese heritage also continues to grow with more than 300,000 Panamanian-Chinese, 8 per cent of the population, now living in Panama. And Mr Wei Qiang hopes they will be inspired by the those taking part in the Clipper Race, saying: “This teamwork between people from all over the world, from different nationalities, is a very good thing and only strengthens international relationships and the spirit of cooperation and friendship.”
The Chinese entries, Sanya Serenity Coast and Qingdao, are one and two on top of the overall leaderboard with just three races remaining in the epic Clipper Race circumnavigation. And whilst he remained neutral, Mr Wei Qiang did extend his best wishes to all on board, saying: “I hope China, with these pioneers, will help increase our love of sailing.”
Sanya is using the Clipper Race as an influential business platform to build its reputation as an international sailing destination and further enhance the City’s long-term development strategy of combining sports and tourism.