Hoping for the continued conducive business environment for Chinese firms in the Maldives under the new government, China on Tuesday congratulated Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, widely viewed as an ally of India, a day after he defeated the pro-Beijing President, Abdullah Yameen, in the Presidential election.
China is willing to work with the Maldives to consolidate "our friendship and deepen the cooperation between the two countries", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a media briefing here.
Solih's victory has a geopolitical significance in the South Asian region as the archipelago is strategically located in the Indian Ocean where China is flexing its muscles.
In 2014, the Maldives had signed a MoU with Beijing in support of China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a project which is opposed by India as it includes the China Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC) which transverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The comments were China's first reaction to Solih's unexpected victory on Monday.
"China and Maldives enjoy traditional friendship. In recent years, the two countries maintained very sound development momentum and we have conducted mutually beneficial cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, (BRI) and achieved outstanding outcomes," Shuang said.
Responding to a question on strong criticism of large-scale Chinese investment in the island nation and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by the Maldivian Democratic Party to which Solih belonged, Shuang hoped the new government would create enabling an environment for the Chinese firms to continue to work in the Maldives.
China and Maldives had signed the FTA in last September and it came into effect on August 1 this year.
"As to the FTA signed between China and the Maldives...we have always encouraged Chinese enterprises to invest and operate in the Maldives in accordance with the market-based rules and regulations," Shuang said.
"China will work with the Maldives to ensure the sound implementation of this FTA and expand the trade and investment cooperation between the two sides to the greater benefit of our two countries and two peoples," the spokesperson said.