President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Panama, for what will be the first such visit by a Chinese leader since the two countries established diplomatic ties in June last year.
Panamanian experts are hailing the visit as the start of a new chapter in relations between the two countries.
Ahead of his visit to the country, a signed article written by President Xi Jinping was published in a Panamanian newspaper on Friday, in which he said that China and Panama were natural partners in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Ships are seen at Miraflores Lock in the Panama Canal in Panama City. (Photo:VCG)
In the article, he points out that Panama was the first country in Latin American and the Caribbean to sign a memorandum of understanding with China for the Belt and Road.
Eddie Tapiero, an expert in international and economic issues with the Panama Canal Authority, said President Xi Jinping's visit will open up a new chapter in relations between the countries, and that it would further enhance mutual trust.
As one of the first batch of scholars in the country to study the Belt and Road Initiative, he has come to believe that it is not simply a trade and finance mechanism, but that it also serves as a broader platform for the participants to build closer ties.
"The Latin American countries, and particularly the poor Central American countries, used to be forgotten. But now we have the opportunity to reduce poverty and hunger by cooperating with China. Some old notions must be cast aside. We should have fewer confrontations and doubts, and more trust, which is the trend for the 21st century. Only by trusting each other can we eliminate wars, combat terrorism, and address environmental issues. We must make joint efforts to solve problems. Isolationism and protectionism can't solve any problems, nor can they bring about development."
Gina Roman, a scholar of international economics who has attended several Belt and Road forums, said that President Xi Jinping's visit sends a very positive signal that Panama can reap substantial benefits by taking part in the Belt and Road Initiative.
"President Xi Jinping is a leader with great and important leadership in the international arena, especially regarding open trade and globalization. His state visit to Panama has sent a very positive signal to Panama, and even to all of Central America. "
Reberto Montanez is the vice president of the Panama National Convention International Relations Committee, and is also chairman of the Parents' Association for Chinese Mainland Overseas Students.
With both of his sons having studied in China, and one of them having now settled in China, he expressed his appreciation for the contributions of President Xi's leadership.
"President Xi Jinping is a leader winning acclaim and approval from the international community. The "China Dream" that he proposed, which was considered an impossible goal, is being realized step by step. I do think he has done an excellent job, and that he is a trustworthy leader, because I have seen the great efforts he has made to promote world peace. His visit is a great honor for Panamanians."
Over the past year and a half, the relationship between the two countries has gone from strength to strength. Now, President Xi Jinping is calling for the Belt and Road to become the center of their collaboration.