Amidst the festive atmosphere at the unveiling of two stone lions in Port of Spain to celebrate the Chinese New Year on Wednesday, there were concerns about China's growing involvement in TT's affairs.
Speaking at the ceremony, on the corner of Charlotte Street and Independence Square, president of the Downtown Owners' and Merchants Association (DOMA) Gregory Aboud said the Chinese community has made invaluable contributions to TT's culture and economy over the years, but there was some unease that China's diplomatic involvement could come at a high price later on.
Noting China's growing economy and influence in the region, he said some people were concerned that Chinatown could extend from Charlotte Street to other parts of Trinidad.
"Given the fact that your country now rivals the US in terms of economic power, given the very small fragile state of our country, there are concerns that we are dancing with too big a partner with China, and...that China's involvement in TT will one day cause perhaps Chinatown to spread way outside of Port of Spain to other areas of the country.
"I do have a great deal of respect – we all do – for your accomplishments and your culture, and we ask the same of you in return.
"After all, true friendship, which we believe you are offering us, asks nothing in return for your contribution of friendship. And so on that note I would like to thank you on behalf of Port of Spain and on behalf of the mayor of Port of Spain."
Last week former US ambassador to TT Joseph Mondello, in an interview with US media, alleged that in a newspaper article the Prime Minister had said the US was a trade partner of the past and China was this country's new partner.
Dr Rowley has since denied he made any such comments and Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne maintained that TT was a friend to both China and the US.
In his address, Chinese ambassador Fang Qiu said the two countries had a long and prosperous history of relations and hoped the new year would enhance the mutually beneficial ties.Qiu said TT and China had a lot of similarities and was confident the two could work together to build a better future.
"The national motto of TT, "Together we aspire, together we achieve," speaks to building a community of a shared vision.
A vision by Chinese residents in TT.
"Both countries share the same vision, and that is a better life for people and a better world for all. We have been working out our shared vision especially in this extraordinary new year of 2021, in true friendship in solidarity we supported each other with morale and material to fight the pandemic."
Port of Spain mayor Joel Martinez said the unveiling of the lions was only one step in the development of Chinatown, as there were plans to have cobblestones placed on the road and giving the street a "general facelift" with the removal of overhead wires.In October 2019 the city corporation put up arches with the word "Chinatown" on Charlotte Street. The arches were set up by the Shanghai Construction Group.
The decision to rename the street met with some resistance from some people, who
questioned why the street needed to be renamed.