MALÃ‰, September 23, 2013 (AFP) – The travellers pouring off flight LV199 from Shanghai into the international airport of the Maldives, many dressed in designer labels, are an unmissable sign of China’s interest in the far-flung archipelago. His half-brother, long-time autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled until 2008, was saved from a coup by late Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who dispatched paratroopers in 1988.
Out at the Anantara holiday resort where tourists Chen and Fang are beginning their holiday, such thoughts seem a world away as they are welcomed at the jetty by a traditional drummer and staff bearing cold face towels.
Employees such as spa attendant Huang Jing Fang are on hand 24 hours a day to cater for their every need.
“Maldives is like a dream place for Chinese people, and me also,” Huang told AFP. “That’s why I came to work here.” Their arrival — Chinese visitors are now the biggest group of tourists to the Indian Ocean islands — has been accompanied by greater diplomatic engagement in the Maldives by Beijing, which is investing widely around South Asia.
Recently married Chen Hui and Fang Ye, 20-something business executives from near Shanghai, are returning for their second trip and heading to