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China & Pacific island countries announce strategic partnership

Chinese President Xi JinpingXINHUA NEWS AGENCY

CHINA and eight Pacific island countries agreed in Fiji on Saturday to establish a strategic partnership featuring mutual respect and common development.

The agreement was announced at a meeting between visiting Chinese president Xi Jinping and the leaders of the eight countries, namely prime minister Bainimarama (Fiji), president Emanuel Mori (Micronesia), prime minister Malielegaoi (Samoa), prime minister O' Neill (PNG), prime minister Natuman (Vanuatu), prime minister Puna (Cook Islands), prime minister Tu'ivakano (Tonga) and prime minister Talagi (Niue).

All the eight island countries have established diplomatic ties with China since the 1970s.

In a keynote speech delivered at the meeting, Xi expounded China's policy and measures to enhance relations with the island countries in a new era, stressing that China is a sincere friend and partner of those countries.

The Chinese people and the people of the island countries have a "natural sense of amity" toward each other and enjoy a "long history of friendship" although they are geographically far apart, Xi said.

Hailing the expanding common interests of China and the island countries, Xi said their friendly cooperation has entered a fast-track of development.

"China will attach more not less importance to its relations with the island countries and will make more input," he said.

Xi said China respects the island countries' own choices of social systems and development paths in accordance with their national conditions, and support the countries' efforts to manage and decide on regional affairs in their own way as well as to participate in international affairs to safeguard their legitimate rights and interests.

He urged China and the island countries to increase high-level interactions, saying that his country welcomes leaders of the countries to visit China and will work with them on top-level design for their relations.

"(We) stand ready to expand government-to-government, legislature-to-legislature and party-to-party interactions with the island countries, and will continue to advance the China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum and other regular dialogues," said the Chinese president.

Referring to his proposal on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Xi said China sincerely hopes to share experience and achievement of development with the island countries and welcomes them to take a ride on the Chinese "express train" of development.

China is willing to deepen cooperation with the island countries in trade, agriculture and fishery, marine industry, energy and resources, infrastructure construction and other sectors, said Xi, adding that China will offer zero-tariff preference for 97 percent of tax items imported from the least developed countries.

China will continue to provide support for the island countries' major projects, infrastructure construction and projects involving people's livelihoods, Xi said.

On people-to-people exchanges, the Chinese president pledged to provide the island countries with 2,000 scholarships and 5,000 slots for various studies and trainings in the next five years.

China will send more medical teams to the island countries and encourage more Chinese tourists to visit the countries, he added.

In the meantime, Xi said China stands ready to enhance communication with the island countries on global governance, poverty elimination, disaster reduction, food security, energy security, humanitarian aid and climate change to safeguard the common interests of all developing countries, Xi said.

Xi arrived in Nadi on Friday for a state visit to Fiji after his trips to Australia and New Zealand.

The leaders of the island countries said they all regard China as a sincere friend and partner as the Chinese side always respects and supports the island countries.

They said China's policy and measures toward the islands countries in the new era meet the actual needs of the countries and will help the countries in their push for sustainable development.

China's proposals on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank generate important opportunities for the island countries, they noted.

The leaders pledged that their countries will boost exchanges and cooperation, and cement friendship with China and will join hands with China to strive for their dreams.


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Chris Overland

Positive engagement between PNG and China is necessary and inevitable, as indeed it is for Australia.

However, President Xi's references to "a natural sense of amity" and "a long history of friendship" ought to be viewed within the context of relations between nation states as distinct from personal relations.

Lord Palmerston (1784-1865), a former Prime Minister of Great Britain, famously observed that:

"Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests".

This very pertinent observation has been proved true time and time again and it is folly to imagine that China, a vast and growing power, will not demand "favours" as a quid pro quo for the beneficence it shows towards the South Pacific's small, poor and very inexperienced nations.

China has 5,000 years of history as a highly sophisticated, subtle and very self contained power.

It's current leaders did not arrive in their current positions except by manifesting exceptional qualities of intelligence, opportunism, ruthlessness, stamina and state craft.

PNG's leaders need to bear this in mind when they assess or accept assistance from China, just as they should for any other actual or putative "great power".

Michael Dom

So when do we talk about the EEZ for tuna stocks?

Jack Klomes

That is a step in the right direction for the Pacific Island nations.

"If you cant beat them, join them" - that's what my lecturer, the late Professor Jerry Semos, always says when discussing China's expansion in the Pacific and the plight of the small Pacific nations against the might of China's economy.

Peter Pirape Anage

The emergence of China as an economic power of the world and China itself as a country within our region pose a strategic economic advantage for the Pacific and PNG.

Through economic/trade reforms, the Pacific and PNG can ride the Chinese economic wave in the Asian century together.

PNG has experienced huge foreign direct investment from China in many sectors of the economy and there is still huge opportunities for China to invest and trade more with PNG and the Pacific Islands.

The impact of Chinese investment and trade is already visible in PNG and the Pacific as well and this is truly refreshing as these once island colonial outposts are truly transforming and feeling the impact of geo-economic paradigm shift to late.

For PNG and the Pacific, the catch is reforming trade policies that discourages Chinese encroachment on reserve business activities and ensuring that domestic human capital and institutional capacities are prioritised and developed to drive inclusive economic activities both in PNG and within the Pacific Islands countries.

It's a case of smaller fish feeding of the crumbs of a bigger fish while ensuring that they don't get hurt in the process.

Bernard Singu Yegiora

China is on the move!

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