Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off his state visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Thursday. It's his second trip to the South Pacific region in four years after he visited Fiji and met with heads of eight Pacific states in 2014. During the interval, the Pacific island nations have witnessed China, as a peaceful and constructive presence, providing infrastructure and humanitarian support for their economic and social development. PNG's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill discussed a number of infrastructure projects delivered by China through a series of development and aid agreements with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang when he visited Beijing in June this year, saying that each of these projects is a gift of the people of China, and are demonstrations of warm relationship between our countries. He also said that we intend to keep taking this friendship to an even higher level.
In Port Moresby, President Xi will again meet with leaders of the Pacific nations with diplomatic ties with China. Beijing will continue its collaboration with the Pacific nations, which is based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and equality. The Pacific region is a natural extension of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Economic cooperation with China has provided momentum to nation-building and economic progress in the Pacific nations, bringing tremendous improvement to the society and the well-being of the people.
On Monday, China and Fiji inked a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road initiative. China is the most important trading partner of Pacific nations and a key donor. Faced with the challenges of climate change, natural disasters and poor infrastructure and governance, the Pacific nations, with their short history of independence and nation-building, have benefited from the sustained and environment-friendly collaboration ventures with China. Other projects focusing on the building of education, healthcare and social service facilities have improved the living standard of people.
Some countries such as Australia had been overlooking the Pacific nations and cutting back on aid and development programs to this region for decades, but only recently became hypersensitive to the growing closeness of the countries to China. While taking South Pacific as its sphere of influence, Australia announced it will invest in redeveloping a naval base on PNG's Manus Island as concerns mount over the alleged threat of China in the region. China's naval presence in this area, however, was in the form of a naval hospital ship, Ark Peace, which visited PNG, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga from July 11 to August 20 to conduct joint medical diagnoses, treatment and academic exchanges with local hospital staff. PNG's Defense Force Chief of Staff, Captain Philip Polewara, hailed the visit of the ship and warmly thanked China and the Chinese people for the humanitarian aid.
Unlike some other countries, China does not assume a condescending attitude to criticize and lecture the South Pacific nations on their internal affairs, never disparaging their foreign relations and partnerships. China always respects the nations' sovereignty and self-determination, and believes that regardless of their size and economic ability, all countries are equal. China has confidence in the political and economic wisdom of the South Pacific nations' people and governments, and never regards them disdainfully.
Bottles of Fiji water sell well at supermarkets in Chinese cities. It is said Fiji beer is now especially popular in Shanghai bars. Connoisseurs relish salmons and tunas from the South Pacific, and during the golden week of this year's National Day holidays, the number of Chinese tourists to the island nations doubled. Samoa is actually rated as a must go destination for Chinese beach lovers and honeymooners. Just as President Xi said when he was meeting with PNG Prime Minister O'Neill in June in Beijing, the two countries should expand mutually beneficial cooperation and make the cake of cooperation bigger and bigger.
Some people may sneer from afar at the increasingly improving relations between China and the South Pacific countries. In fact, such phobia and paranoia are absolutely pointless. China never rejects any country that can collaborate in its efforts toward a shared future for the region and for the world. Our words match our deeds. We are transparent and open in the broad daylight, just like the radiant South Pacific sun.
The author is Chen Hong, a professor and director of Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University.
Source: Global Times