China, Pacific island nations foster regional peace and stability

Medical supplies and other relief materials arrive in Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands, on Feb 18. XINHUA

Vital revenue

Jason Young, associate professor of political science and international relations at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, said, “Pacific island countries are very distant from many markets, and in recent years we”ve seen Chinese companies take more and more Pacific exports, which provides very important revenue for those economies.”

Young, also director of the university’s New Zealand Contemporary China Research Center, added: “China has invested in and formed development partnerships for things like infrastructure development and building constructionļ¼¨particularly in the Pacific in terms of climate change resilience and adaptation. These types of infrastructure projects are incredibly important.”

He said many countries are helping or working with Pacific island nations to try to deal with poverty issues. “But I think the key thing is that those initiatives need to be owned by Pacific island countries themselves,” Young said.

“So, just as China’s own poverty alleviation policies were primarily domestic policies with foreign investment and some aid and support from organizations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, it’s the same with the Pacificļ¼¨the agency for change needs to be in the Pacific .”

Devonshire-Ellis, from Dezan Shira, said poverty alleviation should be based on the ability of people to have a sustainable income.

“That means studying the local economy and its assets, and working out new ways in which existing processes can be streamlined and made more efficient, or new business lines introduced,” he said.

“These also need to go hand-in-hand with issues the South Pacific faces, such as rising sea levels and overexploitation of natural resources. It will be interesting to see what China proposes.”

He said climate change affects everyone differently, acknowledging that Pacific island nations are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

“Technologies to allow these nations to cope with this have still not been thought through, and neither has the resettlement situation. The Maldives in the Indian Ocean has already approached India to buy land for the resettlement of some of the islanders when necessary,” Devonshire -Ellis said.

China has never made secret its desire to safeguard peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region. This aim was clearly outlined in the nation’s Position Paper on Mutual Respect and Common Development with Pacific Island Countries issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 30.

The paper states that relations between China and Pacific island countries have flourished, while exchanges and cooperation have grown in more than 20 fields, including trade, investment, ocean affairs, environmental protection, disaster preparedness and mitigation, poverty alleviation and health.

“China has implemented nearly 500 complete plant projects, technical assistance, in-kind assistance and concessional loan projects in Pacific island countries, helped them build important infrastructure such as roads, bridges, wharves, hospitals, schools and stadiums, and trained about 10,000 professionals in various fields,” the paper said.

As well as burgeoning trade volumes with the region, China has played a key role in providing medical assistance to Pacific island nations, and has signed Belt and Road cooperation memorandums of understanding with all 10 such countries with which it has diplomatic relations.

Tourism is also a key part of the relationship. Before the pandemic emerged, nearly 100,000 Chinese tourists traveled to the South Pacific annually.

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