H.E. Wang Xiaolong is the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to New Zealand.
Right Honorable Sir Jim McLay,
Honorable MP Gerry Brownlee ,
My fellow ambassadors from the Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Udall, Ambassador Obermaier, High Commissioner Toleafoa,
All experts and professors,
It’s a pleasure and privilege to join you today virtually to discuss the challenges facing the Pacific region, a topic of common interest to us. To begin with, I would like to acknowledge the organizers of this event, the Te Piringa Faculty of Law of Waikato University and the Policy Institute at King’s College London for their efforts to bring us together. Indeed, enhanced exchanges among major Pacific island partners, players and stakeholders are conducive to building confidence and common understanding, expanding cooperation and tackling common challenges.
Nowadays, Pacific island countries are working with an increasing number of partners to make their Pacific voice heard on various platforms. As a result, they are playing an increasingly important role in addressing climate change, achieving sustainable development and maintaining peace and stability in this region and beyond. For this and other reasons, the Pacific region has received growing interest and attention from the international community. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you China’s long-standing relations with the Pacific island countries and our views on relevant Pacific issues. I also look forward to hearing your perspectives on this.
Let me first briefly touch on the history of China's evolving relations with PICs.
China’s friendly interactions with Pacific island countries have a long history, which can be dated back to hundreds of years ago. 150 years ago, a number of Chinese people crossed the vast ocean to reach the South Pacific islands, settled down, worked hard and lived in harmony with the local people, and forged strong cultural and people-to-people bonds across the Pacific. In fact, I have been told many times by my Polynesian friends that their ancestors may have come from China.
Our official relationship with the PICs are almost as old as our relationships with Australia and New Zealand, starting in the 1970s, bringing China’s relations with the region onto a fast track. In 1975, China established diplomatic relations with Fiji and Samoa, in 1976 with Papua New Guinea, in 1982 with Vanuatu, in 1989 with Micronesia, just to name a few. So far, China has established diplomatic relations with 10 Pacific island countries and set up resident embassies in 8 of them.
In the following decades, China and Pacific island countries have deepened relations on all fronts. In November 2014, President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Fiji and held a collective meeting with leaders of PICs having diplomatic ties with China, when the two sides agreed to establish a strategic partnership featuring mutual respect and common development. In November 2018, President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and had another collective meeting with leaders of 10 PICs, when China-PICs relations were elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership of mutual respect and common development. These two visits helped open a new chapter in all-dimensional cooperation between the two sides.
In recent years, China and Pacific island countries have also jointly built the China-PICs Foreign Ministers’ Meeting mechanism. Last year, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi was invited to visit South Pacific Island Countries and chaired the second China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, where he announced that China will continue to strengthen the six cooperation platforms covering emergency supplies, climate action, poverty reduction, disaster prevention, agriculture, and application of Juncao technology, all tailored to PICs’ needs, taking China-PICs practical cooperation to new levels.
Let me turn to the objectives and principles of China's relations with PICs.
To put it simply, the fundamental goal of China’ s relations with the Pacific island countries is to achieve common development. Both China and the Pacific island countries are developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and share similar historical experiences of being victims to invasion and colonization. We all give first priority to economic and social development to improve people’s livelihood. As the largest developing country, China empathizes deeply with the PICs’ colonial past and their aspirations for development, and has actively helped PICs within the framework of South-South cooperation to address common challenges including climate change, poverty reduction and sustainable development.
While working with Pacific island countries, China has followed the principles of sincerity, real results, affinity, good faith and pursuing the greater good and shared interests, the core of which is mutual respect. Recently, when meeting with Prime Minister Sogavare, President Xi Jinping presented China’s‘four full respects policy’ toward Pacific Island countries.
First, China fully respects the sovereignty and independence of Pacific island countries. It’s our long-standing and consistent position that all countries, big or small, rich or poor, strong or weak, are equal. China never bullies others or interferes in the internal affairs of other countries. We always respect the development paths independently chosen by other countries, including by the people of Pacific island countries, and support their sovereign decision to conduct normal cooperation with other countries. Meanwhile, we appreciate it deeply that the 10 PICs having diplomatic ties with China always adhere to the one-China principle, understand and support our core interests and major concerns on the Taiwan question.
Second, China fully respects the will of Pacific island countries. We understand the severe challenges they face on addressing climate change, promoting development and improving people’s lives. By planning together, working together and benefitting together, China seeks to promote PICs’ infrastructure development and poverty reduction, so as to help them break the development bottlenecks and enhance their own development capacity, including the achievement of long-term financial and above all economic viability and sustainability.
Third, China fully respects the culture and traditions of Pacific island countries. We never consider the culture of any country to be superior to those of others. Each and every culture is unique and equal, and all are part and parcel of the world civilization garden. We follow the principle of harmony without uniformity in interacting with Pacific island countries, and have drawn on and learned from each other's cultures to flourish and prosper together.
Fourth, China fully respects Pacific island countries’ efforts to seek strength through unity and supports them in implementing the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. In this connection, we have taken the initiative to align the Belt and Road cooperation and various China-PICs cooperation mechanisms with the goals and objectives as well as priority areas of the 2050 Strategy, in order to support PICs to build a peaceful, harmonious, secure, inclusive and prosperous Blue Pacific as outlined in its 2050 Strategy with a Pacific approach.
China is a staunch supporter of open regionalism led and owned by Pacific island countries. We respect the existing cooperation mechanisms and arrangements in the region, and value the dialogues and exchanges with authoritative regional organizations such as the Pacific Islands Forum. Our bilateral and multilateral cooperation with Pacific island countries is complementary and non-exclusive vis-a-vis existing regional mechanisms.
In 1989, China became one of the first official dialogue partners of the Pacific Islands Forum. Since 1990, China has sent government representatives to attend 31 consecutive post-Forum dialogues, and has explored and carried out extensive practical cooperation in the region. China has long supported the role and work of the PIF Secretariat and has proactively provided assistance to the Secretariat within its capacity. Last year, we donated US$1.08 million to the Secretariat. This came on top of past donations of similar amounts. China also strongly supports the PIF Leaders’ Meeting, and has provided support to forum chairs in hosting PIF summits and related meetings, including the immediate past chair Fiji, and the current chair, Cook Islands. We look forward to new progress being made in the upcoming PIF leader’s meeting and the Forum partners’ dialogue under the stewardship of the Cook Islands this year.
Now, I’d like to highlight some examples of exchanges and cooperation Between China and PICs.
China always honors our commitment and puts money where our mouth is. More importantly, our efforts did not start yesteryear. We have been doing it for decades. The two sides have conducted frequent exchanges at different levels, and have established multiple bilateral and multilateral dialogue mechanisms. Nowadays, the cooperation between the two sides has expanded to more than 20 areas, including trade, investment, ocean affairs, environmental protection, climate change, disaster preparedness, response and mitigation, poverty alleviation, health care, education, tourism, culture, sports, etc.
China is an important economic and trade partner of PICs and the two-way trade has continued to grow. According to the statistics of the Chinese side, from 1992 to 2021, total trade volume between China and PICs having diplomatic relations with China registered an average annual increase of 13% and expanded by over 30 times in 30 years. China has signed Belt and Road cooperation MOUs with all the 10 PICs having diplomatic relations with China. We have enhanced economic and technical cooperation under the framework of South-South Cooperation including implementing nearly 500 grant and concessional funding, technical assistance and in-kind donation projects in PICs, helping build important infrastructure such as roads, bridges, wharfs, hospitals, schools and sport facilities, and training about 10,000 professionals in various fields.
China takes PICs’ special conditions and concerns in relation to climate change very seriously, and has been committed to helping them strengthen capacity and resilience. Since 2019, China has held four South-South cooperation training sessions for PICs under the theme of ‘Tackling Climate Change for Green and Low-carbon Development’, and has provided multiple batches of supplies. In April 2022, the China-Pacific Island Countries Climate Change Cooperation Center was officially launched in China. Additionally, China also attaches great importance to strengthening renewable energy cooperation with PICs. The photovoltaic power plant project in Samoa , built by a Chinese company in 2010, was China’s first photovoltaic cooperation project in the region. Meanwhile, China has been devoted to promoting the full and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement so as to help PICs strengthen climate resilience.
In recent years, China has hosted multiple seminars for PIC officials focusing on environmental protection and management, water pollution treatment, and water resource protection, which aims to help PICs improve environmental protection and marine resource management capability and jointly crack down on IUU fishing activities. In 2017, China hosted the China-Small Island States Ocean-related Ministerial Round Table with the theme of ‘Blue Economy and Ecological Islands’. In 2021, the First China-Pacific Island Countries Forum on Fishery Cooperation and Development was held in Guangzhou city of China, where the Guangzhou Consensus was reached to deepen relevant cooperation. In 2023, the China-Pacific Island Countries Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers Meeting was held in China. All of these are conducive to deepening fishery cooperation between the two sides and help PICs to achieve sustainable development.
After the outbreak of COVID-19, China moved quickly to share information about epidemic prevention and control, diagnosis and treatment with PICs’ public health authorities, and held more than 10 bilateral or multilateral public health expert meetings online with PICs having diplomatic relations with China. Moreover, in order to render PICs our utmost assistance in fighting the pandemic, China set up the China-Pacific Island Countries Anti-COVID-19 Cooperation Fund, established the China-Pacific Island Countries Reserve for Emergency Supplies and provided PICs with hundreds of thousands doses of vaccines and over 100 tons of supplies.
In short, the cooperation between China and PICs has proved to be responsive to the needs of PICs, bringing tangible and material benefits to the peoples of the region, setting a fine model of win-win cooperation among countries of different regions, sizes and systems.
Finally, I’d like to elaborate a bit on one of the fundamental beliefs underpinning our foreign policy, that win-win cooperation is the ultimate solution to challenges.
Adhering to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, China has been consistently pursuing and expanding global partnerships based on equality, openness, and cooperation, and broadening the convergence of interests with other countries, either in the South Pacific or other parts of the world. China’s relationships never target any third party. Conversely, nor should they be subjected to interference by any third party.
China respects the connections that PICs have established with other countries. We have no interest in engaging in geopolitical competition with any country, nor do we support using ‘competition’ to define inter-State relations, because by definition there will always be winners and losers in a competition. In the value system of China, the relationship between countries should never be a zero-sum game, but rather be based on mutual respect, equality, win-win cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, so as to better cooperate to address challenges and achieve common development.
China values international and regional peace and stability and has been working unyieldingly to that end. To better respond to PICs’ wishes and needs, we are open to working with all interested parties to take stock of what existing trilateral or multi-party cooperation has achieved, to explore more cooperation of such kind to the benefits of all sides. We are against coercing countries into choosing sides, against forming exclusive and divisive military alliances targeting third parties and provoking military confrontation, and against efforts at militarization of the Pacific region, let alone bringing nuclear weapons or nuclear pollution into the Pacific region, which will undermine the regional environment for development and threaten regional peace and stability.
In recent years, with a view to addressing the global deficits in peace, development, security and governance, China has successively put forward the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative, sharing Chinese approach to solve global challenges and build a community with a shared future for mankind. China is ready to work with all parties inside and outside the region to advance the implementation of the three major global initiatives, so as to better safeguard peace and stability and achieve common development in the Pacific and across the world.
To conclude, living in a world undergoing profound and accelerating changes unseen in a century, we need to work together in solidarity more than ever before. What I want to emphasize is that no matter how the international landscape changes, the purpose of China’s foreign policy to pursue world peace and promote common development will never change, our sincerity and mutual respect towards PICs will never change, and our determination to learn from each other and achieve common development will never change. China is always ready to work with PICs and all partners who genuinely care about PICs’ development, to enhance mutual political trust, expand practical cooperation, and deepen people-to-people exchanges so as to build a path of peace, cooperation, development, and prosperity across the Pacific.