On November 14, Chinese President Xi Jinping published a signed article titled “Set Sail on a New Voyage for Relations Between China and Pacific Island Countries” on Post-Courier and The National in Papua New Guinea (PNG) ahead of his state visit to the Pacific island country. The full text is as follows:
Set Sail on a New Voyage for Relations Between China and Pacific Island Countries
Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China
I will soon pay a state visit to Papua New Guinea, famed as home to the birds of paradise, and attend the 26th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting there. It will not only be my first visit to the country, but also the first-ever state visit by a Chinese President. I have great expectations for this trip.
Being the largest and most populous Pacific island country and endowed with abundant natural resources, Papua New Guinea has enormous potential for development and is truly a land of great promise. In recent years, thanks to the leadership of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and great work of the government and the industrious and enterprising people of this country, Papua New Guinea has thrived in national development and its society has taken on a new look. I sincerely wish Papua New Guinea even greater achievements in economic and social development and full success in hosting this year’s APEC meeting.
China’s friendly interactions with Papua New Guinea go a long way back. More than 100 years ago, there were Chinese travelling across the seas to Papua New Guinea who settled down and, with their hard work, made important contribution to the economic and social development of the country. China and Papua New Guinea established diplomatic relations in 1976. Since then, our two countries have treated each other with respect and as equals, and have pursued mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. Our relationship has stood the test of changing international circumstances and stayed as strong as ever.
In recent years, bilateral ties have entered a new stage of rapid growth. Today, Papua New Guinea is China’s largest trading partner in the region, while China is the biggest foreign investor and project contractor in this country. For example, the Independence Boulevard and International Convention Centre, which will play an important role in Papua New Guinea’s hosting of the APEC meeting, are both built with Chinese assistance. For sixteen years running, Chinese medical teams have provided humanitarian health services to the people of Papua New Guinea. Hydropower stations, hospitals and school dormitories financed by Chinese government concessional loans have become landmark buildings across the country. And in an active response to the PNG government’s Development Strategic Plan 2010-2030, Chinese companies have taken part in the construction of roads, bridges, airports and docks locally.
Eighteen years ago when I was Governor of China’s Fujian Province, I personally pushed for a demonstration project to help the Eastern Highland Province with mushroom and upland rice planting. I am glad to learn that this project, still in operation to this day, has produced good economic and social benefits for the local community and become a success story in the growth of China-Papua New Guinea relations.
In my upcoming visit, I look forward to working with your leaders to cement mutual trust, expand practical cooperation, and increase people-to-people exchanges in order to take our bilateral ties to a new level.
The rapid growth of China-Papua New Guinea relations is an epitome of China’s overall relations with Pacific island countries. Four years ago in Nadi, Fiji, I had a group meeting with leaders of the eight Pacific island countries having diplomatic ties with China, during which we agreed to forge a strategic partnership featuring mutual respect and common development, thus heralding a new dynamic stage in our relations. The following principles have been adhered to in the development of relations between China and Pacific island countries.
– We have stayed committed to treating each other with mutual respect. China and Pacific island countries take each other as true friends and good partners. China believes that all countries are equal, regardless of their size. We support the people of Pacific island countries in pursuing development paths suited to their national circumstances and support Pacific island countries in playing a due role in international affairs. On their part, Pacific island countries have, for decades, lent valuable support to China on issues involving China’s core interests and major concerns.
– We have stayed committed to deepening cooperation. Closer business ties and deeper economic and technological cooperation have made the pie of common interests between China and Pacific island countries even larger. A number of island specialties, including liquefied natural gas of Papua New Guinea, mineral water of Fiji, squash pumpkin of Tonga, and tuna fish of the Federated States of Micronesia, have made their way into the Chinese market. China has done what it can to support and assist in the development of the island countries, thus contributing to economic growth and people’s welfare in this part of the world.
– We have stayed committed to building people-to-people links. Over 100,000 Chinese tourists visit Pacific island countries each year. Students, government officials and technicians from Pacific island countries also visit or study in China in large numbers. There have been frequent exchanges between cultural and art troupes of the two sides. China’s hospital ship “Peace Ark” has visited Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu, providing humanitarian medical services to more than 20,000 local people.
The Chinese often say, “Distance cannot separate true friends who remain close even when thousands of miles apart.” The vast Pacific Ocean is indeed a bond between China and Pacific island countries. As the new round of technological revolution and industrial transformation gains momentum across the world, our two sides face the common task to seize opportunities, overcome difficulties and speed up development, as this meets the shared aspiration of both our peoples. During my visit to Papua New Guinea, I will invite leaders of the eight Pacific island countries that have diplomatic relations with China to join me once again in a gathering to renew friendship, explore new ways of development and chart the course for future growth of our relations.
First, we need to bring our strategic trust to a higher level. China will stand firm with Pacific island countries and all other developing countries. Following a policy of pursuing the greater good and shared interests under the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, China will enhance solidarity and cooperation with Pacific island countries, support their development, and help narrow down the development gap between the North and the South. China will work with Pacific island countries to build a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind.
Second, we need to lend fresh impetus to our common development. China will expand practical cooperation with Pacific island countries in trade and investment, and encourage their active participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in line with their own national conditions, strengths and development strategies. I am convinced that the BRI will open up new pathways for Pacific island countries to enhance business ties and connectivity with China, among themselves and with the rest of the world, and for the island countries to take a greater part in economic globalisation.
Third, we need to write a new chapter in people-to-people friendship. As an island idiom goes, “Friendship is a furrow in the sand.” China will continue to increase exchange and cooperation with Pacific island countries in culture, education, medical services, sports, youth and human resources training and at the sub-national level. We also welcome friends from these countries to visit, study, invest or do business in China. This will help deepen mutual understanding and friendship between our peoples and carry forward our friendship from generation to generation.
During my upcoming visit, I will attend the 26th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting. It will be the first time for Papua New Guinea, and indeed for a Pacific island country, to play APEC host. It will be a huge event for the entire region. Under the theme of “Harnessing Inclusive Opportunities, Embracing the Digital Future,” I look forward to an in-depth exchange of views with other member economies on regional economic integration, digital economy, connectivity, and sustainable and inclusive growth, so that we could jointly contribute to peace, stability and development in the Asia-Pacific region.
The relations between China and Pacific island countries are now better than ever and face important opportunities of development. China will work with Pacific island countries to brave the wind and waves and set sail for a brighter future of our relations.