China, Tonga are examples of ‘building a community with shared future’, long-term Chinese investments dwarf US, Australia
Long-term Chinese investments dwarf US, Australia
Published: May 30, 2022 08:04 PM
A hospital built by China Civil Engineering Construction Corp (CCECC) in Tonga. Photo: Courtesy of CCECC

A hospital built by China Civil Engineering Construction Corp (CCECC) in Tonga. Photo: Courtesy of CCECC

Chinese enterprises' humanitarian aid to South Pacific island nation Tonga in the face of natural disasters and the pandemic has demonstrated the genuine friendship between China and South Pacific countries and given the world an example of building a community with a shared future for mankind, Chinese businesses said, amid Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's ongoing visit to the region.

Such aid, coming in an active and timely manner and manifested not only in medicine and food but also in long-term personnel and resources, dwarfs offerings from Australia and the US, which deemed the region as their "backyards" and a battlefield for influence, with their investment largely driven by geopolitical factors rather than addressing the interests of local communities, observers said.

"When a volcano erupted in January, our South Pacific subsidiary quickly communicated with local staffers in Tonga, and mobilized our teams in Fiji and Vanuatu to purchase relief supplies. We consulted with and expanded material transport channels to the Tongan government to ensure that supplies were sent to the island country as quickly as possible," recalled a spokesperson of China Civil Engineering Construction Corp (CCECC).

In addition to CCECC, other Chinese state-owned enterprises and local Chinese chambers - in line with the aid from the Chinese government - were also offering humanitarian help to the best of their capacities at that time. 

Immediately after the volcanic disaster, the Red Cross Society of China provided $100,000 in humanitarian aid to Tonga, and the Chinese government gathered emergency supplies, including drinking water and food, through the Chinese Embassy in Tonga. It was the first batch of relief supplies the island country received after the natural disaster.

"When the disaster-relief assistance arrived at the Tongan port, our staffers helped Tongan government officials, quickly completing unloading, secondary packaging, and transporting within two days despite stormy weather and adverse sea conditions," a spokesperson from CCECC told the Global Times over the weekend.

He added that Chinese enterprises "always stand in the frontline with local community," as also exemplified by aid after Tonga's encountering two hurricanes in 2015 and 2020, when Chinese firms actively helped in reconstruction and relief efforts, sharing the fate of the local community and solidifying friendship between the two countries. 

The 14th Bureau of China Railway Construction Corp, which has dozens of infrastructure projects in South Pacific countries, also donated emergency aid including drinking water, food, tents, electric generators and life-saving equipment to Tonga after the volcanic disaster, a spokesperson of the company told the Global Times.

"Extreme situations such as disasters and the pandemic show the importance of 'building a community with a shared future for mankind,' which corresponds with the global mainstream consensus of peaceful development and win-win cooperation between countries," the spokesperson said, adding that the firm donated anti-virus supplies worth more than1 million yuan ($150,200) to a number of South Pacific nations.

Chinese enterprises also invested in key infrastructure projects that are vitally important to the Tongan people's wellbeing. For example, CCECC built a key water supply project for Tonga's capital Nukuʻalofa and neighboring areas, which addressed the water supply issue for locals. 

On Monday, the second China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers' Meeting was held in Fiji, and a sweeping cooperation agreement between China and Pacific island nations is under continued discussion and all parties have reached new consensus on the documents, Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday.  

Chinese enterprises are in South Pacific nations for the long term, which is in stark contrast to certain Western countries like Australia, which is driven by its geopolitical calculus without respecting individual countries' genuine needs and interests, Chinese observers said. 

While Foreign Minister Wang Yi toured the Pacific island countries, Penny Wong, the new Australian foreign minister, made a trip to Fiji on Thursday where she claimed that Australia will maintain its influence in the Pacific, helping "build a stronger Pacific family".

Observers said Wong's remarks laid bare a "parental" role Australia attempted to play to enforce its will on many South Pacific nations, excluding China from Canberra's claimed sphere of influence. 

"China and South Pacific island nations such as Tonga have a solid foundation for cooperation in sectors like agriculture, medicine, fishing, climate change and environmental protection. Their friendship, which is also within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation framework, is an example for the world of building a community of shared future," Yu Lei, chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries of Liaocheng University, told the Global Times on Monday.

In 2018, the education ministries of China and Tonga signed a memorandum on communication and cooperation in education to support the establishment of the Tonga College of Liaocheng University, which has helped Tonga cultivate high-level talent in applied science, and conduct joint research in marine studies. Tonga also signed a memorandum to join the BRI in 2018.