China, Pacific Island nations expand cooperation at second FMs’ meeting covering poverty alleviation, climate change and agriculture
China respects local countries in signing cooperation, but could be sabotaged by few politicians used as US pawns
Published: May 30, 2022 10:52 PM
The second China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers' Meeting is held on May 30, 2022. Photo: Chinese Foreign Ministry website

The second China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers' Meeting is held on May 30, 2022. Photo: Chinese Foreign Ministry website

One year since the first virtual foreign ministers' meeting between China and the Pacific Island nations, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi took a historic trip to eight regional countries and jointly chaired the second foreign ministers' meeting in Fiji on Monday, during which China and the countries reached a new consensus to deepen cooperation on sectors including poverty alleviation, climate change and agriculture. 

Chinese analysts believed that any cooperation between China and the Pacific Island nations is conducted on the basis of respecting the countries and their people, and the cooperation will never be imposed on them like some Western countries do. They said that even for some joint document that is not yet finalized, which is a normal process for bilateral relations, China will respect regional countries and continue the discussions. 

But they also pointed out that a few people in these countries, under the pressure and coercion of the US and former colonizer,  may be willing to serve American interests at the cost of their national and people's interests.

At the second China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Monday, Wang announced that China will continue to jointly build six new cooperation platforms with regional countries on sectors including poverty alleviation, disaster prevention, climate change and agriculture. The meeting was attended by foreign ministers of China, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Micronesia, the Solomon Islands and Tonga, as well as secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum online and offline.

China and the Pacific Island countries reached a five-point consensus at the meeting, which include deepening their comprehensive strategic partnership, upholding true multilateralism and pursuing common development and prosperity. 

Wang said facts proved that China's cooperation with Pacific nations conforms to the trend of the times, benefits the people in the region, and has bright prospects, and China will continue to listen to the voices of the regional countries and their people, respect the current cooperation mechanism of the region and support other countries to increase investment in promoting regional development and carry out three-party or four-party cooperation. 

The foreign ministers from the regional countries said they support the Belt and Road Initiative, will continue to firmly pursue the One China policy and look forward to working with China to expand cooperation in various fields and improve infrastructure and people's livelihood. 

China also released a 15-point position paper on mutual respect and common development with Pacific Island countries, including jointly promoting regional peace and security and cracking down on transnational crimes, such as cyber crimes, and tackling COVID-19 and strengthening people-to-people exchange. 

As for some people who questioned why China was actively helping the South Pacific nations, Wang urged them not to be over anxious and nervous about it, as the common development and prosperity of China and other developing countries will make the world fairer, more harmonious and more stable.

On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a written speech at the meeting, in which he said China remains committed to the equality of all countries regardless of size, and will always be a good friend, a good brother and a good partner of Pacific Island countries no matter how the international landscape evolves. 

Chinese analysts said that the meeting showed China's assistance to and cooperation with the regional countries are truly for the benefit of local people, as China's help has never been interrupted even after changes in local governments. 

Chen Hong, president of the Chinese Association of Australian Studies and director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University, told the Global Times that the second meeting, which was held in Fiji, went further than the first virtual one on deepening existing cooperation and exploring new fields, and the holding of the meeting was a success for the two sides.

Fiji is the fourth leg of Wang's tour to the South Pacific island nations, which will also take him to Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, as well as Timor-Leste. Before arriving in Suva, Wang visited the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Samoa. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at Monday's media briefing that the foreign ministers' meeting was held successfully, with representatives reaching new consensus on deepening cooperation. While some foreign media reported that China and the regional countries did not sign a planned joint agreement covering security and trade cooperation at Monday's meeting, Zhao said the joint document is under continued discussion and all parties reached a new consensus, marking an important step toward the final agreement. 

Chinese analysts said that the fact the two sides have yet to sign the agreement due to different opinions actually reflected China's sincere diplomatic attitude of respecting local countries, and it was a normal process for bilateral relations. 

Meanwhile, they warned that opposition to the agreement may also be a deliberate move carried out by a few politicians of some regional countries who are willing to be used by the US at the cost of the interests of the country and people. 

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi Cooperation milestones during his visit to the South Pacific Countries and Timor-Leste. Graphic: Global Times

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi Cooperation milestones during his visit to the South Pacific Countries and Timor-Leste. Graphic: Global Times


Behind the different voices 

In reporting that China and Pacific Island countries were unable to sign a sweeping agreement, several Western media outlets cited the previous opposition from President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) David Panuelo, who said the draft of the agreement should be rejected as it essentially binds all Pacific Island countries to China and would affect the sovereignty of Pacific Island countries. 

It's not known which country voiced concerns over the joint agreement, but analysts said that all concerns will be taken seriously. 

Yang Honglian, a Fiji-based senior researcher at the Pacific Islands Research Center of Liaocheng University, told the Global Times on Monday that voicing concerns is the legitimate right of regional countries, but it is worth deep study on whether the concerns are from the majority or just a few politicians. 

If it was a few politicians making irresponsible remarks by kidnapping the will of the people, all regional countries should condemn such selfish actions, Yang said. 

A regional pact is difficult by nature and time-consuming, and may last for a decade, which is acknowledged internationally, Yu Lei, chief research fellow at the research center for Pacific Island countries of Liaocheng University in East China's Shandong Province, told the Global Times.

For instance, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was overwhelmingly supported by most countries, but some Western countries represented by the US rejected it out of their own selfish interests. This kind of behavior severely obstructs the worldwide marine pact from being implemented, Yu said. 

As for the remarks from FSM, Yu said that in the face of pressure and personal interests, a few people are willing to be led by the US, which would undermine the interests of the country and the people.

Yu said FSM is one of three free associates of the US in the region and home to the world's largest and most advanced strategic missile testing site, adding that it is obvious to all which country is threatening FSM's survival and development.

According to the Pacific Island Times, the US and FSM in 2021 agreed on a plan to build a military base in the Pacific Island nation to serve the Pentagon's strategic ambition of increasing its footprint in the Indo-Pacific region and contain China. 

The US and Australia have been smearing China's normal cooperation with regional countries since China and the Solomon Islands signed a security cooperation deal. 

Actually, as well as the Solomon Islands, many other regional countries need to improve their police's law enforcement abilities, and lacking national infrastructure and inadequate policing equipment makes it difficult to rely on their own police forces to do the job, Yang said, noting that police security cooperation is urgently needed in the region.