China, Tonga to deepen ties in disaster relief, agri, health
Sovereign states have the right to choose how they deal with other countries
Published: May 31, 2022 11:40 PM
King Tupou VI of Tonga meets Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi (left) at the Royal Palace in Nuku'alofa on May 31, 2022.Photo: AFP

King Tupou VI of Tonga meets Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left)  at the Royal Palace in Nuku'alofa on May 31, 2022.Photo: AFP

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Tonga on Tuesday, the fifth leg of a tour to South Pacific island nations, and the two countries signed cooperation deals on disaster relief, agriculture, fishery and health amid some Western countries' malicious hype of China's normal cooperation with regional countries. 

In a meeting with King of Tonga Tupou VI, Wang said the visit to Tonga is to put into practice the diplomatic concept that all countries, big or small, are equal, and China takes concrete measures to support Tonga in accelerating post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. 

Wang said China is ready to do the utmost to help developing countries catch up with the trend of the times and accelerate development and revitalization.

King Tupou VI said that he was delighted to see the success of the second China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Monday, and said some people have commented on island countries' cooperation with China. But as sovereign states, Pacific island countries have the right to choose how they deal with other countries.

King Tupou VI said facts proved that Chinese friendship has always been based on deeds rather than words, and Tonga firmly adheres to the One-China policy and will continue to take it as the cornerstone to push forward bilateral relations.

China and Tonga signed cooperation agreements covering disaster relief, agriculture, fishery and health. 

Wang's Pacific island tour will also take him to Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. The trip has seen him visiting the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji. 

When Tonga was battered by the worst natural disaster in history resulting from a massive volcano eruption in January, China arranged emergency cash assistance and supplies to the country. The Red Cross Society of China provided emergency humanitarian cash assistance of $100,000 to Tonga, and   equipment needed to help Tonga accelerate its post-disaster reconstruction with some supplies delivered by sea. 

In meeting with the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister, Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni thanked China for its help in Tonga's economic and social development especially sending emergency disaster relief after the volcano eruption and supporting the country with combating the COVID-19. He also expected to work with China to promote the Belt and Road Initiative connectivity and deepen pragmatic cooperation in various fields. 

Since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1998, bilateral cooperation in various fields including economy, education, health, tourism and disaster relief has been deepened and expanded. China started to send teachers to Tonga to teach the Chinese language and agricultural skills in 2003. 

Ren Aizhi, an associate professor from the College of Agronomy of Shandong-based Liaocheng University who was sent to Tonga in January 2020 for vegetable farming technique assistance, told the Global Times on Tuesday that she teaches teenage students from local vocational schools how to grow Chinese vegetables, and local students, faculty members and even government officials love the Chinese vegetables they grow at local project sites. 

Ren said school lunches were served with few green vegetables previously, and local farms grew yams, sweet potatoes and cassava. But since Ren and other Chinese teachers arrived, they would grow different types of vegetables such as tomatoes, corn, lettuce and other greens so students and faculty members at the vocational school could have vegetables for lunch. 

They also gave corn they grew to King of Tonga Tupou VI as a gift, and King Tupou VI's private secretary wrote them a letter to convey the king's appreciation and gratitude, Ren said. 

Chinese vegetables are very popular among local people as many locals have diabetes due to insufficient vegetables, and they lack farming technology, Ren said, noting that farming assistance on growing vegetables is urgently needed in Tonga. 

Zhang Jianfeng, a teacher from Liaocheng University who has been teaching local college students the Chinese language since 2020, told the Global Times on Tuesday that he taught Chinese in one local college when he first came to the country but this year he works in three local schools. 

In his classes, Zhang teaches students to sing Chinese songs, displays Chinese toys of bamboo-copters and shuttlecocks and compiles Chinese-English handouts for students to practice. 

Zhang said with bilateral ties strengthened over the years, more locals are eager to learn Chinese to study in China and do business with Chinese people. 

The two Chinese teachers said more cooperation in education and agro-food products trade between China and Tonga was expected after Wang's visit. 

Before Wang arrived in Tonga, China released a position paper on Monday after the second China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers' Meeting, which said China will continue to promote Pacific island countries' premium products and projects, such as agro-products, and expand their market access to China and China is willing to carry out cooperation on ocean forecasting and disaster early-warning, establish a China-Pacific island countries disaster management cooperation mechanism and a disaster preparedness and mitigation cooperation center. 

However, China and regional countries did not adopt a joint document at the meeting. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the joint document is still under discussion. 

Chen Hong, president of the Chinese Association of Australian Studies and director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University, told the Global Times that some people in the region have shown anxiety about cooperating with China after being incited by the US and Australia which have been smearing and demonizing China's normal cooperation with regional countries. 

Some Western media including Bloomberg News claimed China suffered a "setback" on the joint document. 

Chinese Ambassador to Kiribati Tang Songgen told the Global Times that some foreign media are riddled with sour grapes mentality in making such comments, as the foreign ministers reached many important consensuses at Monday's meeting. He said China will always respect the independent choice of development path made by Pacific nations and the will of the people, and China will not act arrogantly and impose its will on others like some Western countries do in viewing the region as their backyard.