China’s visible achievement in high tech, green energy inspires PICs: Fijian envoy
Friends of South Pacific
Published: Aug 22, 2022 10:02 PM
The coastal scene of Fiji Photo: VCG

The coastal scene of Fiji Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:

As the world grapples with unilateralism-induced crises that have threatened global peace, China continues to be a shining example on the international stage, injecting a stable, developmental and cooperative momentum. Over the last decade, China, under the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), has achieved great success in record time, hitherto unseen in world history, including lifting nearly 100 million people out of absolute poverty, the unreserved promotion of multilateralism, and the adoption of a win-win development strategy among countries. In this series, the Global Times will interview diplomats from various countries to get their views on China's development and what it means for the world as a whole. 

In this installment, the Global Times reporter interviewed Dr. Yok Yee Chan, Fiji's consul general in Shanghai and trade commissioner who shared the South Pacific Islands' views on China.

Yok Yee Chan Photo: Courtesy of Chan

Yok Yee Chan Photo: Courtesy of Chan

Fiji and other Pacific island countries (PIC) have been enjoying the benefits from overall cooperation with China, such as joining the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Dr. Yok Yee Chan, Fiji's consul general in Shanghai and trade commissioner, elaborated in an exclusive interview with the Global Times. Chan also shared her observations and experiences in China's progress in different aspects over the last decade under the leadership of President Xi Jinping.

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Fiji in 1975, the two countries have enjoyed a close and friendly relationship that has grown from strength to strength over the years. China is a major trading and strategic development partner for Fiji, and Fiji values China's constructive contributions to its national development and economic growth, Dr. Chan told the Global Times.

"Fiji was amongst the first group of countries in the Pacific region to endorse and join the BRI. Under the BRI, Fiji benefits from cooperation in many projects such as the construction of roads, bridges, sports facilities, hospitals, dams, sea ports, and other infrastructural projects," she said.

The development of such infrastructural projects has assisted Fiji in laying a solid foundation for economic growth and has greatly improved the quality of Fijians' livelihoods, she noted.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Fiji between May 28 and 31. This was Wang's first visit to Fiji in the past three and a half years, and was also China's first high-level visit to the PIC since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Talking about this event, Chan said that Wang's visit to Fiji came "at a time when the gap between rich and poor countries is widening amid COVID-19, and climate change is challenging the very survival of Pacific Islanders."

"Minister Wang Yi's visit to Fiji reaffirmed China's strong commitment to assist and to cooperate with Fiji and other PICs in addressing the many common challenges faced by these small island economies," she noted. "This high-level ministerial visit to Fiji also gave momentum to the acceleration of the mutual and collective aspiration for a 'blue and green' Pacific."

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, in the last two years, Chinese tourists have hardly been able to visit Fiji. However, the connections between China and Fiji did not halt. In 2021, the import and export trade volume between the two countries reached $453 million, a year-on-year increase of 31 percent.

"In the post-pandemic era, I anticipate the bilateral trade between Fiji and China will grow further, particularly in the tourism sector," she said. "Many Chinese are aware that Fiji is a beautiful holiday destination and with a visa-free requirement, Fiji warmly welcomes Chinese tourists to our shores."

The trade volume between Fiji and China is also expected to increase post-COVID, she said. "We hope and work toward assisting more Fijian exporters to access the vast Chinese market. It is a positive sign that we have seen new Fijian products entering the Chinese market in recent years."

Mentioning the security cooperation between China and Fiji, Chan said that "China is one of the world's safest places to live in with a relatively low crime rate." She surmised that the Fijian police can learn a lot from their Chinese counterparts on how to combat crime to provide a safe living environment for Fijians. 

"As many crimes are committed cross-border, the two sides can also share information on cross-border crimes and work collaboratively to fight such criminal activities. The Fijian police can also benefit from security cooperation with the Chinese police in training and acquiring knowledge on the use of new technology," she said.

While China's connections with the PIC are increasing, descanting voices from the Western world have called China a "destroyer" of regional stability and balance.

Chan noted that Fiji views China's role in the Pacific as a constructive development partner. "As stated by the Fijian Prime Minister, Fiji is not interested in the game of geopolitics within the region but will work with all friendly countries to achieve our developmental aspirations and seek partnership in tackling the climate change challenges facing the region," she said.

Witnessing China's progress

Having worked in China for many years, Chan has witnessed and was impressed by the tremendous progress of the country made in many areas in the last couple of years.

Chan said eradicating poverty has been a key initiative of China since President Xi took office, she said. "In the last few years, China, under the leadership of President Xi, has achieved the miracle of eradicating extreme poverty and bringing nearly 100 million people out of poverty," she said.

China has been proactively working to deal with climate change issues, she said, noting that China's renewable and green energy commitments are recommendable as China is a responsible global power to safeguard and protect planet Earth and our fragile ecosystems.

"Another visible achievement under President Xi has been China's steady increase in its spending on research and development," Chan said, underling China's 5G and AI technologies. "China also invested heavily in technological self-reliance and self-sufficiency in high-tech products across many industries."

She also noted that China has won the "people's war" against the epidemic. Moreover, China has donated vaccines and PPEs to other countries in need.  

Chan also shared her understanding on China's economic development and high-quality opening-up under the leadership of the CPC.

"China's strong supply chain in manufacturing and consumer goods, for instance, is the engine of global growth, which provides much-needed intermitted goods to other manufacturers around the world as well as providing consumers worldwide with good quality products at affordable prices," she said.

"China is also a major global buyer," she said. With the expansion of its economy, and the demand from Chinese firms and consumers, imports have increased. The launching of the China International Import Expo (CIIE) six years ago, for example, which is now an annual trade event in Shanghai, continues to provide a great platform for traders worldwide to network and connect with Chinese buyers, she said.