Fiji 'unlikely' to reduce economic cooperation with China: Local businessmen
Published: Feb 02, 2023 10:40 PM
The coastal scene of Fiji Photo: VCG

The coastal scene of Fiji Photo: VCG

The new Fiji government is reportedly planning to suspend a police training agreement with China, a move that comes amid ramped-up efforts by the US and Australia to develop ties with South Pacific Islands to ostracize China. 

Despite the reported reversal, members of the local Chinese business community said it is an independent case in the new government's policy transition period, and it is too early to interpret it as a sign that will slam the brakes on its booming trade and economic relations with China. 

Chinese projects there under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are being carried out as usual, company representatives noted, while anticipating bright prospects for deepened bilateral cooperation.

The Fiji Times reported in recent days that new Fiji government plans to end the police training and exchange deal with China. 

"Our system of democracy and justice systems are different so we will go back to those that have similar systems with us," Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka was quoted as saying. 

In October, Fiji struck a deal with Australia to deepen defense cooperation, Reuters reported. In December, Rabuka became Fiji's prime minister.

"The new Fiji government's decision is disappointing, and using an excuse based on claims of a 'system difference' doesn't justify it, as the police training agreement is purely technique-driven," a Chinese businessman in Fiji told the Global Times.

But the shift is not a sign that the new government will be hijacked by the US and Australia to retreat from cooperating with China on wider dimensions, Chinese businessmen said.

Simon Chen, president of the China Agriculture & Trade Development Association of Fiji, told the Global Times on Thursday that Rabuka participated in the Fiji Spring Festival gala organized by local Chinese and Chinese companies in January, during which he expressed willingness to strengthen economic relations with China. 

"It is important for the new Fiji government to show pragmatism. After all, Fiji politicians and its people know clearly the extent to which China has assisted Fiji, and how upward ties with China will bring further benefits to the Pacific island country," Chen said.

On Wednesday, the tourism bureau of Fiji launched a joint promotion campaign with local partners, aimed at attracting Chinese travelers. 

Fiji's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Viliame Gavoka said Fiji recognized the value of Chinese tourists as a growing global outbound market. Fiji received about 46,000 Chinese tourists per year before the pandemic.

A manager of a Chinese company that invests in Fiji, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Global Times that it is still too early to reach a decision on the stance toward China as the new Fiji government is "in a period of transition" and does not show its long-term policy orientation. He stressed that Chinese companies' BRI projects in South Pacific countries, including Fiji, are being implemented as usual, and there has not been a rise of anti-China rhetoric there.