Bainimarama diplomacy

Fiji’s diplomatic relations with China and India began under the leadership of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara’s Alliance government as it carefully guided a newly independent nation into the world of global détente. In 1975 Fiji opened diplomatic relations with China, leading to the establishment of a Chinese Embassy in Suva a year later. Fiji maintained its links with China through an embassy in Japan until 2001 when Laisenia Qarase’s Look North Policy led to the opening of a mission in Beijing. Fiji’s permanent office in India opened in 2005, even though the two countries had diplomatic relations since 1970.

The move was, again, part of the Qarase government’s policy of looking beyond Australia and New Zealand and had its foundations in the diplomacy of the Mara era. When Bainimarama seized power in 2006, China and India were the most lenient towards the regime and stepped into a vacuum left by Australia and New Zealand. The Bainimarama regime was able to capitalise on the work of previous Fiji governments and the willingness of the two Asian superpowers to strengthen relationships. India decided to engage with, rather than isolate Fiji. China took the stand that Fiji should be allowed as an independent nation to handle its affairs without outside interference.

At the time, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy director general Deng Hongbo said China had always respected Fiji’s status as an independent nation. “We have called on the other countries to do the same and reconsider their attitudes towards Fiji and the current situation in the country,” he said. Despite differences over the years – with China over relations with Taiwan and with India over the treatment of ethnic Indians in 1987 and 2000 – relations between Fiji and these large economies have never been better.

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