China hands out goodies to Pacific allies

November’s historic Fiji meeting between China’s President Xi Jinping and eight Pacific leaders served to further solidify China-Pacific cooperation and project the superpower as one of the Pacific’s most generous donors. Meeting the leaders of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Niue, Vanuatu, Federated States of Micronesia and Cook Islands on the tourist-populated Denarau Island, President Xi announced a host of China-funded projects aimed at developing island economies, building infrastructural facilities and tackling climate change. And, to further enhance endearment between China and its Pacific allies, President Xi reassured the eight Pacific leaders of his country’s policy of respect for their sovereignty and right to determine regional development and regional affairs. He also pledged China’s support for regional endeavours, at international level, aimed at safeguarding the Pacific region’s legitimate rights and interests. Referring to China’s stature as the world’s fastest growing economy, President Xi encouraged island leaders to learn from his country’s rapid development. As a result of the Fiji meeting, the island countries will benefit from 2000 scholarships and 5000 slots for various studies and training over the next five years. They will also have more Chinese medical teams visiting the region. China is also offering zero-tariff preference for 97 percent of tax items imported from the least developed countries

Memoranda of Understanding: Promising to attach more importance to China’s relations with the island countries, President Xi concluded a number of Memoranda of Understanding and Memoranda of Agreements in one-on-one bilateral meetings with the eight leaders. Most of the agreements signed, however, simply involved the process of implementing projects in the China-friendly Pacific nations to which China had pledged US$2 billion in aid funding at a meeting in Beijing in November 2013. The focus was on issues aimed at addressing poverty elimination, disaster reduction, food security, energy security, humanitarian aid and climate change.

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