China surprised by Fiji move

Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Mr. Wang Xuguang and Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka (January 2023)

China was surprised when the new Fijian Government scrapped the deal between the Chinese police and their own police force.

Chinese Government Special Envoy for Pacific Island Countries Qian Bo told the Samoa Observer that the decision was perplexing as the relationship between the two nations had been good.

He also made his disappointment known about the Fijian Government’s further action to recognise Taiwan as China continues to press for the One China policy in all their diplomatic ties.

The agreement between the two police forces was for training and exchange. Since 2011, China has provided millions of dollars in aid and equipment to the Fijian police.

China is a major aid donor for Fiji including for major infrastructure financing. There is a large possibility that future aid to Fiji from China could become affected as a result of this action.

However, instead of the heavy handed tactic, China is pushing for a more diplomatic approach but the Special Envoy has warned that there is a bottom line.

“We are very surprised by that. We are explaining to our friends that our relationship does not target anyone. We are not targeting the US. We have never done so. We never targeted our relationship with Australia and New Zealand,” Qian said.

“And likewise, our relationship should not be interrupted or affected by other parties. So that is why we are trying to talk with our friends in Fiji.

“We have some patience but there is a bottomline for us that sees that we meet the core concerns of China.

“We have explained to Fiji and to other nations in the region. Police to police cooperation, so what. The U.S has police cooperation in the region. Australia and New Zealand have people working in the headquarters in the region.

“We need to engage with each other and get a better understanding.

“This geopolitical issue has nothing to do with China even though our relationship has developed steadily because those countries have a cold war mentality.”

Today, China is the second largest donor to the region and largest financier to Fiji. Fiji has become the ace in this game as it is the regional hub of the Pacific Island states. Bearing the current high level of aid competition between traditional and emerging donors in mind, it is still unclear if the decisions by the Fijian Government could lead to the Chinese tightening their grip on their wallet. Fiji does not need this especially at a time when the national debt level is 90 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and the World Bank has called on the nation to manage its debt.