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China’s investments in Pacific islands not for spreading influence

BY TANG QIFANG
In his keynote speech at the APEC CEO Summit Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on all countries to be on the same boat toward a brighter future. With protectionism and unilateralism now casting a long shadow over the prospects of the global economy and a multitude of changes underway across the globe, it’s of vital importance to call for open and inclusive economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region and envision a future of common development and prosperity shared by all.
Development among nations is unbalanced. The Asia-Pacific has the most developed economies in the world such as the US, Japan and Australia, as well as developing countries including China and PNG. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2015, seeks to realize the goal of common development and leave no one behind. Xi in his speech called on the economies to make the agenda a part of their development strategies and forge equal and balanced global development partnerships.
PNG shares China’s views in this regard. In recent years, the country has domesticated the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into its development strategies such as the Vision 2050 and Medium-Term Development Plan 2018-22.
A sparsely-populated island country with limited infrastructure and social and economic development level, it’s difficult for PNG to realize the development goals. The country is in dire need of strengthening weak infrastructure in electricity, telecommunication, transportation, education, healthcare and tourism sectors, improving business environment and increasing social security.
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties, China has been offering a helping hand to PNG. It has dispatched medical teams to the country for providing free medical services, sent a number of agricultural experts to teach locals in upland rice planting and assisted in many infrastructure projects.
There is potential for more cooperation between China and PNG. Official data showed bilateral trade in 2017 amounted to $2.836 billion, up 24.4 percent year-on-year. As of October, Chinese investment in the country reached $3.04 billion. PNG is very active in economic cooperation with China, being the first Pacific island country that signed a memorandum of understanding with China on the Belt and Road cooperation.
Chinese investment in PNG, with no political strings attached, has bolstered Port Moresby’s endeavor to realize sustainable development and emphasized the sharing of benefits by all local people. However, it is accused by some Western countries and media of seeking a sphere of influence in the South Pacific by means of economic assistance and investment.
Attempting to contain China’s economic influence in the region, the US and three of its Pacific allies – Japan, Australia and New Zealand – signed a joint electricity deal with PNG on Sunday.
China has clearly stated that Pacific is not a sphere of influence of any country, and its cooperation with the Pacific islands will never target any third party. Cooperation is the only way to realize common development and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.
In the face of myriad global problems and challenges, being stuck in a Cold War mentality won’t help.
(The author is an assistant researcher at the China Institute of International Studies. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn)
(Global Times)

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