China is short on the big Pacific deal, but it makes less money


SUVA, Fiji (AP) – China on Monday failed in a bold plan to get 10 Pacific nations to certify sweeping new agreement Covering everything from security to fisheries Some in the region have also expressed deep concerns.

But there were a lot of small gains for Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as he continued Island hopping tour from the region.

Wang was in Fiji to co-host an important meeting with the foreign ministers of the ten island nations.

At an unusual news conference then, Wang and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama spoke for 30 minutes and then abruptly left the stage while reporters tried to ask questions. This left many details about what happened in the meeting undisclosed.

But it was clear that countries did not support China’s plan.

“As usual, we put consensus first among our countries throughout any discussion of new regional agreements,” Bainimarama said.

While there was growth International interests About Beijing’s military and financial ambitions in the region, many Fijians see a benefit in foreign investment wherever it comes from, as long as it uplifts the people.

Georgina Matilda said her work for China’s infrastructure company China Railway meant she could put food on the table for her children.

Milian Rokolita, another Fijian, said the increased Chinese presence has benefited people.

“They bring us bigger houses. They bring money in Fiji,” said Rocoleta.

Documents obtained by the Associated Press indicate that Wang had hoped to persuade the 10 countries to agree to a pre-written agreement as part of a joint statement after the meeting.

But Wang was unable to obtain the consensus he sought.

David Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, told other Pacific leaders he would not support the plan, warning them in a letter that it would unnecessarily escalate geopolitical tensions and threaten regional stability.

Panuelo called it “the single most game-changing proposed agreement in the Pacific at any point in our lives” and said it “threatens to usher in an era of a new Cold War at best, and a world war at worst.”

During Monday’s press conference, Wang mentioned some areas in which countries were able to reach agreement, and said he would continue to work in other areas.

“After the meeting, China will release its position paper on our positions, proposals and proposals for cooperation with Pacific island countries,” Wang said through an interpreter. “Going forward, we will continue to have ongoing, in-depth discussions and consultations to build more consensus.”

While China may have botched its plans for a large multilateral agreement, it was signing smaller bilateral agreements with Pacific nations daily during Wang’s tour.

For example, on Friday, Wang visited Kiribati, where a Main fishing area The size of California is at stake. The Kiribati government said afterwards that the two countries had signed 10 agreements ranging from cooperation in economic goals to building a specific bridge.

The Kiribati government did not immediately respond to a request from the AP to provide details of the agreements.

At his press conference, Wang said, “Some question why China is active in supporting Pacific island countries.”

He said China has long advocated for other developing countries both in the Pacific and around the world, something it began doing in the 1960s when it helped African countries build railways.

“My advice to these people is: Don’t be too anxious and don’t be too nervous,” Wang said.

After the press conference, China’s ambassador to Fiji Qianbo answered some questions from reporters, saying there were “some concerns about specific issues” from some of the 10 countries over the proposed agreement.

“We never impose anything on other countries, let alone our developing friends and small island states,” Qian said.

He said China will try to release the position paper that Wang mentioned in about a week. He said parts of the agreement were just an offer by China to provide assistance to the two countries.

A draft of a proposed multilateral agreement obtained by the Associated Press shows that China wants to train Pacific police officers, work as a team on “traditional and unconventional security” and expand law enforcement cooperation.

China also wants to jointly develop a marine fisheries plan – which will include profitable tuna fishing in the Pacific – increase cooperation in managing the region’s internet networks, and establish Confucius Cultural Institutes and classrooms. China also mentions the possibility of establishing a free trade area with the Pacific countries.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, in a letter Thursday that China poses a more serious long-term threat than Russia.

“China is the only country with the intent of reshaping the international order – and increasingly the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do so,” he said. “Beijing’s vision will distance us from the universal values ​​that have sustained so much global progress for the past 75 years.”

China hit backHe said the United States was spreading misinformation. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the aim of Blinken’s speech was to “contain and suppress China’s development and support US hegemony.” “We deeply regret and reject it.”

China says cooperation between Beijing and the Pacific island nations is expanding, a development they have welcomed.

In Fiji, the economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The vital tourism industry shut down overnight and GDP shrank by more than 15%. As the world reopens, Fiji is trying to recover, and many are happy to see China release the checks.

China’s intervention in the region does not come from a vacuum. There has been a long history of Chinese immigration in Fiji, with many Chinese Fijians running corner stores and other businesses.

“There is a good side and a bad side,” said Nora Naboquet, a student at the University of the South Pacific. “We get more money into the economy, and it gets pumped into other things, but there’s also an aspect where they bring in a lot of new things that are new to Fijian culture.”

Napokit worries about the most dangerous aspect that has been associated with Chinese investment in Fiji – a supposed influx of gambling, gangs and drugs.

She said that aligning with China could mean that Fiji was creating tension with the United States and other Western countries, and for that reason, she hoped Fiji would not support Wang’s deal.

“There is much more to lose in the future than we are seeing now if Fiji really falls,” she said.


Perry reports from Wellington, New Zealand.