Economic forum with Pacific island nations held in GuangzhouPosted: 11/9/2013 7:00 am
Chinese vice premier and former Guangdong Party Secretary Wang Yang met with foreign officials on Thursday to mark the start of the second China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum in Guangzhou, China Daily reports.
The forum, aimed at pushing forward relations between China and the Pacific countries, was attended by representatives from The Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu. John Hayes, New Zealand’s Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, was also in attendance.
China pledged to continue to support and assist the development of the Pacific nations.
Wang Yang told the forum: “China will expand mutually beneficial cooperation in forestry, fishery, agriculture, infrastructure, transportation, communication and energy, and increase imports of competitive products from island countries.”
Wang also pledged to prioritize the Pacific islands’ concerns on climate change and sustainable development, and foster new growth points in clean energy and maritime science.
China also hopes to send more tourists to that part of the world.
But behind all the smiles and handshakes there is serious intent.
Firstly, the China Daily report contains the sentence: “The foreign officials reaffirmed their adherence to the one-China policy.” This immediately dispels any notion that the Pacific Island nations are getting a free lunch.
Secondly, China is keen to compete with the United States for influence in the region. A strategic pivot from the Middle East to east Asia and the Pacific region has been one of the defining features of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.
Kurt Campbell, America’s Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told the Foreign Policy Initiative:
(China’s) prominence and position in the region requires that smaller nations maintain strong ties with both Beijing and Washington, much unlike the bipolar divide of the Cold War. America’s relationship with China will be the most complex relationship that we have ever had, and continued engagement with Beijing will be critical to managing the security and economic issues of the 21st century.