عربي Español Русский Français 简体中文

Chinese Foreign Policy and China-Fiji Relationship

--by Ambassador Zhang Ping in the University of South Pacific

(From Chinese Embassy in Fiji)


(31 May 2016)

Respected Vice Chancellor Chandra
Respected Director Li Denggui,Director Sin Joan Yee,
Members of the Faculty, Students,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Evening! It gives me great pleasure to come to the University of South Pacific to share with you my thoughts on the issues of Chinese Foreign Policy and China-Fiji Relationship. First of all, I would like to thank the Confucius Institute at USP for your kind invitation and thoughtful arrangements.

The University of South Pacific is the most prestigious university in South Pacific Island Region. It is the cradle of political leaders and many other elites of the South Pacific countries, providing important academic and intellectual support to the economic and social development of the region. USP is the region's first institution of high learning to host the Confucius Institute. The establishment of Confucius Institute in USP built across the vast Pacific Ocean a bridge of understanding and friendship linking China and South Pacific island countries. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Vice Chancellor Chandra and faculties and students of USP, for your support to the educational and cultural exchanges between our two countries, and to the Confucius Institute. I also would like to pay tribute to Director Li Denggui, Director Sin Joan Yee and other faculty members of the Confucius Institute for your efforts in promotion of Chinese Culture and Chinese Language.

In November 2014, President Xi Jinping paid a successful state visit to Fiji, during which China and Fiji established the strategic partnership of mutual respect and common development. The relationship between our two countries has stepped into a new phase of development. I feel very fortunate and honored to serve as Chinese ambassador to Fiji not long after this historical visit. Over the past year, I have called on many institutions, visited a number of places and made many friends from all walks of life, getting great support and help from them. I am touched by the Fijian people's kindness, hospitality and friendship towards Chinese people.

Thanks to the joint efforts of both sides, the bilateral relations have scored fruitful achievements in political, economic and cultural exchanges and cooperation over the past year. We have witnessed increasingly close political relationship and frequent high level exchanges of visits between our two sides. More than 20 Chinese delegations of vice-ministerial level or above visited Fiji. Prime Minister Bainimarama also paid an official visit to China in July last year. I accompanied him throughout the visit, witnessed the cordial and warm interactions between our two leaders, felt in person the friendly atmosphere over the bilateral relations. Economic and trade cooperation has made new progress. The bilateral trade volume reached 352 million US dollars in 2015, a year-on-year growth of 3.5 percent, which is a 150-fold increase over the figure of 40 years ago when China and Fiji established diplomatic relations. In 2015, direct investment from China to Fiji amounted to 16.85 million US dollars. By the end of 2015, the accumulative Chinese direct investment to Fiji reached 120 million US dollars. China has become Fiji's third largest trading partner and the fastest-growing investment source country. China and Fiji have started the joint feasibility study on Free Trade Agreement. China aid and concessional loan projects have been progressing smoothly. Last year, I attended the ceremonies for handing over China-aid agricultural machinery, the opening of Nabouwalu-Dreketi Road and visited a number of ongoing China-aid projects. The people-to-people exchanges remain robust. Since the implementation of bilateral visa exemption arrangement in March last year, the number of Chinese visitors has seen steady increase, exceeding 40,000 last year, a surge of 41% over 2014. China becomes the fastest growing source country for Fiji's tourism. Exchanges and cooperation on the sub national level have also remained active. In the cultural area, since last year, 5 Chinese art groups visited and performed in Fiji, including the one from the China National Traditional Orchestra, who gave a splendid Chinese traditional music performance last week in Suva City Civic Center auditorium. The first China Culture Center in South Pacific Island Region has set up in Fiji, providing a new and broader platform for cultural exchanges between our two countries.

"A friend in need is a friend indeed." After Fiji was hit by the devastating Tropical Cyclone Winston, Chinese government took the lead in providing emergency humanitarian assistance in cash, and soon after arranged 8 chartered cargo planes to deliver over 17 million Fiji dollar worth of disaster relief supplies including 6000 sets of tents and other materials. When I saw the the blue "China Aid" tents in disaster-hit areas sheltering people from wind and rain, I felt so gratified with what my country has done for the Fijian people. The Chinese community groups and companies in Fiji as well as organizations and individuals in China's mainland and Hong Kong also lent a helping hand to help the Fijian people to overcome their difficulties. Yesterday, I hosted a group of mainly students and their parents from China who managed to raise more than 2 million RMB ( equivalent of about 700 thousand Fiji dollars). The fund will be used for rebuilding Yasawa High School to answer to the call of Prime Minister's "adopt a school" initiative. China will continue to do what it can to help with the Fiji's reconstruction effort.

Over the last year, I sometimes would hear people asking me such questions: Fiji and China are so far apart geographically. Why has China put in so much resource in helping Fiji ? What is your strategic intention in this region? To answer these questions, I shall start with the philosophies and principles behind China's foreign policy.

China's foreign policy is based on our judgment of the current international environment and serves the nation's overall development goals. It is of our view that, though the current international situation is undergoing profound changes, the world is far from being tranquil, yet peace and development still remain the theme of our times. After more than 30 years of reform and opening up, China has achieved great progress in various fields. Meanwhile China is also faced with many new challenges in its development. Some structural and deep seated problems need attention and resolution. It requires further deepening of reform and wider opening up to the outside world. The Chinese Government has proposed the "Two Centenary Goals". The first one is to double the 2010 GDP and per capita income of urban and rural residents and to finish the building of a society of initial prosperity in all respects when the CPC celebrates its centenary. The second one is to turn China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious when the People's Republic of China marks its centenary, so as to realize the Chinese dream of the great renewal of the Chinese nation. The general objective of Chinese foreign policy is to create a favorable international environment for China's peaceful development, to maintain and extend the important period of strategic opportunities, and to facilitate the realization of the "Two Centenary Goals" and the Chinese dream of the great renewal of the Chinese nation.

Since 2013, while maintaining the stability and continuity of China's overall foreign policy, President Xi Jinping has set out a series of new and important thinking, ideas and theories for China's diplomacy.

First, the community of shared future of mankind. In today's world, all countries are interconnected and interdependent. Human beings are living in one global village. Countries with different ideologies, social systems and ethnic backgrounds can coexist peacefully and compete in orderly fashion. Each country should make joint efforts to promote the peace, stability, prosperity and progress of the world.

Second, win-win cooperation. This is the most essential idea of the new thinking of China's diplomacy. Under the current new circumstances where connections between countries become increasingly close and all kinds of global issues become more prominent, no country can manage alone or stand aloof, but to work together in order to seek solutions to all the global issues. Interaction between countries is not a zero sum game. It should be a win win scenario for both sides or even multiple wins for all. We should achieve common prosperity through mutually beneficial cooperation. The "One Belt and One Road" initiative and establishment of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank are the typical examples of this win win cooperation notion of China's diplomacy.

Third, partnership. While maintaining its non aligned foreign policy, China should actively develop friendly cooperation with every country in the world, to make more friends and build better relationships. The partnership that China advocates features fairness, peace and inclusiveness, not targeting at a hypothetical enemy or against a third party. Countries, with or without agreement, could all be partners. It is more desirable to engage in dialogue rather than confrontation, and to build partnership rather than alliance. China has established partnership of various forms with more than 80 countries, including the 8 South Pacific Island Countries.

Fourth, peaceful development. China sticks to the path of peaceful development, but will never give up its legitimate rights and interests, nor will it sacrifice the national core interests. China advocates that all countries in the world should adhere to the path of peaceful development. Only if more countries take the path of peaceful development, can peace prevail and last.

Fifth, upholding justice while seeking interests. China stands firm in upholding principles and promoting justice in international affairs. In our international engagement, we should balance the justice and interests with a priority to justice, and if necessary, give up interest for the sake of upholding justice. We should never seek benefits at others expense. We are willing to provide more assistance within our capacity to those less developed countries in order to help them to develop faster and better.

This new thinking and ideas constitutes the basic structure of China's major country diplomacy with distinctive Chinese features, points and guides the way for the Chinese foreign policy in this new era.

After talking about China's foreign policy philosophy and its overall objectives, let me get back to China's policy towards Fiji.

I would like to draw your attention to the wording which we characterise China-Fiji relationship, i.e. "Strategic partnership of Mutual Respect and Common Development". This expression not only reflects the current state of China-Fiji relationship, but also points out the direction of its future development. It embodies the major elements of China's policy towards Fiji.

First, on political level, equality and mutual respect, non-interference in the internal affairs. China always maintains that countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are all equal members of the international community. China respects Fiji in choosing its own development path that suits its national conditions and supports Fiji in safeguarding its national dignity and pursuing economic development. That's the reason why China stood steadfastly by the side of Fiji during its most difficult time over the last ten years. Quite often I heard our Fijian friends expressing their feeling of gratitude towards China's support. I think this is the true sentiments coming from the bottom of their hearts. Meanwhile, the Fijian government has been firmly committed to One China Policy, of which we are very much appreciative.

Second, on the economic level, mutual beneficial and win-win cooperation for common development. China-Fiji economic relations include goods and services trade, aid programs, concessional loan and technical assistance projects. One basic principle we adhere in carrying out our assistance programs is to respect the willingness and needs of the Fijian government and people with no political strings attached. The proceeding point is to help the Fijian government and people to develop economy, improve people's livelihood and build up capacity so as to achieve the ultimate goal of common development. We sincerely wish to help Fiji to achieve a faster and better development. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China has implemented 17 complete projects, 11 technical cooperation projects, 4 concessional loan projects, 27 goods and materials assistance projects and other forms of assistance, including Bukuya, Nadarivatu and Somosomo hydropower projects, Buca Bay and Nabouwalu-Dreketi Road, Navuso Bridge, Vodafone Arena sports complex, Navua Hospital and low-cost housing and public rental housing projects. With no exception, all these projects were for improving the country's infrastructure and people's livelihood based on the actual needs of Fiji's social-economic development. They have brought tangible benefits to the local community. The two ongoing technical assistance projects on rice farming and mushroom cultivation will play a significant role for Fiji to raise rice self sufficiency, increase the income of farmers and promote modernization of agricultural production.

Third, on international and regional level, closer coordination and mutual support. Both being developing countries, China and Fiji share many common interests in safeguarding and promoting world peace and prosperity. China respects Fiji's independent foreign policy, supports Fiji's efforts in upholding its legitimate rights and interests and in playing a positive role in international and regional affairs. China thanks Fiji for its support on many diplomatic issues.

China's policy towards Fiji is an epitome of China's foreign policy towards the South Pacific Island Countries. It is also a reflection of China's foreign policy thinking and practices. During his visit to Fiji in 2014, President Xi Jinping held a group meeting with leaders of 8 island countries having diplomatic ties with China in Nadi. China established the same strategic partnership of mutual respect and common development with these islands countries. China also announced that China would provide within next few years 1 billion US dollars concessional loan and 1 billion US dollars special loan for infrastructure development, 2.5 billion RMB (equivalent to 830 million FJ dollars) of grant assistance, 2000 scholarships and 5000 training opportunities of different kinds for the island countries. This assistance measures are open to all the 8 countries for the purpose of doing more concrete deeds for island countries' development. As an important dialogue partner of Pacific Island Forum and foundational development partner of Pacific Island Development Forum, China is committed to maintaining and promoting stability and prosperity in this region and will continue to make due contributions to it.

China 's foreign policy towards the South Pacific Island region is open and transparent. It is not targeting at any third party and has no intention of seeking so-called sphere of influence, let alone to compete with or replace any one.

I wish my presentation will help you to get a more comprehensive and clearer understanding on China's policy and strategic intention towards Fiji and South Pacific Regions.

China-Fiji relationship has gone through 40 years of development and has brought real benefits to both our peoples. I believe people here can feel these benefits more directly. China-Fiji cooperation has great potentials and enjoys a broad prospect. Next, how shall we develop the relationship further? I think we shall make greater efforts in the following areas:

First, to further consolidate the foundation of our sound political relationship by enhancing mutual political trust. We should continue to uphold the principle of mutual respect, equality and non interference. We should take a long term and overall perspective to make the bilateral exchanges and cooperation more diversified, more comprehensive and more dimensional. We should make joint efforts to implement the consensus reached by our two leaders to add more content to the strategic partnership and to elevate the relationship to a higher level. This is what it means by the word "strategic" of our partnership.

Second, continue to pursue the cooperation of mutual benefits and win-win results. China and Fiji differs a lot in our respective economic size, however, there is no lack of economic complimentarity. We need to find ways to integrate our development strategies, and to make better use of our respective advantages by exploring new methods and models for cooperation and multiple means for project financing so as to cultivate new growth points of cooperation in areas like infrastructure, agriculture, fishery tourism, renewable energy,etc. The Chinese side will continue to do what it can to provide assistance to help Fiji develop its economy and improve people's living standards.

Third, enhance cultural and people-to-people exchanges. The two sides should make efforts to promote friendly exchanges in various fields including education, culture and health, to expand exchanges and cooperation between local governments, so as to further consolidate the social foundation of China-Fiji relations.

Fourth, maintain close coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs to safeguard the common interest of the two countries and other developing countries.

Mentioning about the international and regional affairs, I would like to take this opportunity to touch upon two issues that are of concern to China and Fiji.

First, climate change. Climate change is a common challenge faced by all countries around the world. The Pacific island countries bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change and endure the influence of the sea level rise as well as more frequent extreme climate events caused by climate change. Some of the small islands are even facing existential threat. China fully understands Fiji and other islands countries' concern on climate change and deeply empathizes with the Pacific island countries about the adverse effects posed by climate change. China actively engages in environment improvement, energy conservation and emission reduction and carbon green technology development at home and has pledged to peak CO2 emissions by around 2030 and strive to achieve it as soon as possible and by 2030, reduce CO2 per unit of GDP by 60-65% over the 2005 level. China has actively participated in international climate change cooperation and global climate negotiations. China has made its own contribution to limiting global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in the Paris Agreement. In September 2015, at the UN Development Summit, President XI Jinping announced that China would establish an 20 billion RMB South-South Climate Cooperation Fund to support developing countries to address climate change, Over the recent years,China has provided assistance, within its means, to the Pacific island countries within the framework of South-South cooperation and has undertaken a number of climate-change-related projects in Fiji, including the Somosomo mini hydroelectric project and the Kiuva village sea wall project. Currently, our two governments are working on the detailed arrangements of China's donation of energy-saving LED street lights worth of 20 million RMB to Fiji. China will continue to fulfill its obligation as a responsible major developing country to contribute to the sustainable development of the world.

Last but not the least , I wish to talk about South China Sea Issue. This is a hot topic on the international media nowadays.

On South China Sea issue , there are two tiers of issues and one particular issue. The first tier of issues are the territorial disputes over the Nansha Islands caused by some coastal countries' illegal occupation of some maritime features of China's Nansha Island since 1970s, and the disputes concerning overlapping claims of maritime rights and interests over some maritime areas in South China Sea resulted from the establishment and development of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The second tier of issues relate to the fact that some outside countries, out of their strategic interests, have stepped up political and military intervention in the South China Sea in recent years, which has heightened tension in the region and made the situation even more complicated. These two tiers of issues constitute the crux of the South China Sea issue. The particular issue is the Philippines' unilateral initiation and obstinate forcing ahead of the South China Sea arbitration.

The islands in the South China Sea have been Chinese territory since ancient times. China enjoys indisputable sovereignty over South China Sea Islands and the adjacent waters. China's sovereignty and relevant claims of rights in the South China Sea have been gradually formed in the long historical course and upheld by successive Chinese governments.

In January 2013, without having any negotiation concerning relevant disputes with China, nor having the consent of China,the Philippines unilaterally initiated the South China Sea Arbitration at the International Tribunal for the Law of Sea. What the Philippines did violated the agreements reached by China and the Philippines that the two sides would address disputes in the South China Sea through negotiations and consultations, and the commitment it has made in 2002 under the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which explicitly stated that the parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means.

China filed in 2006 the exclusionary declaration pursuant to Article 298 of the UNCLOS that it does not accept any of the compulsory dispute settlement procedures invoked by the third party. More than 30 countries in the world have filed the similar declarations including 4 permanent United Nations Security Council members. The Philippines distorted its territorial and maritime disputes with China over some the Nansha islands and reefs as matters concerning the interpretation and application of UNCLOS, maliciously circumvent the declaration on optional exceptions made by China under UNCLOS and abused the compulsory procedures for dispute settlement. It in essence is to deny the fact of its illegal seizure of or claim on several maritime features of the Nansha Islands and negate China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea.The Chinese government, from the very beginning of the arbitration, has explicitly stated its position that China does not accept or participate in the arbitration on South China Sea disputes, nor China will accept or recognize the ruling of the arbitration, let alone China will enforce the ruling.

The Chinese government is committed to upholding territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests and adheres to settling the relevant territorial and maritime disputes through bilateral negotiation and consultation. China advocates "dual track "approach to handle the South China Sea issue, i.e. relevant disputes should be resolved peacefully through negotiation and consultation between parties directly concerned on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law, and China and ASEAN member states work together to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. This is the most realistic and effective way to properly handle the South China Sea issue.

Disputes over territorial and maritime rights and interests are not uncommon in the world. There is also no lack of successful examples of resolving the disputes through consultation and negotiation.Since 1960s, China has resolved boundary issues with 12 of its 14 neighbors on land through negotiations and demarcated around 20,000 kilometers, or 90% of its boundary. China and Vietnam also did maritime delimitation in the Beibu Gulf through negotiations. Such achievements have proven the effectiveness of negotiation and consultation in proper resolution of boundary disputes. China's proposition on peaceful settlement of the South China Sea issue has received the understanding and support of more than 40 countries in the world.

For a long time, freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has never been a problem or affected by disputes over the Nansha Islands, nor will it ever be a problem in the future. The South China Sea is the main sea lane for China's international trade and energy import. To ensure freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea is also very important for China. China's efforts to uphold sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea do not affect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as enjoyed by various countries according to international law.

China will continue to work towards peaceful resolution of South China Sea disputes with countries directly concerned through negotiation and consultation, to promote crisis management through rules-making and to realize win-win cooperation through development and cooperation. China will continue to remain committed to the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea enjoyed by all countries in accordance with international law and to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea. China will work with ASEAN countries to advance "code of conduct" (COC) consultations within the framework of full and effective implementation of the DOC, to contribute to the peace and stability, prosperity and development in the region.

Ladies and gentlemen, as Chinese ambassador to Fiji, I will endeavor to work with our Fijian friends to promote better understanding and cooperation between our two sides and to push forward China-Fiji relationship even further.

Thank you! Vinaka Vaka Levu.

Suggest to a friend