Monday, November 24, 2014

Xi's Pacific trip demonstrates new diplomatic style, strategy

By Catherine Wong Tsoi-lai Source:Global Times

Extra $11.4m in aid for Fiji

Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Fiji, which concluded Sunday, demonstrated a new diplomatic style as China seeks to reshape its international image as a major world power by developing wide diplomatic ties that recognize the strategic significance of both smaller and major countries, said analysts.

Xi wrapped up his State visit to Fiji on Sunday morning, the last leg of a three-country trip that took him to New Zealand and Australia, where he attended the G20 Summit in Brisbane.

Xi's trip to Fiji was the first State visit made by a Chinese president. By signing a number of agreements with Fiji and organizing meetings with the leaders of major Pacific Island countries, analysts say China is seeking to demonstrate the strategic importance it attaches to these island nations, and actively expanding its influence in the Asia-Pacific region as part of its global strategy.

Xi's moves to build ties with countries around the world demonstrate a new diplomatic style, one which diverges from the past 20 years of Chinese leadership focus on developing ties with traditional powers like the US and Europe, said a commentary in Hong Kong's Takungpao newspaper.

"Xi's trip to Fiji represents China's emphasis on developing ties with Pacific Island countries, as Fiji is influential in the region and has developed better ties with China," Su Hao, director of the Asia-Pacific Research Center at China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.

His viewpoints were shared by Huang Wei, a professor from the Institute of World Economics and Politics with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"China has displayed a new diplomatic image of widely developing ties with countries around the world.[Xi's] State visit has proven that China is focusing not only on developing relations with major countries, but also smaller ones, sweeping aside speculation in foreign media that China doesn't emphasize ties with Pacific Island countries," Huang told the Global Times.

During his trip to Fiji, which began on Friday, Xi signed five agreements with Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, covering bilateral economic cooperation, as well as cooperation on defense, climate change, culture, and visa exemptions for Fijians traveling to China. During their meeting, Bainimarama said Fiji wanted China to be fully engaged in the Pacific and called China "a true friend of Fiji."

In Nadi, Fiji's capital, Xi also held bilateral meetings with leaders from seven other Pacific island countries including the Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, Papua New Guinea,  Tonga and Niue on Saturday. He also chaired a summit with the eight Pacific Island leaders, including Fiji's, on the same day.

Xi also agreed to inject a further 70 million yuan ($11.4 million) of aid money into Fiji as he wrapped up talks on Sunday.

Xi's visit comes after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of another major Asian power, stopped over in Fiji  Wednesday to meet with regional leaders.

Analysts have pointed out that as India develops its ties with Pacific Island nations, building its status as a regional power, China has sought to develop relationships with Fiji and its neighboring countries from a more global perspective, one in which China acts as an international leader.

"2014 has been a fruitful year for China on the international stage, with Xi's frequent visits and efforts to build ties with countries around the world, including China's neighboring countries in the Asia Pacific region and Latin American countries," said Huang.

"China's healthy relations with Pacific Island countries are not new, but Xi's most recent visit has highlighted the efforts we have made over the years," Huang added.

Fiji was the first Pacific Island nation to establish diplomatic relations with China.

Statistics from China's Ministry of Commerce shows that since 1975, China has provided financial and technical support for nearly 100 infrastructure projects for industrial, agricultural and residential use.

Beginning with the first China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum held in 2006, China has sought to build cooperation with Samoa, Tonga and the Federated States of Micronesia in agricultural and fisheries development, as well as sending teams to these countries to help develop their medical and healthcare systems.

"China is the first major world power that has fulfilled its responsibility to help these [Pacific Island] countries to develop. Its ties with these countries have also provided China with larger room for diplomatic and economic development. It has been a mutually beneficial relationship," said Su.

Since assuming office in 2012, Xi has visited a number of countries around the globe, including the US and its neighboring Latin American countries, European countries like France and Germany, African countries like Tanzania, and neighboring countries such as South Korea, Mongolia, and Russia

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