Study tour reveals China's choreographed plan for the region
China has shown senior Pacific Island politicians and media figures how it is trying to alleviate poverty during their recent tour of the country.
China has shown senior Pacific Island politicians and media figures, on a recent tour of the country, how it is trying to alleviate poverty.
China's invitees on the two-week trip included senior political figures and journalists from Tonga, Vanuatu, the Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa and Papua New Guinea.
Solomon Islands journalist Alfred Sasako has just returned from the trip and he told Sally Round it revealed China has a choreographed plan of action for the Pacific region.
ALFRED SASAKO: One, is the fact that China is also flexing its muscle in the region, and that it's prepared to to assist countries that it has diplomatic relationships with. And, two, I think they also wanted to show the Pacific that China is a vast region and, yet, we can do this. And we're sure with some adjustment you can apply the approach that they have taken to address poverty.
SALLY ROUND: And what did you learn from the visit in terms of what China can do to help Pacific Island countries alleviate poverty?
AS: I learnt that there is potential for businesses. The market is there, the market for just about everything, for minerals, for fisheries... Just about everything, it's there. But they talked to us about how the central government operates and how they were able to contain the different forces that were at work to try and destabilise what the government is doing. For every conceivable constituency, they have plans. And it seems like the structure they have from the central government all the way down to the farmers, it's one with a very clear line.
SR: You also found out that the Chinese government is going to be holding a summit with Pacific Island countries later this year. Can you tell us more about that?
AS: The whole summit will basically be focusing on economic activities. And China, I was told, would be putting on offer to the Pacific Islands a US$1 billion soft loan that they will provide to the Pacific, that any member country that has diplomatic relations with China can access that money. And it's not the first time that China has done that. When the Chinese leader in 2006 visited Fiji, they put on a US$2 billion offer, as well. And I think Papua New Guinea was the only country that obtained a US$500 million loan under that offer.
SR: What is your overall impression of where they're heading with the region?
AS: My overall impression of these overtures being thrown around here and there is that China has done its homework. It has established without doubt that Western countries, traditional donors, or Pacific Island countries have been very stingy in terms of loan requirements and conditions. They've put on a lot of conditions. And they are sort of dangling the carrot in front of Pacific Island countries who are deemed to be poor. 'We've got an alternative here'. If you're fed up with your traditional donors, how they're treating you, there's an alternative here.' And I think it's largely part of China's overall plan for the Pacific. It's really choreographed to reflect the development approach that China has undergone in the last 10, 20 years.
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