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Xi’s Visit Has Big Impact On Fiji

Days after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Fiji, the first in history by a Chinese head of state, a “China zeal” is still seen prevailing across the island
02 Dec 2014 08:40
Xi’s Visit Has Big Impact On Fiji

Days after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Fiji, the first in history by a Chinese head of state, a “China zeal” is still seen prevailing across the island nation in the South Pacific.

In Nadi, the third-largest conurbation in the country, huge signboards printed with Mr Xi’s portrait and national flags of China and Fiji stood along the main roads of the city, catching the eyes of local residents as well as foreign tourists.

“First of all, I was very excited,” said Chang Guilan, a Chinese teacher at the Confucius Institute of the University of the South Pacific (USP), recalling her handshake with Mr Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan.

“When our country’s top leader, whom we used to watch on TV, reached out to shank hands with you with an affable smile, I think no Chinese could help getting excited,” she said, “Maybe it was the only chance in my life, so I was greatly honoured.”

Scott Macdonald, manager of the hotel where Xi stayed, shared the same feeling as Ms Chang, saying he was deeply impressed by the president’s popularity among the Chinese people and overseas Chinese.

“I didn’t know that until he arrived. We started getting a lot of Chinese — locals as such — residents in Fiji arriving and wanting to get photographs, so it’s a bit like very much a celebrity pop star,” said Mr Macdonald, who also had a photo taken with the couple.

At his hotel a few days ago, Mr Xi held a meeting with leaders of Fiji and other Pacific island countries that have diplomatic ties with China, agreeing to establish a strategic partnership featuring mutual respect and common development.

The leaders of the island countries said they all regard China as a sincere friend and partner as the Chinese side always respects and supports the island countries.

China’s policy and measures toward the island countries in the new era meet their actual needs and will help them in their push for sustainable development, they said.

Facts speak louder than words.

According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, China started providing economic and technological assistance for the island countries in 1975.

China has participated in nearly 100 industrial, agricultural, infrastructure and civil architectural projects, carried out technological cooperation in such fields as agriculture, healthcare and sports, and trained more than 4,000 managerial and technical personnel, in a bid to promote social and economic development in those countries.

A Fijian police officer, who was a member of the security staff during Mr Xi’s visit, said Fiji would receive a new batch of assistance from China, including 10 police motorcycles for his department.

“This will substantially solve our problem of lacking in police vehicles, and me and my colleagues are deeply appreciative of the Chinese government and people. Chinese friends are nice!” said the police officer, without giving his name.

Greg Fry, associate professor of diplomacy and international affairs at the USP, described China as a “major economic and development partner” for Pacific island countries.

“The Pacific appreciates (China) because it doesn’t put so much condition on the aid in development, and they (Pacific island countries) like to be able to work on things they really want to work on — infrastructure, other particular facilities for basic needs,” he said.

Echoing Mr Fry’s view, Sandra Tarte, associate professor and director of politics and international affairs program of the USP, said Mr Xi’s “unprecedented” state visit will greatly boost relations between China and Pacific island countries and expand China’s clout in the region.

The Chinese president’s visit to Fiji and meetings with leaders of Pacific island countries are “obviously a significant milestone in the relationship,” she said.
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