45 Years Of Dynamic And Affirming China

China affirming relationship with Fiji is based on the values of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. This relationship should continue to be nurtured in perpetuity.
12 Dec 2020 13:16
45 Years Of  Dynamic And  Affirming China
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Chinese Ambassador Qian Bo with students and guests at the opening of the Lokia Community Kindergarten

There is a poignant picture of our Prime Minister and Chi­nese Ambassador to Fiji Qian Bo surrounded by enthusiastic kin­dergarten children and their teach­ers.

This picture epitomises the dynamic spirit of the Fiji and China foreign relations that has stood strong for 45 years.

President Xi Jinping noted that Fiji was the first Pacific Island country to forge diplomatic relations with China.

Over the past 45 years, China and Fiji relations have withstood the test of changes in the context of the in­ternational political landscape. We are reminded of the proverb from Yi Jing, the book of changes which is an aspect of Chinese philosophy that notes that; “If two people are of the same mind, their sharpness can cut through metal.”

The exchanges and co-operation in various fields have yielded fruitful re­sults. President Xi stated that China attached great importance to the de­velopment of China-Fiji relations and through joint initiatives there was huge potential to promote bilateral di­alogues, exchanges and co-operation, strengthen communication and coor­dination on regional as well as inter­national issues.

 Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Chinese President Xi Xinping in 2015

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Chinese President Xi Xinping in 2015

Fiji established diplomatic relations with China in 1975 and I clearly re­member being a very young Universi­ty student in the 1990s being invited to the Chinese Embassy to discuss Chi­nese Culture, Arts, Diplomacy and to have friendly chats with the Embassy Officials. We would come to interview them for our History Assignments and I remember that they were always friendly and helpful.

Those constructive interactions were important in providing Pacific students insights on China’s develop­ment framework based on mutual re­spect and global co-operation.

I recall that before meeting the Chi­nese diplomats, our learning revolved around Eurocentric knowledge and ideas.

The engagement with China opened up a new world of ideas on life, cul­ture, expressive arts and sustainable development.

Personal experience

Since my university days, I have con­tinued to have great interest in Chi­nese culture and governance and have just finished reading ‘The Governance of China’ which is very visionary.

When my wife was an English Teach­er at Yat Sen Secondary School, we used to have Chinese teachers from the PRC visit our home and chat about their work, their lives and aspirations.

They came to Fiji to teach Mandarin to students. Given that our percep­tions of China are informed mainly by Western Media sources, these in­teractions provided a balanced view of China from its citizens.

There is also growing interest amongst young Fijians to learn Man­darin through the Confucius Institute. While this is housed within USP, one Dean at the Fiji National University has even suggested that it would be very beneficial if Mandarin was also taught in their institution.

In the past 45 years, the affirming co-operation between China and Fiji is thriving in the fields of cultural, educational and people-to-people ex­changes. It is praiseworthy that this constructive friendship has been marked by the issuing of a set of com­memorative stamps by Post Fiji.

There are three creative stamps namely:

(1) $2.38 – Fijian girl in traditional masi. The unique style, pattern and motifs on each masi carry a symbolic meaning unique to the distinct prov­inces it originated from.

(2) $1.38 – Chinese Ping Pong Players. Ping pong, also known as table ten­nis, is one of the largest participating sports in the world. Ping pong is not only the national sport of China, but it is also a source of pride for the Chi­nese people.

(3) 38c – Fijian Rugby Players. Fiji won Gold in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and Fijians will never forget that their road to sporting glory came through the constructive route of the Hong Kong Sevens.

I have written articles providing in­sights on our Fijian students in China.

These Fijian students have made the interesting observation that in Chinese Universities, the theory and practice of the subject under study is integrated and contextualised.

All the Fijian students say that they spend their leisure time travelling to China’s beautiful historical and con­temporary sites and learning to im­prove their Mandarin speaking skills by interacting with local people.

I remember the case of one Fijian student who was supposed to come home but decided to stay back in China. I asked him, “Aren’t you home sick?”

He responded, “There are so many things to do and see in China. The in­ternet here is so good that I can speak to my parents anytime!”

As Fiji and China mark 45 Years of affirming diplomatic relations, we recognise the great support provided by China not only in Fiji but also the Pacific Region and globally. For me, the enduring picture of 45 years of mutual co-operation is the Chinese worker working very hard with great dedication and perseverance in the blazing sun, pounding rain and strong winds to build our roads, bridges and infrastructure.

We recognise these workers; unsung heroes who are very far away from their families and loved ones in Chi­na and working in harsh tropical cli­mates not only in Fiji but globally.

They work tirelessly to ensure that our local lives are made more comfort­able. These developments under the Belt and Road Initiative have boosted the local economy.

Chinese and iTaukei proverbs

There is a Fijian proverb Kunekune dredre na yaloka ni dilio: Translation: It is hard to find the egg of the dilio (Golden Plover) bird.

One meaning is: A person has rare qualities of integrity and positive val­ues. As Fiji and China mark 45 years of diplomatic relations, I allude to China being a very dedicated and sup­portive friend of Fiji in good and chal­lenging times.

Tang dynasty Chinese poet Wang Bo wrote this in a poem given to his friend; ‘A bosom friend afar brings a distant land near.’

This can be elaborated as follows, “Although we reside in far corners of the world, good friendship makes the world-end long distance just as close as living next door.”

China affirming relationship with Fiji is based on the values of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. This relationship should continue to be nurtured in perpetuity.

Fijisun Ad Space

Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.

By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.

Fiji Sun Instagram