China and Papua New Guinea deepen Belt and Road cooperation

Papua New Guinea formally joined the Belt and Road Initiative in 2018, and was the second Pacific island nation to sign up to the initiative after East Timor.

Waim village in Papua New Guinea highlands [Photo: University of Otago].

China has expressed its willingness to expand cooperation with Papua New Guinea in such fields as infrastructure, energy resources, agriculture, forestry and fishery, and welcomes more high-quality fishery products from Papua New Guinea to enter the Chinese market, according to Xinhua.

PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape travelled to the Beijing Winter Olympics for meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Chinese official, but was forced return home after testing positive for COVID-19. However senior members of his government did meet with Chinese officials and China’s petroleum giant Sinopec, to discuss further long-term contracts from LNG ventures in PNG.

Papua New Guinea and China have also been having preliminary discussions on the prospect of a free trade agreement between the two nations, and on 6 February 2022 the two parties signed a China-PNG joint communiqué. This indicated that the two countries hoped to complete the China-Papua New Guinea Free Trade Agreement Joint Feasibility Study and start negotiations “as soon as possible”.

Key joint communiqué commitments

The two sides:

share the view that climate change is a major challenge facing humanity, and are committed to jointly promoting the full and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement and the establishment of a fair and equitable system of global climate governance for win-win cooperation. China understands the special difficulties facing Papua New Guinea in tackling climate change. It will make full use of the platform of the China-Pacific Island Countries climate action cooperation center, and continue to provide assistance within its capability to help Papua New Guinea build the capacity to address climate change under the framework of South-South cooperation. (Item 13)

agree to strengthen practical cooperation on trade, investment, energy, resources, infrastructure, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and downstream processing, and expand exchanges and cooperation in education, culture, youth, health, sports, law enforcement, and sub-national interactions. The Chinese side will continue to provide to the Papua New Guinea side economic and technical assistance without any political strings attached, and support Papua New Guinea in developing its economy and improving its people’s livelihood. (item 9)

emphasize their commitment to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Papua New Guinea supports and will actively participate in the Global Development Initiative proposed by China, as it believes also meets the development needs of developing countries such as Papua New Guinea and small island countries in particular. It calls on the international community to work together under the Initiative to form great synergy for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at an accelerated pace. (item 8)

agree to enhance communication and coordination in multilateral mechanisms such as the United Nations, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Pacific Islands Forum, jointly contribute to promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Pacific islands region, and uphold the interests of developing countries. (Item 12)

PNG – China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting June 2021

Xinhua previously reported in June 2021 that PNG’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Soroi Eoe and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met in Guiyang, capital of southwest China’s Guizhou Province. 

China was the first country Mr Eoe visited since tooking office as foreign minister. He was also the first dignitary from a Pacific Island country to visit China since the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Chinese foreign minister said one of the most important lessons learned from China’s long-standing relationship with PNG is that both sides have always treated each other as equals and supported each other’s core interests and concerns.

China appreciates PNG’s firm adherence to the one-China principle and its impartial position of non-interference in China’s internal affairs over issues related to Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, Wang said.

He said China will also continue to firmly support PNG in safeguarding national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity in exploring a development path that suits its national conditions development goals.

He told Eoe that China is willing to continue to share its experience in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic with PNG, provide medical material assistance, strengthen public health governance and medical technology exchanges, and promote the building of a global community of health for all.

China-Pacific Islands emergency material storage major public health incidents and natural disasters

At the June 2021 neeting, China said it was considering establishing a and is willing to further strengthen cooperation with Pacific Island countries, including PNG, in responding to major public health incidents and natural disasters.

Beijing’s formally committed to the initiative at the first foreign ministers’ meeting between China and Pacific Island countries held on October 21, 2021. China and Pacific Island countries completed athe joint reserve for emergency supplies in December 2021.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Papua New Guinea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Soroi Eoe in Guiyang, capital of southwest China’s Guizhou Province, June 3, 2021. /Chinese Foreign Ministry

“China has always cooperated with Pacific Island countries on the basis of equality and mutual respect and is committed to promoting the development and revitalization of the Pacific Island countries,” Wang said.

Wang also refuted the erroneous claims that China is “coercing” the Pacific Island countries, saying Pacific Island countries are all independent sovereign nations with the right to determine their own foreign policies, adding that “China will always strengthen all-round cooperation with Pacific Island countries in the spirit of openness and equality.”

Minister Eoe expressed his warm congratulations on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China and thanked China for its long-standing support and assistance in PNG’s economic and social development, especially the fight against COVID-19.

“PNG recognizes that political stability is an important cornerstone of economic development and hopes to share governance experience with China and learn from China’s development experience,” Eoe said.

PNG firmly adheres to the one-China policy and has always considered Taiwan as an inseparable part of China’s territory, he said.

Noting that the rising sea level in the Pacific Ocean has brought an existential crisis to the island countries, Eoe thanked China for speaking up in the international community and supporting the island countries to cope with the severe challenges brought by climate change.

Eoe said PNG and the Pacific Island countries strongly oppose Japan’s discharge of nuclear polluted water into the Pacific Ocean and will work with other countries, including China, to resist such irresponsible actions by the Japanese side.

China helped PNG’s capital city, Port Moresby, to upgrade its airport highway. The 8.6-kilometer Poreporena Freeway got its infrastructure refurbished with the help of China Harbor Engineering.

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Sources:

Xinhua, 2022-02-06, ‘Full text: Joint Statement Between the People’s Republic of China and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea’. http://www.news.cn/english/20220206/0276f9edf57b4bfbb2a049c915930844/c.html

CGTN, 03-Jun-2021. https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-06-03/Chinese-FM-meets-PNG-foreign-minister-10NahnXwunC/index.html

Australian Financial Review, Feb 7, 2022. https://www.afr.com/world/asia/xi-making-deals-on-the-sidelines-of-the-winter-olympics-20220207-p59uec

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