Commentary: China, Papua New Guinea to map out bright future

In recent years, China has granted more than 440 PNG students with government scholarships, and provided short-term training opportunities for more than 1,000 citizens , with the aim of cultivating industry elites and enhancing friendship between the two countries.

By Xue Bing

Chinese President Xi Jinping left Beijing for his two-day state visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Thursday. During his stay in PNG till Nov. 18, he is also scheduled to attend the 26th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting in the capital city Port Moresby and meet with leaders of Pacific island countries that have established diplomatic relations with China.

Xi’s trip, which is the first time for a Chinese President to pay a state visit to PNG over the past 42 years since the two countries established diplomatic relations, is a milestone and of historic significance for bilateral ties.

Located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, PNG is the largest, most populous Pacific island country that has enormous potential for development.

After China and PNG established diplomatic ties in October 1976, they have made substantial progress in their relations. In November 2014, President Xi and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill of Papua New Guinea announced to establish a strategic partnership featuring mutual respect and common development between the two countries, pointing the right direction for the development of bilateral relations in the new era.

In recent years, the frequent high-level exchanges between the two nations have deepened their political mutual trust. Prime Minister O’Neill has visited China many times since he took office in 2011, while President Xi has met with Prime Minister O’Neill on many occasions. Leaders of the two countries have reached a string of important consensus on deepening strategic partnership and strengthening pragmatic cooperation in various fields.

When meeting with Prime Minister O’Neill in July 2016, President Xi was the first APEC leader that promised an attendance of the meeting hosted by PNG. He also greatly boosted PNG’s confidence in successfully holding the summit by pledging to provide assistance with China’s full capacity.

China has kept its words by offering timely and effective assistance to PNG in infrastructure and capacity building.

By assisting in upgrading and renovating the international convention center, building two main traffic arteries, providing service vehicles and offering personnel training, it helped solve the pressing need of organizing a large scale meeting, and was applauded by PNG residents from all walks of life.

PNG and China are like-minded partners on joint construction of the Belt and Road. In June this year, PNG became the first Pacific island state to sign a memorandum of understanding with China on Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) .

So far, nearly 40 China-funded enterprises have invested in PNG and created tens of thousands of new jobs.

Back to May 2000 when Xi was Governor of east China’s Fujian Province, a delegation from PNG’s Eastern Highlands Province visited the province  at his invitation, during which the two sides signed agreements on sister provinces as well as a demonstration project to help the Eastern Highlands Province with mushroom and upland rice planting.

Over the past two decades or so, professor Lin Zhanqi of Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University has led expert groups to aid East Highlands for many times.

Thanks to their efforts, the first demonstration and training base for producing mushroom and upland rice was established in the island country under extremely difficult conditions, making contributions to lifting local people out of poverty and creating more jobs.

Since 2002, nine batches of medical teams sent by China to PNG have treated more than 100,000 patients and trained thousands of medical staff. They also created many firsts in the medical history of PNG.

In recent years, China has granted more than 440 PNG students with government scholarships, and provided short-term training opportunities for more than 1,000 citizens , with the aim of cultivating industry elites and enhancing friendship between the two countries.

Describing PNG as a key and close friend of China among the Pacific island nations, Prime Minister O’Neill said previously that the bilateral relationship is better than ever.

Now, the main streets of Port Moresby have been decorated with Chinese knots and red lanterns, with five-starred red flag fluttering in the wind. It fully demonstrates that the PNG government and people are welcoming President Xi with the highest-level reception.

It is believed that Xi’s visit will inject new impetus into the strategic partnership between the two countries.

(By Xue Bing, Chinese Ambassador to Papua New Guinea)

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