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Pacific tour shows China’s equality-based diplomacy

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi co-hosts the second China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Fijian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Voreqe Bainimarama in Suva, Fiji on May 30, 2022 . [Photo/Xinhua]

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s recent 10-day tour of seven Pacific island countries, including Timor-Leste, once again demonstrated China’s longstanding practice of grounded diplomacy on equality.

While some Western governments and media have gone to great lengths to highlight the marathon tour’s supposedly unacknowledged security designs, its outcome shows that it turned out to be remarkably consensual and peaceful.

All of the Pacific island nations were colonized by Western powers (Britain, France, Germany, Spain and the United States) in the 19th century, often using the euphemism of “protectorate” to disguise their political-economic designs. .

The United States annexed Hawaii in 1898 and Tonga became a British “protected state” in 1900. After World War I, Japan, Australia and New Zealand seized German colonies in the Pacific, qu They then continued to govern as so-called “mandates” under the League of Nations.

While some Pacific islands successfully bid for independence in the mid-20th century, others are still ruled by foreign countries, like – the name suggests – American Samoa. Moreover, France seems determined to keep a foothold in the Pacific at all costs for geopolitical reasons.

Wang’s tour ended with a visit to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (the official Portuguese name for East Timor).

This sparked my personal interest, especially because I covered the ceremony marking the restoration of the country’s independence in Dili in May 2002. (East Timor unilaterally declared its independence from Portugal in November 1975.)

My first article on Timor-Leste, then occupied by Indonesia, was published in 1980, and I met some of its leaders, like Jose Ramos-Horta and Xanana Gusmao, in Macau in the 1990s.

When I visited Timor-Leste two decades ago, East Timorese told me they would “very” welcome Chinese investment and aid, pointing out that their country had a thriving Chinese community, which numbered about 30,000 people, before the Indonesian invasion. in December 1977. They also pointed out that Chinese sailors traded with them for hundreds of years without, unlike other foreigners, seeking to occupy their island.

During Wang’s visit, President Xi Jinping and East Timorese President Ramos-Horta exchanged congratulations on the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Xi pointed to the two nations’ long history of friendship.

Ramos-Horta, Timor-Leste’s third president, told Xinhua News Agency in an interview on the eve of Wang’s visit that “China’s role is indispensable for peace and stability, development and prosperity of the region”.

Ramos-Horta, without whose efforts Timor-Leste would probably not have been able to restore its independence, stressed that China “has been very generous in supporting the nation in the fields of education, health, ‘agriculture and infrastructure’. He acknowledged that “what China provides to us, as it has done for the past 20 years, is extremely important for Timor-Leste to continue to progress economically.”

Ramos-Horta also thanked China for its help in the fight against COVID-19.

During his two-day stay in Timor-Leste, Mr. Wang’s meetings with Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak, Foreign Minister Adaljiza Magno and many other senior politicians reaffirmed the strong ties of friendship between Beijing and Dili, and the two sides agreed to strengthen win-win cooperation. and safeguard multilateralism.

There is no doubt that Timor-Leste, with a population of 1.3 million, is a shining example of China’s diplomacy based on equality.

At the start of Mr. Wang’s tour, Mr. Xi sent written remarks to the second China-Pacific island countries foreign ministers’ meeting in Fiji on May 30, during which Mr. Xi stressed that China remained committed to the equality of all countries, regardless of their size.

No matter how the international landscape changes, Xi said, China will always be the good friend of the Pacific island countries, cherishing the same ideals and following the same path, their good brother sharing the joys and misfortunes, and a good partner going forward shoulder to shoulder.

Xi added that China stands ready to “join hands to build an even closer China-Pacific island countries community with a shared future.”

Speaking to reporters right after his tour, which took place in Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, Wang reiterated China’s view that all countries, big or small, are equal. Noting that China and the Pacific island nations are developing countries, Wang said the two sides have broad consensus, similar concerns and common missions.

Significantly, Wang also reiterated that China’s cooperation with Pacific island countries “is untargeted and will not be interfered with by any country.”

According to Xinhua, Wang stressed that China has no intention of competing with anyone for influence or engaging in geographical competition, adding that with an open mind and in accordance with the will of the Pacific island countries, China was willing to carry out more tripartite activities. even quadripartite cooperation with Australia and New Zealand in the South Pacific region, in order to fully exploit the respective advantages of each and create greater synergy.

For the sake of our planet, Canberra, Washington and other Western capitals must abandon their Monroe Doctrine-like stance on the Pacific and instead cooperate with Beijing to help developing Pacific island nations deal with the climate change, to promote their diversified development and to join hands for the sustainable development of the ocean.

What our planet urgently needs is global cooperation between nations with different political systems and social values ​​to solve the most pressing challenges, such as poverty reduction, education, health care and, last but not least, enough food and decent housing for all.

The author is editor of the Macau Post Daily.