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Fiji’s China push a catalyst for the whole Pacific

By Karalaini Tavi 

Fiji’s decision to ramp up relations with China after its suspension from the Pacific Island Forum in 2009 has been a catalyst for a new more independent and assertive stance by the whole region.

University of South Pacific Head of School and Director, Politics and International Affairs Dr Sandra Tarte highlighted this during a Foreign Economic Ministers Meeting media workshop on Tuesday.

Despite attracting criticism domestically, Dr Tarte said Fiji took advantage of the situation, which in turn presented multiple options for the small island nation, as other partners stepped up in response to China’s presence.

“Fiji is an interesting case of a Pacific country that was forced to diversify its international partnerships (after suspension from the Forum),” she said.

“In the process developed much closer ties with China.

“This relationship has attracted criticism domestically as well as consternation abroad.

“But our traditional partners have returned (following the 2014 elections).

Fiji now is taking advantage of this ‘changing external environment’ – which has presented Fiji with more options and alternatives.”

Other countries in the region have followed suit in taking a more independent stance, with disappointment about lack of action on climate change by traditional partners as an important driver.

Dr Tarte said the Pacific Resilience Facility is an example of the new proactive and innovative diplomacy of Pacific island states.

She reiterated Pacific Island Forum Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor’s statement that this would be one way for the Pacific to ‘drive our own pathways towards resilient development’.

“In the context of this more dynamic regional environment, this can be seen as an initiative that aims to take back some control over infrastructure financing,” she added.

Earlier this year, Dame Meg Taylor described how various infrastructure initiatives have been announced by Japan, Australia and the US in response to China’s growing influence.

She suggested that such assistance could be better utilised if channeled through the Pacific Resilience Facility – ‘rather than playing the merits of one against the other’.”

Dr Tarte further highlighted that though China has less stringent processes for getting large infrastructure projects implemented, climate-proof and resilient infrastructure must be built according to national standards’....


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