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Why does China value Fiji Look North policy?

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

07-17-2015 14:59 BJT

By Gu Jianjun, post doctorate of Central Compilation and Translation Bureau

Fiji, located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, is composed of more than 330 islands and covers an area of 18,333 square kilometers. With a population of 800,000 and its capital in Suwa, Fiji is a hub for Pacific island countries. Fiji was the first Pacific country to establish diplomatic relations with China on November 5, 1975.

The year 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of relations between China and Fiji. Over the last four decades, China and Fiji have continuously strengthened mutual political trust and pragmatic cooperation, enhancing friendly exchanges in various fields. For a long time, Fiji’s economy depended on investment from western countries. However after the 2006 military takeover, western countries withdrew direct capital support from the government. China beefed up its investment and support, helping Fiji rid itself of economic recession and winning favor with local people.

Fiji recently presented its Look North policy, actively developing relationships with Asian countries, especially the Chinese relationship. This also earned considerable Chinese attention and a serious response. In November 2014, President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Fiji and established a strategic partnership based on mutual respect and common development.

Mutual visa exemptions took effect between China and Fiji on March 14, 2015. The China (Guangdong)-Fiji Economic and Trade Cooperation Exchange Meeting was held in Suwa on June 1. Invited by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama will pay a state visit to China July 14-24.  The deepening strategic partnership between China and Fiji is a key step in China’s South Pacific Ocean strategy.

Firstly, Fiji and other Pacific island countries are extensions of China’s Maritime Silk Road to the South Pacific Ocean.

Located in the center of the Pacific Ocean, 14 island nations including Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea are scattered like pearls across the vast azure of the South Pacific Ocean. They are important transfer stations linking south and north, east and west Asia-Pacific countries. Meanwhile, these island countries have smaller populations and their economic development lags relatively behind. Yet they possess a capacious exclusive economic zone, boasting fishing and marine resources with huge potential for exploitation.

In the long run, China has maintained friendly cooperative relationships with Pacific island countries, actively supported their infrastructure and promoted commercial intercourse. Between 2006 and 2014, the average annual growth rate of bilateral trade between China and these island countries hit 27.2 percent, and the average annual growth rate of direct investment reached 63.9 percent. Fiji is China’s major trade partner among South Pacific island countries. In 2013, China was Fiji’s fifth-largest trade partner and the total amount of trade between the two countries reached $328 million. Fiji has convenient transportation and abundant agriculture, forestry, fishery and mineral resources. China has capital, technology and market advantages. It is beneficial for China and Fiji to cooperate by combining both countries’ advantages.

Secondly, Fiji has played an important part in China’s diplomatic strategy.

China has always valued relationships with South Pacific island countries. Of the 14 independent countries in the South Pacific Ocean, eight have established diplomatic ties with China including Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Vanuatu, Micronesia, Cook Islands, Tonga and Niue. Fiji is regarded as the economic and political center of the South Pacific Ocean. Its global influence cannot be dismissed.

In 2013, Fiji took up the post of chairman of the Group of 77. In addition, Fiji has overseas peacekeepers and important influence on other South Pacific island countries. Thus China regards Fiji as a major partner, an important part of China’s South Pacific Ocean strategy. 

Thirdly, China’s maritime military strategy should embrace Fiji’s Look North policy.

China is a Pacific country. Some island countries in the southern Pacific Ocean are part of the second island chain. The second island chain is often referred by military strategists as a measure of Chinese naval expansion beyond the first island chain. With growing overseas trade and energy demand, China has gradually realized the island chain’s potential and actual influence on Chinese national security, maritime rights and interests. Fiji is located at the heart of the Pacific Ocean on 180 degrees longitude. It is necessary China cooperate with South Pacific island countries to safeguard its maritime rights and interests.

 

( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

 

 

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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