FIRST CHINESE DIPLOMATIC POST ESTABLISHED IN TAHITI

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By Patrick Antoine Decloitre

SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, Nov. 2) - Zhang Dongyue, China's first Consul General in French Polynesia, has taken up his post last week in the French Pacific territory.

The week before, Zhang was also in Paris to officially present his credentials to the central French government's foreign affairs ministry, which is in charge of foreign affairs for French Polynesia.

He will be in charge of China's first permanent diplomatic delegation in French Polynesia.

China has been intending to build a permanent building for its new diplomatic office, but until now, the piece of land that has been tentatively identified is at the center of a legal wrangle within the Chinese community.

Within this community in the past few years a heated debate has also erupted on the Pacific diplomatic tussle between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan.

The official appointment from Beijing comes as a result of lengthy consultations with the French government.

Zhang, upon arrival in Papeéte, has held talks with French High commissioner Anne Boquet, local government figures, as well as representatives of the local affluent and long-established Chinese community.

Zhang has previously held positions in the Chinese foreign affaires service, including recently as the first secretary of the Paris-based Chinese Ambassador.

He said the three pillars of his future action in French Polynesia would be "friendship, understanding and cooperation."

For the past few years, French Polynesia and the People’s Republic of China have consistently built ties—especially on the trade side.

This includes trade facilitation for French Polynesia to export black pearls into China.

French Polynesia is also seeking the People's Republic of China’s approved destination status.

The French Pacific country is also home to a strong Chinese ethnic community, which over the generations has successfully mingled into the local population.

In late 2005, Paris-based Chinese ambassador Jinjun Zhao was also in French Polynesia and stressed the good relations between the French government and on the regional level, with French Polynesia.

[PIR editor’s note: According to PIR files, the Chinese government’s Approved Destination Status is something Tahiti’s tourism industry has anxiously awaited for the past three years. The Temaru presidency announced that French Polynesia will be the first ADS approval to be signed during the first half of 2006 (see related story).]

Earlier this month, a strong Chinese delegation was in French Polynesia's capital Papeéte, where a regional conference of tourism ministers of member countries from the South Pacific Tourism Organization was held.

China's national tourism administration Vice-Chairman Zhang Xigin then gave assurances to local authorities that French Polynesia would be getting China's approved destination status label it has been requesting for the past five years.

But the formalization would have to be dealt with either from Paris, between the metropolitan French government and its tourism ministry and the Chinese Embassy in Paris, or from Beijing, between the Chinese government and the French embassy in China, the French High commission pointed out.

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