China And The Pacific Conference Opens In Samoa

admin's picture

PM: Rivalry and confrontation get in the way of development

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Feb. 25, 2015) – Rivalry and confrontational power play for everyone involved and with interests in the Pacific, prevent opportunities for development and formulating mutual respect.

This was the message from Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Fatialofa Sailele Malielegaoi in his opening address of the first ever China and the Pacific Conference opened this morning at the National University of Samoa.

"The enduring hope is that for everyone involved and with interests in the Pacific, the ‘catch phrase’ must not be about rivalries and confrontations. Instead the narrative should be about care for the Pacific, the creation of opportunities, common development and mutual respect. The serious and committed application of wise and like minds to these principles should not just benefit all but simultaneously as well," he said.

The conference is organized by the Victoria University of Wellington, the Sun Yat-sen University of Guangzhou and the National University of Samoa and has brought together academics, diplomats and officials from across and China to assess China’s growing economic, political and military influence in the Pacific.

"There is little doubt of China’s present strong and increasing influence in the Pacific. The capacity of China’s demonstrated economic power, if not quite yet its growing military might, to further project this influence would seem to warrant your conference’s dedicated examination of the implications for the Pacific.

Held at the time of much debate about China’s growing influence in the Pacific region, it is also at a year when Fiji and Samoa crosses 40 years since establishing diplomatic ties with China one day apart in 1975.

"The singling out however of a country and its motives sometimes creates an implicit impression that all is not quite what it seems and there are conspiracies afoot," said Tuilaepa whose own Government is pushing a controversial Investment and Citizenship Bill that eyes Chinese investment.

"It is a sentiment that would easily attend discussions of ‘what China wants’ with its growing strength, the ubiquity of its diaspora and not least the often relentless pursuit by the media of perceptions of China’s levels of assertiveness in promoting and securing its interests. It will not be a surprise if the mere holding of your conference has generated these kinds of sentiments already.

"Fortunately, I note from the programme the impressive scholarly credentials and practical expertise of the many presenters and the balance they bring to the treatment of the conference’s topic. This objectivity is clearly very important to the exchanges and outcomes of your conference to help inform the policy makers not just in Beijing and in the Oceania capitals but in those of all the international actors from outside the region presently active or intending to be so in the Pacific.

Using Samoa’s experience with China, Tuilaepa pointed out that Samoa that other traditional donors were not engaged in, but sought China’s support in areas considered vital to Samoa’s development aspirations and nation building.

Before Samoa and China established diplomatic relations in 1975, Samoa already had contact with China through the Chinese labour migrants in the early part of the last century.

Tuilaepa said these Chinese migrants and their descendants as well as more recent ones, have contributed immensely to the life of the country.

The Pacific – ‘Ocean of Tranquility’

"Right now, the omens for global peace and security are not auspicious with persistent warfare in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the deadly spread of rampaging Islamists rejecting any secular order, and the corrosive effect of festering hot spots of resentment around the world," said Tuilaepa.

"The Pacific by comparison, and I would like to think by a ‘very long shot’, is still an ‘Ocean of Tranquility’.

"The enduring hope is that for everyone involved and with interests in the Pacific, the ‘catch phrase’ must not be about rivalries and confrontations. Instead the narrative should be about care for the Pacific, the creation of opportunities, common development and mutual respect. The serious and committed application of wise and like minds to these principles should not just benefit all but simultaneously as well."

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment