China has stepped up its assistance to Pacific Island countries to help them fight COVID-19 with a new shipment of medical equipment delivered to Tarawa, Kiribati this week.
Another shipment, 2.9 metric tons of donated masks and protective clothing, is expected to arrive in Kiribati in mid March.
The deliveries are part of the support China has provided at the request of Pacific Island countries, which have seen a surge of COVID cases since January.
China also delivered more than 20 tons medical supplies to the Solomon Islands on Feb 18, while COVID test kits enough for testing 240,000 people are expected to arrive in Samoa this weekend.
Ties between China and Pacific Island countries run deep.
During a 2018 meeting in Papua New Guinea between President Xi Jinping and leaders of the Pacific Island countries that have diplomatic ties with China, both sides agreed to elevate bilateral ties to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership.
China has conducted mutually beneficial cooperation with and lent great support to the growth of Pacific Island countries, said Zhou Fangyin, a senior researcher at the Guangdong Institute for International Strategies.
“China has facilitated concrete changes in those countries by providing concrete assistance including building hospitals, gymnasiums, ports and schools to promote their economic development,” Zhou said, adding that the Pacific Island countries are highly willing to develop ties with China.
China was the first country to have provided emergency supplies to Tonga after the latter was hit by a tsunami caused by a volcanic eruption in January, and delivered more than 110 bulldozers, trucks and excavators to help speed up reconstruction in the country.
It also provided police equipment and sent a police advisory team to the Solomon Islands to support the latter in quelling antigovernment riots that broke out recently.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Fiji on Feb 12－the first visit paid by a US secretary of state since 1985－and Washington issued its Indo-Pacific Strategy, saying that it “will seek to be an indispensable partner to Pacific Island nations”.
The US, “which had forgotten about Pacific Island countries since the end of the Cold War,” began to attach importance to them not because it cares about what they need, but because it wants them to take its side in its geopolitical game, Zhou said.
Those countries “know about this clearly” and do not intend to get involved in such a game, he added.