China and Pacific Island Countries (PICs) enjoy long-lasting friendly exchanges. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in the 1970s, China and PICs have continued to expand exchanges and cooperation in more than 20 areas, including trade, investment, ocean affairs, environmental protection, disaster prevention and mitigation, poverty alleviation, health care, education, tourism, culture, sports and at the sub-national level. For PICs, China has provided economic and technical assistance without any political strings attached, implemented more than 100 aid projects, delivered more than 200 batches of in-kind assistance, and trained about 10,000 talents in various fields. China has dispatched 600 medical staff to PICs, benefiting more than 260,000 local residents. Since the start of COVID-19, China has provided PICs with nearly 600,000 doses of vaccines and more than 100 tons of anti-epidemic supplies. In addition, China and PICs have forged 22 pairs of sister provinces/states and cities.
In 2014 and 2018, President Xi Jinping made two visits to the South Pacific region and held meetings with leaders of PICs having diplomatic ties with China, which opened a new chapter in the history of China-PIC relations. From late May to early June 2022, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will be invited to visit South Pacific Island Countries and chair the second China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, which further demonstrates China’s commitment to enhancing mutual trust, building consensus, expanding cooperation and deepening friendship with PICs.
As things stand, China-PIC relations have entered a new stage of rapid growth. This Fact Sheet helps review the history of friendly exchanges and achievements of practical cooperation between the two sides, so as to usher in an even brighter future of China-PIC relations.
I. Cooperation in Political, Security and Regional Affairs
China has so far established diplomatic relations with 10 PICs. In November 2014, President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Fiji and held a group meeting with leaders of PICs having diplomatic ties with China, where the two sides agreed to establish a strategic partnership featuring mutual respect and common development. In November 2018, President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and had another group meeting with leaders of PICs having diplomatic ties with China, where China-PIC relations were elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership featuring mutual respect and common development.
The two sides have maintained frequent exchanges at the top and other levels. Multiple leaders of Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, the Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, PNG, Cook Islands and Niue have visited China. Exchanges and cooperation between government agencies, legislatures and political parties have flourished.
Dialogue and cooperation mechanisms have continued to improve. In 2006, the two sides established the China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum, which is the highest-level dialogue mechanism on economy and trade between China and PICs and has so far been held three times. In October 2021, the first China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held via video link, which issued the Joint Statement of China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. Since the start of COVID-19, the two sides have held two special meetings of vice foreign ministers on COVID response.
The two sides have also established other bilateral and multilateral dialogue mechanisms, including Joint Economic and Trade Committee, Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting and Forum on Fishery Cooperation and Development, and a series of cooperation mechanisms, including the Reserve of Emergency Supplies, Climate Action Cooperation Center and Poverty Reduction and Development Cooperation Center.
Senior defense and military officials of PICs have paid multiple visits to China, and participated in events such as Beijing Xiangshan Forum and the Forum for Senior Defense Officials from Caribbean and South Pacific Countries. In September 2015, delegations of Fiji, PNG, Tonga and Vanuatu were invited to China to attend or observe the military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War.
In 2014 and 2018, the Peace Ark Hospital Ship of PLA Navy visited Fiji, PNG, Tonga and Vanuatu and carried out activities such as medical tour and medicine donation, which was warmly received by the local people.
In recent years, the two sides have deepened exchanges and cooperation in law enforcement. To implement the solemn commitment of President Xi Jinping made at the 86th Interpol General Assembly to provide police capacity building support to developing countries, the Ministry of Public Security of China has held 23 training sessions of capacity building for PIC law enforcement agencies since 2017, which was attended by a total of 490 law enforcement officers.
In 1989, China became an official Dialogue Partner of the Pacific Island Forum (PIF). Starting from 1990, China has sent government delegations to the Forum Dialogue Partners Meeting for 31 consecutive years, which has enhanced China’s cooperation with PIF and its members. In October 2000, the China-PIF Cooperation Fund was established with Chinese government donations to promote trade and investment cooperation between the two sides.
The Chinese government has provided financial assistance to the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) every year since 1998, to support PICs in tackling climate change and achieving sustainable development.
China joined the South Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO) in 2004 (renamed Pacific Tourism Organization in 2019).
II. Economic and Development Cooperation
Trade and Investment
Located at the southward extension of the Belt and Road Initiative, PICs are important economic and trade partners of China. The Chinese side has signed Belt and Road cooperation MOUs with all the 10 PICs having diplomatic relations with China, and signed Belt and Road cooperation plans with PNG and Vanuatu. Progress has been achieved in practical cooperation such as policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity.
Two-way trade has continued to expand. According to statistics of the Chinese side, from 1992 to 2021, total trade volume between China and PICs having diplomatic relations with China grew from USD 153 million to USD 5.3 billion, registering an average annual increase of 13% and expanding by over 30 times in 30 years. Governments and enterprises of PICs having diplomatic relations with China have taken an active part in all editions of the China International Import Expo.
Two-way investment has seen steady progress. According to initial statistics of the Chinese side, by the end of 2021, China’s direct investment in PICs having diplomatic relations with China had reached USD 2.72 billion.
Over the years, Chinese companies have been operating in PICs for mutual benefit. They have promoted localized management and procurement of projects, supported economic development and people’s well-being of local communities, and created a lot of local jobs.
Customs, inspection and quarantine authorities of the two sides have maintained sound cooperation. Since 2006, China has signed multiple cooperation documents with PICs such as Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and PNG on animal and plant sanitation, food safety, and product access.
The two sides have deepened economic and technical cooperation. Over the years, China has provided support and assistance for the development of PICs to the best of its capability. It has carried out a host of economic and technical cooperation projects in PICs, such as road, bridge, wharf, hospital, school, and stadium, which has greatly promoted economic growth and people’s well-being in PICs.
In recent years, China has helped accelerate the connectivity of PICs by carrying out a series of key infrastructure projects, including the Independence Boulevard in PNG, Malakula island highway in Vanuatu, renovation of Tonga national road, and Pohnpei highway in Micronesia.
In October 2021, the Chinese side announced the establishment of the China-Pacific Island Countries Poverty Reduction and Development Cooperation Center on the sidelines of the first China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. China has actively supported PICs in developing human resources, and helped PICs train nearly 10,000 talents in various fields, including public administration and social organization, agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, fishery, and education.
III. Cooperation in COVID Response and Public Health
According to incomplete statistics, China has sent a total of 600 medical workers to PICs, who have treated 260,000 local patients, provided free medical services for over 100 times, and donated a great number of medical equipment and medicines. They have helped improve local residents’ health and local medical service capacity.
In 2014, the China-assisted Navua Hospital started operation in Fiji, bringing benefits to over 30,000 local residents.
In January 2016, the China-Australia-PNG Malaria Prevention Programme was officially launched in PNG, effectively enhancing the ability of malaria prevention and treatment of PNG. In October 2017, the Shenzhen municipal government of China helped launch malaria elimination programme in Kirivina Islands of PNG, freeing local residents from infection of malaria.
After the start of COVID-19, the two sides have been helping each other to combat the disease. China has held more than 10 bilateral or multilateral public health expert meetings via video link with PICs having diplomatic relations with China, to share experience of disease prevention, control, treatment and diagnosis. China has actively provided vaccines, supplies and cash assistance to PICs, and helped the latter build quarantine cubicles and other facilities. So far, China has provided PICs with 590,000 doses of vaccines and over 100 tons of supplies.
IV. Cooperation in Ocean Affairs,
Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, and Climate Change
Ocean Affairs and Environmental Protection
In 2017, China hosted the China-Small Island States Ocean-related Ministerial Round Table with the theme of “Blue Economy and Ecological Islands”. Senior representatives from Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and Niue attended and addressed the meeting, which adopted and published the Pingtan Declaration.
In light of the needs of PICs, China has shared its environmental protection experience and helped PICs improve environmental management capacity. In recent years, China has hosted multiple seminars for PIC officials, including on environmental protection and management, water pollution treatment, and water resource protection.
China takes PICs’ special conditions and concerns on climate change very seriously, and has been committed to helping them strengthen capacity to tackle climate change.
In April 2022, the China-Pacific Island Countries Climate Change Cooperation Center was officially launched in Shandong Province of China.
Since 2019, China has held three South-South cooperation training sessions for PICs under the theme of “Tackling Climate Change for Green and Low-carbon Development”. China has also provided multiple batches of supplies to PICs to tackle climate change.
China has attached importance to strengthening renewable energy cooperation with PICs, and supported Chinese enterprises in joining the construction of hydro-power stations in countries such as PNG and Fiji.
Disaster Prevention and Mitigation
Since 2006, China has carried out earthquake mitigation cooperation with PICs. It has helped countries such as Samoa, Vanuatu and Fiji to build seismic networks and enhance earthquake monitoring capacity.
In December 2021, the China-Pacific Island Countries Reserve for Emergency Supplies was officially launched in Guangdong Province of China.
China provided immediate humanitarian aids when PICs were hit by natural disasters. In January 2022, a large-scale volcanic eruption struck Tonga, which triggered disasters such as tsunami and ash fallout. The Chinese government was highly concerned and acted immediately, making China the first country in the world to provide assistance to Tonga.
V. Agricultural and Fishery Cooperation
China has launched multiple agricultural technical assistance projects in countries such as PNG, Fiji, Tonga, Micronesia, and Samoa. It has helped PICs improve agricultural production capacity and food security through sending agricultural experts, building demonstration farms, training model farmers, promoting improved crop varieties, and providing technical support.
China has set up a Juncao technical demonstration center in Fiji, and provided Juncao technical assistance to Fiji and PNG.
Since 2009, the China-Pacific Island Countries Agriculture Cooperation Forum has been convened three times, effectively promoting agricultural policy exchanges and business interactions, and boosting economic and trade cooperation in farming, animal husbandry and fishery between the two sides.
In 2019, the First China-Pacific Island Countries Agriculture Ministers Meeting was held in Fiji, which issued the Nadi Declaration of China and Pacific Island Countries on Agricultural Development, charting the course for practical agricultural cooperation in the new era.
In 2021, the First China-Pacific Island Countries Forum on Fishery Cooperation and Development was held in Guangzhou of China, which produced the Guangzhou Consensus of the First China-Pacific Island Countries Forum on Fishery Cooperation and Development, deepening fishery cooperation between the two sides.
VI. Cooperation in Education, Tourism and Culture
China has signed education cooperation MOUs with countries such as Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Kiribati.
China has provided government scholarships to PICs to support their young talents in coming to China for study. China has assisted in the construction of primary schools, secondary schools and universities in countries such as PNG, Samoa, Tonga, Micronesia and Vanuatu.
In response to voluntary applications of local universities, China has supported the establishment of Confucius Institutes or Confucius Classrooms in countries such as Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Vanuatu and Cook Islands. In 2021, China and Vanuatu signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Chinese Education Program in Primary and Secondary School in Vanuatu, marking the formal inclusion of Chinese language education in Vanuatu’s national education system.
The two sides have worked together actively to set up education institutes. In 2018, education ministries of China and Tonga signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Communication and Cooperation in Education to support the establishment of the Tonga College of Liaocheng University, which has helped Tonga cultivate high-level talents in applied science, and conducted joint research in marine science and PIC studies.
The year 2019 was China-Pacific Island Countries Tourism Year. From November 2019 to January 2020, cruise ships carrying more than 2,300 Chinese tourists departed from Tianjin and docked respectively at 10 PICs and regions including PNG,Vanuatu and Tonga.
Since 2005, China has provided free booths to the Pacific Tourism Organization (PTO) at the China International Travel Mart every year, invited heads of tourism departments of PTO member states to attend the event, and vigorously supported PICs in promoting their tourism resources in China.
More and more PICs have been made Chinese tourism destinations. So far, nine of the PICs having diplomatic ties with China, except Niue, have become destinations for outbound Chinese tourist groups.
In December 2015, the China Cultural Center in Fiji was inaugurated, which has become the first Chinese cultural center in the Pacific Island region.
In recent years, China has sent art groups to hold performances, exhibitions, film screening, and teaching and training activities in PICs such as Fiji and Cook Islands. Flagship projects have been carried out, such as “Happy Spring Festival” , “Mid-Autumn Festival: A Moon-moment to Remember”, and “Chinese Culture Week”.
In February 2021, the Fiji Museum joined the International Alliance of Museums of the Silk Road, and became the Alliance’s first member in Oceania.
VII. People-to-People and Sub-national
Friendship and Cooperation
The friendly exchanges between women’s groups of China and PICs started from the 1990s. In October 2019, the Tongan Women’s Economic Capacity Building Workshop was held successfully in China. In May 2021, the All-China Women’s Federation held the China-Solomon Islands Video Dialogue on Women and Poverty Reduction.
China has also invited PIC women’s institutions and organizations to participate in events held in China, such as the Conference on Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Fourth World Women Conference, Forum on Women and Urban Development and Commemorating the 15th Anniversary of the Fourth World Women Conference, and International Forum on Women and Sustainable Development, in an effort to exchange experience in women’s development and promote gender equality and all-round development of women.
Since the 1990s, a variety of sports exchanges and cooperation have been carried out between China and PICs. International competitions such as the Beijing Olympic Games and the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games have seen the participation of athletes from PICs. The two sides have cooperated with each other in coach exchanges, sports equipment assistance, and athlete training.
In 2015, China and Fiji signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Sports Cooperation. In 2018, the PNG Training Center of China Table Tennis College was jointly established by the Chinese Table Tennis Association, Shanghai University of Sports, and China Table Tennis College, together with the government of PNG, PNG Olympic Committee and PNG Table Tennis Association.
The two sides have established 22 pairs of sister provinces/states and cities.
Recent years have witnessed a variety of exchanges and cooperation projects between Chinese provinces, such as Guangdong, Shandong, Fujian and Zhejiang, and PICs.
China and PICs are all developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Despite changes in the international landscape, the two sides have always been good friends treating each other with sincerity and mutual respect, good partners for common development and mutually beneficial cooperation, and good brothers of mutual understanding and mutual learning.
Amid global changes and a pandemic both unseen in a century, the world finds itself in a period of turbulence and transformation, with complex and daunting challenges to global economic growth, social development and security. In this context, the future of all countries is linked together like never before. China and PICs need, more than ever, to strengthen unity, overcome difficulties together, deepen cooperation, and jointly create the future.
Acting on the important consensus of our leaders, China stands ready to work with PICs to further promote high-level exchanges, cement political mutual trust, expand practical cooperation, and strengthen people-to-people ties, so as to build a closer China-Pacific Island Countries community with a shared future.