China’s generosity is often misunderstood.
That is the opinion of the Associate Minister of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi.
He was addressing questions from the Sunday Samoan about a common perception of the public that the Samoan Government concedes much of Samoa’s resources and commercial pathways to Chinese business interests in exchange for monetary gains.
“It is in the nature of the Chinese to be generous,” he said.
Lealailepule facilitated the visit of a delegation from Huizhou Municipality of Guangdong Province of the People’s Republic of China to Samoa College on Friday.
“We never ask them, it’s mostly their own generosity and how they would like to spend their own influence in the Pacific as a whole. It’s not just them because even New Zealand and Australia do the same thing."
“They want the world to know who they are and respect them for who they are and what they believe in with their own communist system and their own way of governing."
“We respect them for who they are and they respect us for who we are. That’s it. They don’t want to influence us on that level, they just want to help us, if we need help they’re friends and just to tell the world that we are here and we can help.”
Leala points out that an apparent shift in the balance of power within the international political economy is causing old western super powers to be worried.
“China is new in the world. It’s always been America and all the western countries. China is relatively new to the Pacific. So they are trying to make themselves known with their own ideology and their influence and for us to accept them for who they are."
“China is like that. They are trying to sell their own ways and thinking and at the same time they are helping a lot of small island states and I think the influence of China has made our old partners realise that they also have to do more.”
Leala points out that Samoa’s support of the One China Policy is the main cause of their generosity in funds and that they do not have ulterior motives.
“We support them too in other ways and the Government of Samoa supports the One China Policy. We are one of the first in the Pacific to make this friendship with china 30 years ago."
“That’s why the Chinese Government still has us on top of their friendship list because we recognise and accept them for who they are. There’s nothing major happening, they’re just helping us and we’re just being a friend.”
Leala believes it is mostly the Samoans abroad who are perpetuating the perception that Samoa is conceding too much to the Asian super power.
“That’s the general view of most people here, especially people like you from Australia and New Zealand looking in from western countries. They always think China is coming here now with a lot of influence and all of that. We don’t feel that, we just feel happy that they are able to help us in our time of need."
“We are not selling ourselves. If you look at the figures, Fiji and others receive more loans from China than Samoa does. So we’re doing alright.”