What will Samoa, or the Pacific for that matter, do without China?
The presence of China’s Vice Premier, Hu Chunhua, in Samoa today speaks volumes about his country’s attitude towards the Pacific countries. That is they mean business and by coming all the way to these remote shores in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean; they care.
That much is undeniable.
Yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, the Government and the people Samoa rolled out the welcoming mat to greet the Chinese Vice Premier and his delegation.
Having been welcomed during an ava ceremony, Vice Premier Hu would have had the opportunity to meet some key people in Samoa last night during a dinner hosted by Samoa. There he would have also been given a taste of the Samoan culture and our warm hospitality, something we want more and more Chinese to come to experience.
Now although they are in Samoa primarily for the 3rd China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum, the visit in itself is a big win for this country.
With the exception of a visit by China’s President Xi Jinping to Fiji several years ago, for Samoa, this is a big moment. The mere fact that Apia was chosen as the venue for the 3rd China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum is testament of how China views Samoa as an important friend in this part of the world and a big influence in the region.
Indeed, it doesn’t get any bigger than this for our small country.
So we take this opportunity to extend a warm Samoan welcome to Vice Premier Hu, his delegation and all Government leaders who are in Samoa for the Forum.
Needless to say, China’s role in the development of the Pacific is critical. While its motives and the way they operate have raised many questions from other corners of the world, it’s undeniable that without China, Samoa and most Pacific countries would find the going a lot tougher.
The question is; what will the Pacific be without China?
Bringing it closer to home, on a bilateral level, Samoa and China share a very special bond. Historically, Samoa was one of the first Pacific island countries to establish diplomatic ties with China in 1975 and with 44 years of diplomatic ties between the two nations, there is much to celebrate.
Over the years we have seen an increase in the number of high-level visits between the two countries, deepening a mutual understanding of cultures, traditions and systems.
But that’s not all.
China’s contribution towards the development aspirations of Samoa’s education, health, sports and infrastructure has been enormous. All you need to do is look around Samoa to see how much China has injected into the development of this country.
One of the most important assistance, that’s perhaps not talked about enough, is in terms of agriculture. Since 2010, under the China Samoa Agricultural Technical Cooperation Project, the Chinese government has been sending Agricultural experts to Samoa to set up demonstration farms. As a result, more than 10 Agricultural stations have been established with the aim to transfer the technology and knowledge of vegetable production, pig-breeding and bio-gas utilization to local farmers. The fruits of this hard work was showcased during the recent Pacific Agriculture Week.
The agricultural assistance is critical because if you are talking about helping a country, you need to help the most vulnerable people. And in Samoa, many families and subsistent farmers can do with the help of Chinese experts in this area.
Tourism has been identified by the Samoan Government as the mainstay of its economy. And again, China has been at the forefront of efforts to drive the industry developments. Over the years, China has invited officials from Samoa to countless expos to enhance their knowledge and further the promotion of Samoa. The construction of the Faleolo Airport was a key part of this tourism development. We can go on and on but we will stop here.
Think of all the international meetings Samoa has hosted over the years, including the hugely successful Pacific Games held in Samoa recently. Would those have been possible without China’s assistance? We doubt it.
Which is why we believe that today is an opportunity for Samoa and all of us to acknowledge with gratitude China’s contribution to the development of Samoa. We simply cannot imagine what this country would be without such generosity.
Of course there are questions about China’s motives. These questions have been around for years and they will continue to be around after Vice Premier Hu and his delegation have long gone back to China.
But then that is the beauty of a democracy; it’s a free country where people have the freedom opinion and the opportunity to express themselves.
Welcome to Samoa once again Vice Premier Hu and your delegation. We hope you enjoy your stay. And thank you for the early Christmas gifts for Samoa – and the rest of the Pacific countries.
Have a wonderful Sunday Samoa, God bless!