By Leanne Jorari – EMTV News, Suva, Fiji
China’s noticeably growing influence in the region in recent years, especially in substantial investments in infrastructure development, has been met with mixed feelings.
Some welcome the ‘visitors’ from the East and their investments, dubbing the move the ‘China alternative’, while many question their interest and motives in the region.
This new trend has seen a re-invigoration of commitments and investments into the Pacific from its traditional partners and neighbours, Australia and New Zealand. Most recently, Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announced his government’s decision to establish an Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific.
The move has been described as a counter-reaction to the ‘China alternative’ and a way to remain relevant in the Pacific.
Amidst geopolitical tensions, Pacific Island Forum leaders are embracing pacific solidarity like never before.
Opening this years Forum Economic Ministers Meeting, Nauru’s minister for Finance and Justice and FEMM 2019 chair; David Adeang, remarked that forum leaders aim to keep their eyes firmly fixed on the goal of deepening Pacific regionalism and working to achieve a resilient, sustainable and viable Blue Pacific.
The Blue Pacific narrative is a term used to highlight the importance of the Pacific taking ownership of its future. While each sovereign state has its own identity, priorities and challenges, they are all connected through the Pacific Ocean and share the same resources and identity as stewards of the Pacific Ocean.
Dr. Sandra Tarte, Politics and International Affairs expert from the University of the South Pacific, concurs with this sentiment.
While speaking to the media earlier this week, she advised that Pacific nations should always prioritise their interests.
“I think we have to protect our integrity as states. Our leaders have to be strong on that. But I think being very forthright about what’s in our interest. It is always going to be about our interest…be very aware what their agendas are.”
She added that China is here to stay and will not be going away and therefore, leaders have to find a way to work with China and the other partners.
“I think firstly China is not going away, so China is going to grow to be more powerful and more dominant in the global economy and our region. So a way has to be found to work with China and work and to work with our other partners as well.”