China-Vanuatu relations are a model of mutual respect, solidarity and coordination: Chinese Ambassador

Zhou Haicheng, Chinese Ambassador to Vanuatu Photo: Courtesy of Chinese Embassy to Vanuatu

Editor’s note:
China and Vanuatu have achieved common development over the past 40 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1982. In 2019, the two countries signed a cooperation plan under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). proposed by China. Over the past few years, the two have signed more than 10 cooperation documents in the fields of fisheries, maritime affairs, science and technology, civil air transport, trade and cooperation in infrastructure and police, striving to promote practical exchanges and cooperation in a comprehensive manner.

World time (GT) recently conducted an interview with Zhou Haicheng (Zhou), the Chinese Ambassador to Vanuatu, to discuss the resilience of the bilateral relationship, the fruitful results of bilateral cooperation and future cooperation, such as the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the blue economy.

GT: 40 years have passed since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Vanuatu. How would you describe the development of bilateral relations over these 40 years?

Zhou: On March 26, Chinese President Xi Jinping exchanged congratulatory messages with President Tallis Obed Moses of the Republic of Vanuatu to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Vanuatu.

In his message, President Xi made specific remarks on the development of China-Vanuatu relations over the past 40 years.

President Xi stressed that bilateral relations have withstood the tests of the changing international landscape, political mutual trust has been deepening, and bilateral exchanges and cooperation in various fields have yielded fruitful results, bringing tangible benefits to both peoples. China and Vanuatu have helped each other and fought side by side against the COVID-19 pandemic, which has deepened the friendship between the two countries. China-Vanuatu relations have become a model of mutual respect, solidarity and coordination among developing countries.

In the future, we will take the China-Vanuatu comprehensive strategic partnership to a new level and bring more benefits to our two countries and peoples.

The seaside resort of Vanuatu Photo: VCG

GT: If you had three key words to describe your impression and the characteristics of Vanuatu, which three words would you choose?

Zhou: Distant, mysterious and beautiful.

I think the first word to describe is distant. Vanuatu lies in the southwest corner of the South Pacific Ocean. There are no direct flights between China and Vanuatu yet. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, it took at least 13 hours to get back to Beijing from Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, via Australia, not including connecting time.

The second word is mysterious. Vanuatu is home to nine of the 45 active volcanoes in the entire South Pacific region. The Pacific Ring of Fire has created many rare natural wonders in Vanuatu and also brought many natural disasters such as tsunamis and hurricanes to the local people. These disasters have also raised a strong awareness in Vanuatuan about climate change and environmental protection.

The third word is beautiful. The rich, changing and mysterious natural environment has made Vanuatu a famous tourist destination in the South Pacific region and known as a photographer’s paradise. The world’s only “underwater post office” sits at the bottom of the ocean off Hideaway Island.

With an average annual temperature of 25°C, Vanuatu’s pleasant climate produces abundant crops such as cocoa, coffee and coconut. These continue to attract tourists and investors from around the world. In recent years, as China has opened up more to the outside world, more and more Vanuatu products have entered the Chinese market.

GT: BRI projects are developing in Vanuatu. What do these projects mean for the lives of local people? How do they evaluate these projects?

Zhou: The BRI was born in China, but its opportunities and results belong to the world. Vanuatu is one of the first Pacific Island Countries (PICs) to join the BRI. In 2019, the two countries officially signed the Belt and Road Cooperation Plan, crafting a beautiful all-round practical cooperation plan between China and Vanuatu.

China and Vanuatu are increasingly intertwined in a community of shared destiny. And the BRI has brought tangible benefits to Vanuatu.

Chinese construction projects, such as the Parliament Building, the National Stadium and the Malakula Island Highway, can be seen all over Vanuatu. They have become flagship projects in Vanuatu and even throughout the Pacific Islands region. These infrastructure projects have significantly boosted the economic development of rural areas in Vanuatu.

BRI projects have also significantly improved the standard of living of the people of Vanuatu.

The China-built Tanna Rural Roads and Malekula Ring Road Rehabilitation Project has succeeded in linking villages and local communities and has been hailed as a ‘road of hope’ and a ‘road to the future’ by the local population.

The Malapoa College expansion project has created better conditions for local school-aged youth to attend school and is hailed as a “beacon of hope” by locals.

In addition, the China-Vanuatu Joint Venture Fisheries Processing Plant was commissioned in 2019, which directly rewrote the history of Vanuatu’s fisheries development, making Vanuatu’s tuna export a reality and creating more jobs and income for Vanuatuans. The processing plant also sells a variety of fish products to local people. The products are very popular among the locals for cheap price and good quality and have become popular sellers in the capital – Port Vila.

Through the BRI, China welcomes Vanuatu aboard China’s development high-speed train.

For four consecutive years, China has invited the government and enterprises of Vanuatu to participate in the China International Import Expo, providing a platform and an opportunity for Vanuatu to showcase its special agricultural and secondary products and resources. tourism, which would help Vanuatu better integrate into the world. supply chain, industrial chain and value chain.

The joint construction of the BRI has been proven to serve the common interests of China and Pacific island countries, including Vanuatu, by providing new opportunities and paving a new path for China-Vanuatu cooperation.

China will continue to support Vanuatu’s national development and sustainable development, encourage competent Chinese enterprises to invest and do business in Vanuatu, and advance bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas, including trade and development. investment, infrastructure construction, transport, communications, agriculture and fisheries, tourism, culture, education and health, and climate change.

Efforts will be made to align the Global Development Initiative with Vanuatu 2030, the National Sustainable Development Plan for the period 2016-2030, and promote the sustainable, healthy and stable development of China-Vanuatu relations.

GT: What efforts has China made to cooperate with Vanuatu in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic?

Zhou: Vanuatu is much less densely populated than China. Vanuatu has an area of ​​12,200 square kilometers and a population of only around 300,000. In addition, Vanuatu is a tropical marine climate with strong ultraviolet rays, which can contain the spread of the epidemic to some extent.

However, it must be noted that Vanuatu has just graduated from the list of least developed countries in the world in December 2020. Its infrastructure is backward and its medical resources are seriously insufficient.

According to statistics, at the time of the global outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, there were less than 30 doctors, only more than 200 nurses, only two ventilators in Vanuatu. The number of medical masks and other protective materials was negligible, and there was no capacity for diagnosis, screening, prevention, control and treatment of the coronavirus.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China and Vanuatu have stood together and helped each other. At the height of the outbreak in China, Vanuatu overcame its own financial difficulties and provided 10 million vatu ($90,174) in cash assistance to China, becoming the first country in the Pacific Islands region to provide assistance to China on behalf of its government.

Later, when Vanuatu was at huge risk of an epidemic, China also quickly provided Vanuatu with funds and a large number of epidemic prevention supplies, including masks, protective suits, goggles, heat guns and ventilators, via charter flights, container shipping and international express shipping. delivery.

The supplies and funds have effectively helped Vanuatu improve its epidemic prevention and control capacity and safeguard the health and safety of the people of Vanuatu, which has been highly appreciated by the government and people of Vanuatu.

In June 2021, the first shipment of 20,000 COVID-19 vaccines donated by the Chinese government arrived in Port Vila. This was the first bilateral vaccination assistance for Vanuatu and is important for the implementation of a national vaccination programme. Our vaccine has been widely accepted by communities across Vanuatu, with Vanuatu Prime Minister Bob Loughman leading the vaccination campaign.

In November last year, at Vanuatu’s request, the Chinese government provided Vanuatu with an additional 80,000 doses of vaccine despite international transportation difficulties, further helping Vanuatu increase its national immunization coverage rate.

Currently, Vanuatu is experiencing an outbreak of community transmission and a growing number of infected people. The epidemic situation is extremely complex and serious. In addition, Vanuatu has been in a state of confinement for two years to fight against the epidemic. Tourism and other pillar industries in Vanuatu have suffered a devastating blow, economic recovery has been weak and people’s lives have become increasingly difficult.

At this critical time, China plans to continue to provide Vanuatu with vaccines, supplies, capital and human resources, and to vigorously support the government and people of Vanuatu in fighting the epidemic and developing the disease. ‘economy.

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