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China, Vanuatu embark on new journey together

By Marc Ati and Zhou Haicheng | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-03-22 09:12
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The People's Republic of China and the Republic of Vanuatu officially established diplomatic relations on March 26, 1982. Guided by a common vision and aspiration for common and resilient development that leaves no one behind, China-Vanuatu relations have matured through trials and hardships over the past 40 years and are a model for relations between China and Pacific island countries.

Over the past 40 years, China and Vanuatu have worked tirelessly and continuously to deepen political mutual trust and to enhance mutual development cooperation. This denotes respect for each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, the independent choosing of development pathways suited to respective national conditions, and mutual understanding and support on issues involving each other's core interests and concerns.

Vanuatu firmly abides by the one-China principle as an important pillar of its foreign policy and the cornerstone of China-Vanuatu relations. In 2018, President Xi Jinping and the leaders of Pacific island countries agreed to elevate their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership featuring mutual respect and common development, opening a new chapter for China-Vanuatu all-around cooperation.

In 2019, China and Vanuatu signed a cooperation plan within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative as the blueprint for wider and deeper practical cooperation in areas of common interest. In 2021, China and the foreign ministers of Pacific island countries jointly agreed on a mechanism for regular meetings, creating a pathway to closer collaboration and communication on policies.

To date, seven political parties in Vanuatu have established contact with the Communist Party of China. Ni-Vanuatu party leaders have actively participated in the CPC and World Political Parties Summit and the China-Pacific Island Countries Political Leadership Dialogue to strengthen party-to-party cooperation and enhance our people's livelihoods. Party-to-party exchanges have already become a key driving force and a distinctive feature of China-Vanuatu relations.

Over the past 40 years, China and Vanuatu have continuously expanded practical cooperation. In recent years, the two countries have signed more than 10 cooperation documents in fishery, maritime affairs, technology, civil aviation transportation, infrastructure and police exchanges and cooperation, making every effort to promote practical exchanges and cooperation across the board.

China has always spared no effort in providing assistance to Vanuatu with no political strings attached. The assistance has effectively boosted Vanuatu's development, improved people's livelihoods and widely won praise from all walks of life in Vanuatu. The Parliament Building, the Prime Minister's Office, the National Convention Center and Korman Stadium are milestones of the China-Vanuatu friendship. Hailed as the Roads of Hope by Ni-Vanuatu, the Tanna Road and Malekula Road connect communities and villages and promote Vanuatu's agriculture and tourism development.

The operation of Sino-Van Fisheries Ltd's fish processing plant, a joint venture between the Vanuatu government and a Chinese company, has opened a new chapter in the development of Vanuatu's fishing industry and enabled Vanuatu to export tuna, as well as support local demand.

To further promote Vanuatu's export of niche products to China and enrich economic cooperation, China invited the Vanuatu government and Vanuatu enterprises to participate in the China International Import Expo for four consecutive years, and extended the zero-tariff treatment for 98 percent of Vanuatu's taxed products.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Vanuatu stood shoulder to shoulder and helped each other in the true spirit of friendship and solidarity. China quickly responded to Vanuatu's request for assistance and provided medical supplies, including 100,000 doses of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines, giving firm support to Vanuatu's pandemic response. This cooperation also extended to support for nationals within respective borders during extended periods of lockdown, and respect for national COVID protocols, especially by Vanuatu students in China and Chinese nationals involved in development projects across Vanuatu.

Over the past 40 years, China and Vanuatu have continuously deepened people-to-people exchanges. Deemed as "the beacon of hope" in Vanuatu, and seen as the key to poverty alleviation in China, education is a high priority for both countries. China offers around 20 government scholarships and hundreds of training opportunities to Vanuatu every year, in an effort to support Vanuatu's human resources development and alleviate poverty.

Many Vanuatu graduates who studied in China have become the backbone of Vanuatu's development. Farmers with modern agricultural technology and young entrepreneurs have grown up through bilateral training programs. Meanwhile, the number of students from Vanuatu taking an interest in learning Chinese and studying in China continues to rise, and Chinese government scholarships have gained wider recognition.

In addition, since the 1980s, the Chinese government has sent over 200 Chinese doctors to Vanuatu, providing service through two resident medical teams. China also sent the hospital ship Peace Ark to Vanuatu and has dispatched medical teams from different provinces and cities to provide free medical services to the people of Vanuatu. All these have greatly promoted Vanuatu's health development.

The past 40 years of our relations show that the path jointly chosen by China and Vanuatu to develop bilateral relations is right. Over the past four decades, we have been good friends who treat each other with sincerity and mutual respect, good partners who work together for development and mutual benefits, and good brothers who understand and learn from each other. All these not only ensure the healthy and stable development of the China-Vanuatu comprehensive strategic partnership, but also vividly interpret the true meaning of a community with a shared future for mankind.

As developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region, China and Vanuatu highly value our independence, self-reliance and self-improvement, and are both striving to meet our people's aspirations for a better life.

China and Vanuatu enjoy huge cooperation potential in areas such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, public health, infrastructure, transportation, telecommunications, trade, finance, education, tourism, culture, maritime development, climate change response and sustainable development. As China further deepens reform and opens its door even wider, the nation with a population of 1.4 billion people and a middle-income group of 400 million people will surely offer more opportunities to Vanuatu in trade and development.

Standing at the peak of their 40-year history, China-Vanuatu relations will embark on a new journey in full sail. We are ready to deepen our friendship and cooperation with solidarity and sincerity. We will promote greater synergy between the Global Development Initiative and Vanuatu 2030: The People's Plan. We will further enhance friendly exchanges and practical cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and maintain closer communication and coordination on international affairs-together for a better future of China-Vanuatu relations.

Marc Ati is minister of foreign affairs, international cooperation and external trade of the Republic of Vanuatu. Zhou Haicheng is ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to the Republic of Vanuatu.

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