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Pacific links: China’s “common interests”, bushfire relief, more

Links and stories from the Pacific Islands region.

A Chinese honour guard peeks through a curtain before a welcome ceremony for Micronesia's President David Panuelo at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in December (Photo: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)
A Chinese honour guard peeks through a curtain before a welcome ceremony for Micronesia's President David Panuelo at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in December (Photo: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)

  • China remains a hot topic of conversation across the Pacific. In Solomon Islands, the visiting Deputy Head of Mission of the Chinese Embassy in Port Moresby reiterated that China’s support to Solomon Islands for the 2023 Pacific Games is a grant, not a loan. This support includes funding for the construction of a new stadium to host sporting events, initially offered by Taiwan. To better understand the difference in the ways Taiwan and China do aid in the Pacific, have a read of Denghua Zhang’s piece.
  • China has also just added Kiribati to its list of approved tourist destinations. The announcement follows the President of Kiribati’s visit to China and specifically calls on Chinese tourists to travel to the archipelago on organised tours.
  • Meanwhile in Tonga, China’s ambassador Cao Xiaolin declared that “China speaks for Tonga and other developing countries [at the UN] with a view to safeguarding our common interests”. The statement prompted plenty of questions from the Tongan population.
  • While on Tonga, in explaining the benefits Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) has for the country, Stephen Howes and Beth Orton discuss what more the Australian government can do for its relationship with the Pacific to shift from aid to mutually beneficial economic opportunities.
  • Yet the SWP isn’t popular everywhere, with the Samoan private sector complaining it steals middle management and the semi-skilled workers in the Pacific.
  • Rochelle-Lee Bailey followed several of ni-Vanuatu seasonal workers throughout the fires that hit Australia, looking at how the disaster have affected their jobs.
  • Meanwhile, in Port Villa, the Vanuatu parliament has dissolved ahead of the March national elections, which marks also the beginning of a period for candidates to register for the ballot. It will be the first elections since a constitutional crisis of 2016, with Prime Minister Charlot Salwai having survived a full four-year term in office, something that only happened once in the last decade.
  • Pacific neighbours continue to support bushfire relief efforts in Australia, with the Office of the President of Palau and the Palau Red Cross Society making contributions as well as organising an emergency fundraiser. In Canberra, Abt Associates looks at the lessons learned from the Pacific reaction to the bushfires and what it means for Australia’s aid policy. Meanwhile, four of Australia’s leading international aid organisations have urged the Morrison government to take major climate change action amid the country’s bushfire crisis.
  • Far from Canberra, French Polynesia’s pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru explains how the smoke spreading above Tahiti from of Australia’s bushfires spreading is evidence that the fallout from French nuclear tests affected Pacific islands.
  • New Caledonia has struggled with its own bushfire crisis, with 2019 the worst year this century, with 676 fires that destroyed 29,000 hectares of vegetation.
  • The general secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea, Father Giorgio Licini, has been providing pastoral care to asylum seekers lock in PNG. He explains how sleep deprivation was used as a form of torture on the asylum seekers.
  • A new tax imposed by James Marape’s government on Papua New Guinea's forestry sector is judged to be an “economic disaster” by the local industry association.
  • In a ground-breaking asylum case, where a citizen and climate refugee of Kiribati was forced out of New Zealand, a UN human rights body has ruled that governments must take into account the human rights violations caused by the climate crisis when considering deportation of asylum seekers.
  • The 10th President of the Asian Development Bank, Masatsugu Asakawa assumed his office on Monday.
  • Indonesia has appointed one of its regional heads of mission to a new role as roving ambassador in the Pacific.
  • The University of Texas has a great cohort of students looking at climate security in Oceania, also writing many interesting blogs you should have a look at. Here is the link.

Pacific Research Program

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