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Yearender: Ties between China and Oceanian countries enter new era following Chinese president's visits

By Xu Haijing (Xinhua)    10:40, December 19, 2014
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CANBERRA, Dec. 19 -- The development of relations between China and Oceanian countries have entered a new era after Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to this part of the world in November this year.

His visits to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, together with his attendance at the G20 summit in Brisbane and the meetings with some leaders of the Pacific Island countries in Nadi have been fruitful in promoting economic ties and political trust between China and those countries.

During his state visits to Australia and New Zealand, the Chinese president and the leaders of the two Oceanian countries agreed to upgrade their diplomatic ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

China and Australia also announced the practical conclusion of their negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA).

"It is a natural result for the two sides to jointly decide to elevate bilateral ties," Xi said during his talks with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

"The two sides should proceed from the new historic point to expand exchanges, strengthen dialogues, respect each other, forge ahead and deepen cooperation, thus bringing more benefits to peoples in both countries and contributing more to the peace and prosperity in the region and the whole world at large," Xi said.

For his part, Abbott said President Xi's visit bears historic significance and the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership between Australia and China marks a higher level of their bilateral relations.

The practical conclusion of bilateral FTA talks "is a big event worth celebrating in our trade and economic relations," Xi told Abbott.

Echoing the Chinese president, the Australian prime minister said the completion of the FTA negotiations is very exciting and displays the extensiveness and strong momentum of bilateral cooperation.

The FTA announcement was welcomed in Australia with strikingly warmth by all walks of life as Greg Sheridan, chief foreign affairs editor at The Australian newspaper, put it "The free trade agreement with China has the potential to be transformative for Australia. It locks the two nations much more closely together. "

Paul Kelly, The Australian's Editor-at-Large, was impressed by President Xi's speech at the Australian Parliament House.

"In his speech to the Australian parliament, President Xi Jinping has planted Australia with his dream for a renewed China while in practical terms the bilateral free trade agreement is unprecedented for both nations," he said.

It is a rare case in Australia that media with different backgrounds are in such a uniformity and are so positive on the Chinese leader and the China-Australia relations.

China and New Zealand also decided to lift the relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership which was announced after talks between visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key as well as a meeting between the Chinese president and Governor-General Jerry Mateparae.

In his talks with New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, the Chinese president said the two countries have built high-level political mutual trust and carried out mutually beneficial cooperation in a wide range of areas on the basis of mutual understanding, inclusiveness and equality.

The New Zealand's prime minister said his country is committed to working with China to consolidate the comprehensive strategic partnership, and will continue supporting China on issues regarding China's core interests and major concerns.

With a free-trade agreement signed with China in 2008, New Zealand, especially its dairy industry, has grabbed big opportunities in a huge market. It has been reported that the dairy industry in New Zealand has achieved a growth of five folds as a result of the China-New Zealand FTA.

Pat English, chief executive of the New Zealand China Council, said the relationship between New Zealand and China would deepen with the new comprehensive strategic partnership announced during Xi's state visit.

New Zealand Herald ran a commentary, saying that Xi's visit would bring huge benefit to New Zealand as more and more Chinese people would better learn about the South Pacific nation.

During his state visit to Fiji, the first in history by a Chinese president, Xi said China regards the country as a sincere friend and important partner in the Pacific island region.

Telling his Fijian counterpart Epeli Nailatikau, Xi said China firmly supports the Fijian people in independently choosing a development path that fits the national conditions of Fiji, stands behind Fiji's efforts in developing its economy and improving people's life, and backs its reasonable appeals in the international arena.

Nailatikau said Fiji regards the development of its relations with China as a cornerstone of its "Look North Policy," which is aimed at enriching the country's relations with Asia.

Pita Wise, permanent secretary of Fiji's Ministry of Strategic Planning, National Development and Statistics, told Xinhua that his country needs China very much.

"I think if we strengthen the partnership with China, it will be an advantage to Fiji in terms of investment, growth and prosperity, and that is very important."

Meanwhile, China and eight Pacific island countries also agreed to establish a strategic partnership featuring mutual respect and common development.

At a meeting with leaders of the eight Pacific island countries, which have established diplomatic ties with China since the 1970s, Xi expounded China's policy and measures to enhance relations with the island countries in a new era, stressing that China is a sincere friend and partner of those countries.

The leaders of the island countries said they all regard China as a sincere friend and partner as the Chinese side always respects and supports the island countries.

They also said China's policy and measures toward the island countries in the new era meeting their actual needs and will help the countries in their push for sustainable development.

Sandra Tarte, associate professor and director of politics and international affairs program of the University of the South Pacific, said that Xi's visit to Fiji and meetings with South Pacific island countries' leaders is obviously a significant milestone in the relationship.

Although they are geographically far apart, China and these countries, with sincere pledges and joint efforts, will surely witness more substantial results from the development of their relations in the future.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Du Mingming,Huang Jin)
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