Interview Series: Community with a Shared Future for Mankind
EP16: Former PNG Prime Minister expresses importance of China's continued role in infrastructural improvement and poverty alleviation in Pacific Islands
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one of the first Pacific Island Countries (PICs) to establish diplomatic relations with China. The two countries have maintained a cooperative relationship for almost 50 years. As President Xi Jinping have said, China and PNG, as good friends, good partners, and good brothers, have set a fine example of solidarity, collaboration and win-win cooperation between developing countries, and China will work with PNG towards a comprehensive strategic partnership at a higher level and with greater mutual benefit.
Peter O’Neill is a former PNG Prime Minister. During his term of office, the PNG government highly prioritized relations with China and gave solid support to the Chinese side on issues concerning China’s core interests. Today, we are very honored to have Mr. O’Neill with us to discuss topics on China-PNG relations and China’s contribution to improving the quality of life in PNG.
Q1: Mr. O’Neill, it is an honor to have you with us today. Let’s start the discussion on China’s relations with Papua New Guinea. As the two countries have maintained a cooperative relationship for almost 50 years, can you speak about the history of this relationship, and the common values that the two countries share?
Peter O’Neill: Papua New Guinea achieved independence in 1975, and one of the first engagements internationally was to establish a diplomatic relationship with China. And the values that we share are that we are a developing country, that we have a population that is rural-based, a population that was not well-educated, and infrastructure that was not able to meet the demands of our people.
So there are some common similarities between China and PNG. PNG being a smaller country, our reaction to these problems are very slow. China has been able to manage a better standard of living for its people over the last 40 or 50 years, and that is something we value in Papua New Guinea, the experience that we want to learn from and develop our own country. And China’s continued role in our country and in the Pacific is very much appreciated and encouraged.
Q2: Since you spoke about China’s role in Papua New Guide, can you speak about some Chinese projects in PNG? What is the importance of these projects to the people of PNG?
Peter O’Neill: Many of the projects include those in the telecommunications industry, in the energy industry, roads and bridges, and most of these are financed by many of the institutions of China. Those financial institutions like the EXIM Bank are very, very competitive and its concessional rates is helping us meet the firstly, the infrastructure that we need and the affordability.
So in PNG, many governments, including ours, have been encouraging us to engage more with the EXIM bank and other sources of financing in China. Because firstly, they’ve got good experience in China itself, building all these big roads and buildings, it’s something that we aspire to do. That’s the model I think, that can build infrastructure and improve the quality of life for our people.
Q3: Like you mentioned, many of the Chinese projects in PNG are infrastructure ones. How do you think improving infrastructure can help alleviate poverty in PNG?
Peter O’Neill: We’ve got telecommunications companies now improving our infrastructure. We got energy companies improving our supply of power and gas to our communities. We’ve got better health facilities because of better hospitals being built by China, better schools being built by China, so this is all contributing to alleviating poverty in any community. When you skill somebody properly and educate them well and healthy, (that) person becomes a very productive one. And they could contribute meaningfully to nation building. So a productive person will contribute more to nation building, and I think China is making those contributions quite well.
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