China may have made a new geopolitical foe due to its talks with Fiji: Australia.Last week China sent its top legislator, Wu Bangguo, to the tiny pacific nation of Fiji. During the trip, Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and Wu signed three economic pacts. According to reports from the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, the agreement included a 200 million Fiji dollar loan (around $114 million) for road construction.
Crucially, the trip appears to show not just economic support for the country, but also political support for Fiji’s government. From the Xinhua article about the trip:
China supports the Fiji people’s rights to choose the development path on their own and will continue to provide aid within its capacity to Fiji, said Wu.
Fiji has not been a functioning democracy for many years. The latest military coup in 2006 (one of many in the country’s history since independence) eventually installed Frank Bainimarama, the leader of the coup and head of the island’s armed forces, as the country’s interim Prime Minister. Due to a lack of democratically held elections, Fiji was suspended from both the Commonwealth of Nations and the Pacific Islands Forum in 2009.
Fiji’s neighbours — Australia and New Zealand — have regularly pushed for a return to democracy in the country and China’s political support for the country’s government has not gone unnoticed. The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday published an article called “China picks Fiji as venue for new geopolitical fight”.
Anne-Marie Brady, a specialist on China in the south Pacific at the University of Canterbury, told John Garnaut, the paper’s Beijing correspondent:
”It means Fiji is the political football in the geo-political contest between China and the US … It is very much like the cold war. It’s an insult to Australia and New Zealand and it’s also an insult to the Pacific Islands.”
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