THE APRIL 14 visit to China by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare signifies one of the important bilateral relations PNG has with Great China by recognizing the “One China Policy”.
Somare’s trip is also significant given China’s huge investment in PNG.
On the political level, this trip is to build his reputation as the Father of the Nation after the most publicized Taiwan scandal.
Wide media publicity alleged that Somare involved in arranging a meeting for private lawyer Dr. Florian Gubon and National Alliance front man Timothy Bonga to negotiate PNG’s sovereignty with Taiwanese middlemen on a price tag of US$30 million.
Somare categorically denied the allegation even though Dr. Gubon told PNG through Post Courier that it was Somare who authorized the meeting with the Taiwanese foreign ministry officials in Taiwan in a trip funded by the Taiwanese themselves.
Reports have been conflicting and the cry from the people of PNG for an investigation into the scandal deems unlikely given Somare’s reputation of blocking any attempts to bring his alleged scandalous conducts in PNG politics to light.
Beijing does not care about PNG’s internal polity as long as Waigani recognizes “One China Policy”, which depicts Taiwan as part of China. That’s all China needs from Somare.
Somare in his meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao in Beijing earlier this week assured the people of China that PNG upholds “One China Policy”.
This clears the “black clouds” over Waigani that Somare who initiated this foreign policy stance in 1976 after PNG’s independence will not bow down on Taiwan’s dollar diplomacy, let alone Taiwan’s Trade Mission office in PNG that helps PNG in the agriculture sector.
But to win the trust of the Chinese people and to completely clear the guilt on every Papua New Guineans face, Somare should instigate an independent investigation into the Taiwan scandal to leave a good legacy after his political career.
This will complement well with his reputation building trip to Beijing and also strengthen PNG-China bilateral relationship in the long run.
PNG and China established their bilateral relationship during an interesting period. It was in 1976, one year after PNG gained independence in 1975 and two years before China’s economic reform and opening up in 1978.
Somare wasted no time to visit China in 1976 and today he is in a better position to tell PNG the tremendous changes China had experienced over three decades.
Somare would also know why his own country and the people still live in poverty, though abundant with natural resources with the democratic values imposed upon by Westerners.
The first trip in Oct 1976 established the foundation of the ongoing foreign policy of the two countries and healthy bilateral relationship enjoyed today.
Somare did not want to see PNG dependent on Australia which would be viewed as neo-colonialism and look for other alternatives where China after Mao died.
Somare arrived at the time the internal power struggle in China was completed and Hua Kuo-Feng who succeeded Mao was at the Peking airport to receive him.
The visit by Somare was to look into agriculture sector of China where PNG can learn from.
But China did not pay much change towards PNG in terms of foreign policy because China’s foreign policy reflects its domestic interest.
In other words, China’s foreign policy towards PNG was the same as it is to Africa, Latin America and other developing countries.
Somare knows this well as he is not new to regional and international politics, leave alone Waigani politics.
Born in 1936, Somare was elected a parliament member in 1968 where he led the Pangu Party founded in 1967.
He served as the chief minister of the self-government in 1973-1975, became PNG’s first prime minister from Sep 1975 to March 1980 and again prime minister from 1982 to 1985 and won the office a third time in 2002 before securing another term in August 2007.
He visited Beijing in Oct 1976 as prime minister and signed a communiqué on establishing diplomatic relations with China and later visited China as foreign affairs minister, opposition leader and prime minister in 1999, 2001 and 2004 respectively.
If Somare can look back over these periods and especially after 1978 following China’s economic reform, this scribe would applaud him for making a wise choice by recognizing the One China Policy.
This is particularly at the time where China is now a major player in all regional and international issues as depicted in the recent G20 Meeting and also its multilateral diplomacy on the foundation of collective approaches on issues of common interests, as opposed to post World War U.S. unilateralism.
Premier Wen when meeting Somare in Beijing as reported by state owned Xinhua , China stands ready to work closely with PNG given closer bilateral relationship between the two countries in various areas.
The Chinese government supports its competitive companies to invest in PNG and one such company that has tremendous positive impact on the lives of people today is Ramu NiCo.
This is a huge project with a total investment of approximately US$ 800 million and the first significant nickel-cobalt mining and smelting project, different to the conventional gold, copper and silver mining projects in the country.
The project is going to benefit PNG by increase tax revenue, foreign currency revenue, GDP and employment opportunities, as well as improving infrastructures in Madang Province, diversifying mineral products and adding value to the products.
Wen assured Somare that China stands ready to help PNG in its development and ask no more from PNG then recognizing the One China Policy.
Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Abal also flew from U.S.A. and met his counterpart Yang Jiechi in Beijing and assured him that PNG will always respect the One China Policy given the important relations between the two countries.
Yang told Abal that China pays close attention to PNG in every aspect of relationships and would like to continue into the future with the largest pacific island state abundant with natural resources.
Abal also presented a cheque worth $US531,300. to the Chinese Government on behalf of the Papua New Guinean Government to support post-quake reconstruction in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.
Since the establishment of the bilateral relationship, high level exchanges between the two countries have been overwhelming, signifying one of the best relationships since 1976.
In trade, China is PNG’s seventh largest trading partner. The total trade volume between PNG and China was around K700 million in 2007.
PNG exports to China were around K470 million and imports were around K230 million.
China is a country of tremendous potential in many aspects that PNG can benefit from, if Waigani sees Beijing as a development partner.
From economic booming that rescued many poor people to housing and transporting boom, including better health services and service industries, the Chinese people are truly proud of their country.
The remaining largest communist state after the collapse of former Soviet Union is able to provide what her people need.
Living in China for almost 16 months, this scribe admires the people, their leaders and importantly their kindness towards foreigners and their willingness to help in times of need, like on the state level where the Chinese government is ready to work with any governments, including PNG.
Somare’s first trip to China was in 1976 when he became the first prime minister.
If this week’s trip was his last as the prime minister in his political career to kowtow to the Middle Kingdom like those neighboring countries during the Ming Dynasty then this is a good gesture in the modern state period. A sign of courtesy, indeed.
Before Somare hangs his sulu and sandal and gives his blessing to the next leader, this scribe suggests that he drives into the minds of his loyal sons in Waigani the importance of China to PNG particularly in the “One China Policy” foreign policy stance.
Now, if this is the last trip to Beijing then Somare must do one final thing by asking Beijing to support Waigani’s pledge for membership in ASEAN Regional Forum.
This is an important forum where PNG should not be an observer but a full member.
And there is no better place to showcase its potential then the coming 2010 Shanghai World Expo in Shanghai next year.
PNG, as the largest pacific island state needs its own pavilion with a big space to showcase her thousand tribes and cultures to China, the region and the world.
PNG should not be treated like another little island state with few thousand populations. PNG is a country of diversity and honestly unique so she needs a bigger space at the Expo.