For decades, Pacific Islands have welcomed all efforts by countries, including China, to improve wellbeing of people in the area. For those who perceive this as a geopolitical danger, we ask that they maintain their composure and pay close attention to what we actually need.
A shipping container from Papua New Guinea to China is filled with locals called Juncao (literally meaning fungi and grass), which grows up to the height of an adult and has roots that spread far into the soil. Their leaves may be used as feed additions to increase animal immunity and have therapeutic value, and when their roots decay and compost, they can be a significant source of fertility for the soil. Of course, the most crucial factor is that they could be sold at a fair price. Vilimaina Nokonokosere, a 14-year-old Fijian girl, first appeared to have made her fortune by growing Juncao as a hobby, but after only a short while of nurturing, the girl ultimately sold them for $15 per kg, proudly informing her mother that she won’t have to worry about her school expenses anymore. Additionally, she could use the additional cash to purchase school essentials like school bags, shoes, and uniforms.
This little girl’s story is only one from many in the South Pacific Islands. Since China’s first foreign aid demonstration base for the Juncao technology was established in Papua New Guinea in 2001, Juncao has advanced to the point where it is now an important economic crop in the South Pacific islands, combining economic, ecological, and social benefits to create a positive feedback loop. Locals strongly commend Juncao for giving them hope, providing them with a reliable source of income, and assisting them in raising their level of living. The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape, once told the media that “Juncao technology has brought tangible benefits to local people in terms of farming innovation, poverty alleviation and food security, and that Juncao is our magic grass to get out of poverty and get rich”.
Something magic is also happening in Fiji. Two bridges which had previously been stalled after six years of stagnation lacking repair and causing endless access problems for locals were finally opened. Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama was feeling proud when he attended the ribbon cutting of the Stinson Parade Bridge and Vatuwaqa Bridge in the capital in February 2018. He warmly praised the generous grants from China and considered it a victory for all Fijians. ” These developments recognise our growth to date and set us up for even greater achievements in the years to come,” The Prime Minister stated to his people.
China has expanded its exchanges and cooperation with several South Pacific island nations, including Fiji, since the establishment of diplomatic ties in the 1970s. China has implemented more than 100 aid projects, including the construction of Independence Avenue in Papua New Guinea, the Malakula Island Highway in Vanuatu, the renovation of Tonga’s National Highway, and the Pohnpei Highway in Micronesia. China’s aid has proliferated throughout the island nations of the South Pacific, only to be met with cynicism from outsiders.
In response to pressure from China, Australia, the self-styled leader of the Pacific island countries, has felt unheard-of pressure to portray the recent police security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands as a major diplomatic setback and the newly appointed Pacific Minister in Canberra has said that Australia will establish a defence school to train Pacific island troops in response to the presure from China.
Furthermore, The Partners in Blue Pacific (PBP) initiative was launched in July by the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Japan in response to Chinese influence in the Pacific islands. Other than Australia and New Zealand, no other Pacific island countries are a part of this initiative, which abviously targets China and attempts to turn the South Pacific as a new ideological and geopolitical battleground.
And in September, the US Institute of Peace released a report titled “China’s Influence on the Free Associated States (FAS) of the North Pacific” explicitly states that “China’s growing influence in the Pacific islands poses a challenge to US interests” and advises the US government to “be sensitive to the region’s involvement in great power competition and coordinate with the FAS government to push back against China’s efforts to increase its influence.”
In Fiji, there is a proverb that says: E sega ni vuka na kaka me biu toka na buina, literally, it means the parrot will not fly leaving its tail in its nest, implying that people need to remember the things that really matter.
Global warming, with all of its attendant natural hazards it brings, is a life-or-death situation for the islands of the South Pacific. In a large portion of the South Pacific, sea surface temperatures are currently increasing at a rate that is more than three times the world average. Tuvalu’s land area decreased by 3% as a result of a rise in sea level of 12 centimeters during the course of 24 years, from 1993 to 2017. By the middle of the century, it is anticipated that the average sea level along the coastlines of Pacific island nations will have risen by 25 cm to 58 cm. Every 2.5 cm of sea level rise will result in the loss of 2.5 m of coastline, and a rise of 25 cm will result in the eradication of many island nations like Luwatu in just two generations.
Additionally, as a result of global warming, extreme climatic anomalies will become more frequent and intense. These changes will have a disastrous effect on island infrastructure, freshwater supplies, agriculture, and the ecosystems of coral reefs, which support diversity of marine life. In March 2015, Vanuatu was slammed by the powerful tropical storm Pam, which left 50% of the country’s population homeless, damaged 95% of the nation’s crops, and in the worst provinces, up to 90% of shelters were destroyed, putting huge number of people’s lives and property at great risk.
With the exception of Australia and New Zealand, the island countries of the South Pacific contribute only 0.03% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, yet they bear the greatest share of the consequences of global warming. The burden of planning for energy efficiency and emissions reduction should fall mostly on industrialized nations because they produce more carbon dioxide per capita than any other region. However, the reality is that reducing carbon emissions is vital, but expensive.
In June, The EU Parliament finally rejected plans to modify the carbon market (ETS, emissions trading system), a program at the core of the EU’s carbon emissions that would have enabled countries to buy carbon dioxide emission credits, in a pivotal session in June following vigorous arguments. The US Supreme Court also restricted the US Environmental Protection Agency from using the “Clean Air Act of 1970” to set state-level supervision on carbon emissions in a landmark case on June 30. This decision, which markets perceive as severely restricting the federal government’s ability to combat climate change, was made by a 6-3 vote.
High CPI has caused major European countries to take a significant step backwards on carbon emissions as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues. In recent months, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, France, and other European countries have announced that they are restarting coal-fired power generation or delaying the process of retiring coal. On August 22, the Danish capital, Copenhagen, admitted that it had given up on its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025..
China, by contrast, has established a reputation as a trustworthy global participant in the battle against climate change. At the 75th UN General Assembly in September 2020, President Xi told the world that China will reach its “Twin Carbon Goals” of reaching the “carbon peak” by 2030 and being “carbon neutral” by 2060. The Communist Party of China (CPC), which is currently in session for its 20th National Congress, emphasized that China will adhere to the “Chinese Path to Modernization” , and continue to uphold the Community of Shared Future for Mankind as a fundamental principle of its participation in global governance. The CPC will continue to fulfill its prior commitments to the world in terms of reducing carbon emissions. And China, as the world’s largest developing country, will take practical action to uphold the values universally shared by all mankind, pursue a win-win cooperation. China’s actions are encouraging and inspiring, especially in an era when the world is pervaded by gloom and doubt about carbon neutrality.
In 1936, Margaret Mitchell wrote in ‘Gone with the Wind’: ” Land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.” Mitchell’s statement, which still holds true for the South Pacific islands nearly 90 years later, but the words should actually be reversed, despite the fact that land is no longer the only thing that lasts due to global warming and rising sea levels, land is still the only thing that is worth working for, fighting for, and sacrificing for, and before it is truly lost, geopolitics, ideology, political correctness seem so irrelevant. When someone uses them to hype regional threats and ignore the real issues of survival and development of the island people, We must once more urgently scream out, “E sega ni vuka na kaka me biu toka na buina” (Remember what really matters!)