China–Tonga relations

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Sino-Tongan relations
Map indicating locations of China and Tonga

China

Tonga

Tonga and China (PRC) established official diplomatic relations in 1998. The two countries maintain cordial diplomatic, economic and military relations.

Context[edit]

detailed article: Sino-Pacific relations

Oceania is, to the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan), a stage for continuous diplomatic competition. Eight states in Oceania recognise the PRC, and six recognise the ROC. These numbers fluctuate as Pacific Island nations re-evaluate their foreign policies, and occasionally shift diplomatic recognition between Beijing and Taipei. In keeping with the "One China" policy, it is not possible for any country to maintain official diplomatic relations with "both Chinas", and this "either/or" factor has resulted in the PRC and the ROC actively courting diplomatic favours from small Pacific nations.[1][2] In 2003, the People's Republic of China announced it intended to enhance its diplomatic ties with the Pacific Islands Forum, and increase the economic aid package it provided to that organisation. At the same time, PRC delegate Zhou Whenzhong added: "[T]he PIF should refrain from any exchanges of an official nature or dialogue partnership of any form with Taiwan".[3] In 2006, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced that the PRC would increase its economic cooperation with Pacific Island States. The PRC would provide more economic aid, abolish tariffs for exports from the Pacific's least developed countries, annul the debt of those countries, distribute free anti-malaria medicines, and provide training for two thousand Pacific Islander government officials and technical staff.[4] Also in 2006, Wen became the first Chinese premier to visit the Pacific islands, which the Taipei Times described as "a longtime diplomatic battleground for China and Taiwan". Similarly, according to Ron Crocombe, Professor of Pacific Studies at the University of the South Pacific, "There have been more Pacific Islands minister visits to China than to any other country".[5]

Situation of Chinese Tongans[edit]

There were approximately three or four thousand Chinese people living in Tonga in 2001, thus comprising 3 or 4% of the total Tongan population.[6] Chinese Tongans are Tonga's main ethnic minority group, and have been subjected to significant levels of racism, including racist violence, since the late 1990s.[7][8]

In 2000, noble Tu’ivakano of Nukunuku banned all Chinese stores from his Nukunuku District. This followed alleged complaints from other shopkeepers regarding competition from local Chinese.[9] In 2001, Tonga's Chinese community was hit by a wave of about a hundred racist assaults. The Tongan government decided not to renew the work permits of over 600 Chinese storekeepers, and admitted the decision was in response to “widespread anger at the growing presence of the storekeepers”.[10]

In 2006, rioters caused severe damage to shops owned by Chinese-Tongans in Nukuʻalofa.[1][11]

These events have had no noticeable negative impact on Sino-Tongan relations; in response to continued Chinese development assistance in 2011, Tongan Deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu spoke of the "warm relations between [our] two countries".[12]

Current relations[edit]

Tonga has consistently recognised the People's Republic of China since 1998.

In 2001, Tonga and the PRC announced their decision to strengthen their "military relations".[13] In 2008, the PRC provided Tonga with military supplies worth over €340,000.[14]

In the wake of riots in Nuku'alofa in 2006, China's Export-Import Bank gave Tonga a $118m loan at an interest rate of only 2% with payments now deferred until 2018. Much of it was used for construction, and paid to Chinese construction companies.[15]

In April 2008, Tongan King George Tupou V visited China, reaffirmed his country's adherence to the "One China" policy, and, according to the Chinese State news agency Xinhua, "supported the measures adopted to handle the incident in Lhasa".[16] King Tupou V also met Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie to "enhance exchange and cooperation between the two militaries". Xinhua stated that China and Tonga have "fruitful cooperation in politics, economy, trade, agriculture and education, and kept a sound coordination in regional and international affairs".[17]

In June 2009, Radio Australia reported that it had "obtained a document" sent from the Chinese embassy in Tonga to the Tongan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The embassy expressed concern about two Falun Gong members who were visiting Tonga to express their beliefs to Tongans. The Chinese authorities described them as "anti-China", and asked Tonga to take "immediate and appropriate actions" regarding a situation which might harm Sino-Tongan friendly relations. In another document Radio Australia stated it had obtained, Tonga's Secretary for Foreign Affairs instructed police and defence officials to help preserve "Tonga's good relations with China". Radio Australia reported that the two women had allegedly been questioned by Tongan immigration officials, as a result of the Chinese embassy's request.[18]

In 2013 China gave a 60 seat Xian MA-60 airplane to Tonga's airline Real Tonga. This caused some tension between Tonga and New Zealand, because tourism dropped after the New Zealand airline Air Chathams pulled out of Tonga in order not to face subsidized competition and the New Zealand government posted a travel advisory about the safety of MA-60 airplanes.[15][19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Pacific Proxy: China vs Taiwan", Graeme Dobell, ABC Radio Australia, February 7, 2007
  2. ^ Young, Audrey (October 19, 2007). "Chequebooks brought out at Pacific forum". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved November 2, 2011. 
  3. ^ "China announces initiatives to expand ties with PIF member countries", PRC embassy in Papua New Guinea, November 24, 2003
  4. ^ "China offers aid package to Pacific Islands", China Daily, April 5, 2006
  5. ^ "Chinese Premier Wen to visit the Pacific Islands", Taipei Times, April 3, 2006
  6. ^ "Editorial: Racist moves will rebound on Tonga". The New Zealand Herald. November 23, 2001. Retrieved November 2, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Tonga's Prince takes swipe at racism at home and abroad". The New Zealand Herald. June 26, 2000. Retrieved November 2, 2011. 
  8. ^ Paul Raffaele and Mathew Dearnaley (November 22, 2001). "Tonga to expel race-hate victims". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved November 2, 2011. 
  9. ^ "No More Chinese!", Tongatapu.net
  10. ^ "Tonga announces the expulsion of hundreds of Chinese immigrants", John Braddock, WSWS, December 18, 2001
  11. ^ "Chinese stores looted in Tonga riots", People's Daily, November 17, 2006
  12. ^ "Roads reconstructed with China loan", Taimi Media Network, March 15, 2011
  13. ^ "China, Tonga Vow to Further Military Ties", People's Daily, May 15, 2001
  14. ^ "Chinese Government Donates Military Supplies to TDS", Tonga Now, January 9, 2008
  15. ^ a b Perry, Nick (25 June 2014). "How China's gift of an aeroplane put Tonga, New Zealand at odds.". The Age (Fairfax). Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  16. ^ "Tonga supports China's stance on Taiwan, Tibet", Xinhua, April 10, 2008
  17. ^ "Chinese Defense Minister meets Tongan King", Xinhua, April 15, 2008
  18. ^ "Falun Gong members allegedly questioned in Tonga", Radio Australia, June 4, 2009
  19. ^ Arrow, Brendan (10 July 2013). "Tonga loses NZ aid over use of suspect Chinese aircraft". Australia News Network. Retrieved 25 June 2014.