By H. E. Wang Baodong, Chinese Ambassador to the Kingdom of Tonga
November 2 is the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Kingdom of Tonga. It is of great significance to jointly celebrate this historic day.
There is a line from a Chinese poem, “Distance cannot separate true friends who feel so close even when they are thousands of miles apart”. Although China and Tonga are separated by vast oceans, the friendly interaction between our peoples has a long history. At the end of last century, His Late Majesty King Tupou IV put forward the diplomatic policy of “looking east” for the long-term development of Tonga and made the right decision to sever ties with the Taiwan authorities. On October 26, 1998, His Majesty King Tupou VI, who was then Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence of Tonga visited China, and on behalf of the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga, signed the Joint Communique on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations with his counterpart in the Chinese Government. According to the Communique, the two countries mutually recognize each other and establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level from November 2, 1998; the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga solemnly recognizes that there is but one China in the world, the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government that represents the whole China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part the Chinese territory. The realization of diplomatic ties between China and Tonga is a major event of historic significance and is in the common interests of our two countries and two peoples, thus opening a brand new chapter in China-Tonga relations.
We are happy to see that since the normalization of diplomatic ties, with the care of our state leaders and concerted efforts on both sides, China-Tonga relations have made great progress.
Over the 20 years, we have kept close contacts at different governmental levels. Every year, important official delegations from the two governments and two legislatures would have mutual visits and exchange views on bilateral cooperation. In particular, at the invitation of the Chinese President Xi Jinping, His Majesty King Tupou VI paid a successful visit to China in March this year. The two Heads of State reached important consensus on pushing for new and greater achievements in the development of the China-Tonga Strategic Partnership of mutual respect and common development, which chartered the course for future development of bilateral relations. The two sides also issued a Joint Press Communique outlining plans for enhanced exchanges and collaboration in various fields.
Over the 20 years, we have strengthened our mutual political trust. China and Tonga have always understood and supported each other on matters related to each others’ core interests and serious concerns. We have been upholding the principle of non-interference in each others’ internal affairs and indeed become good friends and partners. China firmly supports Tonga in maintaining its national independence, safeguarding national sovereignty and exploring development path that suits Tonga’s conditions. The Royal Family, consecutive governments and parliaments of Tonga have always followed the friendly policy towards China, by strictly abiding by the One China principle and avoiding any contacts with the Taiwan authorities, of which China is highly appreciative.
Over the 20 years, our mutually beneficial cooperation have been deepening. In the area of governmental development cooperation, at the request of Tonga and according to its national development need, China has been providing development assistance to Tonga without any political conditions attached. So far, China has implemented 8 phases of Agricultural and Technical Cooperation Projects, helped Tonga build the Conference Center, roads and bridge, school houses, health centers and other infrastructure facilities, aided in the reconstruction of CBD of Nuku’alofa. We are very pleased to see that the St. George Government Building commissioned last year operates very well. We look forward to the Tonga High School Sports Facility Project and the Wind-Power Project starting construction at an early date. In the area of commercial cooperation, the solar power project invested by a private Chinese company was connected to the grid last year and is contributing to Tonga’s clean energy strategy while other Chinese investors are engaged in sea farming. China welcomes Tonga’s active participation in the upcoming First International Import Expo to be held in Shanghai in a couple of days. We believe that taking this opportunity, Tonga will not only increase its export of squash to China, but also export more other featured produces to China.
Over the 20 years, our people-to-people exchanges have kept expanding. In 2016, China and Tonga signed agreement on mutual visa exemption for the holders of diplomatic, service and ordinary passports, which has greatly facilitated bilateral personnel exchanges. In the area of education and personnel training, China has provided about 250 government scholarships to Tonga and offered various training courses for over 900 Tongan people. Our two countries have sent cultural groups for mutual visits many times and increased understanding of each others’ unique cultures. The Tong-China Friendship Association and Tonga-China Students Alumni Association have also become important bond for the non-governmental contacts. At the local-level exchanges, China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Vava’u Islands of Tonga have established friendly relationship, and we are looking forward to the early approval of the friendly relationship between Dongguan City of Guangdong Province and Ha’apai Islands. As a matter fact, Guangdong Province as one of the most developed provinces of China, has provided a big amount of assistance for the construction of infrastructure and improvement of people’s livelihood of Tonga.
Over the 20 years, we have conducted close collaboration in the international affairs. Both being developing countries, China and Tonga share common positions on many major international and regional issues. We both oppose hegemonism, power politics and unilateralism. We are both committed to pushing for the building of a new type of international relations of win-win cooperation and a fair and equitable global governance system. In the affairs of the South Pacific region, as dialogue and cooperation partners, both countries are committed to promoting regional peace and stability, jointly meeting the challenges of climate change and natural disasters and safeguarding the marine ecology and security. China highly appreciates the Tongan Government’s supporting the concept of Building Community of Shared Future for Mankind put forward by President Xi Jinping, and sincerely welcomes Tonga’s participation in jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative. Rest assured this big platform will bring more opportunities to the national development of Tonga.
As a Chinese proverb goes, "A distant journey tests the strength of a horse and a long task proves the character of a man". After 20 years development, China-Tonga relations are standing at a new historic starting point. Recalling the past, we are proud of the fruits of bilateral cooperation; looking into the future, we are full of confidence in the prospect of our relations.
Keeping the next 20 years in mind, further strengthening the relations is the common wishes of our Governments and peoples. Taking the opportunity of the 20th anniversary, following the principle of mutual respect and treating each other as equals, the Chinese side looks forward to working with the Tongan side to continuously and actively implement the important consensus reached by the two Heads of State, and further enhance exchanges and cooperation in various fields. We will firmly push for the in-depth development of the China-Tonga Strategic Partnership, bring more benefits to our two peoples and jointly make greater contribution to the development and prosperity of the South Pacific region.