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China-Tonga cooperation strives for a common and sustainable development

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

By H.E. Cao Xiaolin, Chinese Ambassador to Tonga

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Tonga. Over the past quarter of a century, under the guidance of the leaders of both countries, and with the joint efforts of the Chinese people and the Tongan peoples, China-Tonga relations have maintained a good momentum of sound and stable development. The mutually beneficial cooperation has yielded fruitful results, bringing tangible benefits to the Tongan people and making positive contributions to regional peace and stability.

What we have achieved in bilateral cooperation?

Over the past 25 years, our economic and technical cooperation covers a wide range of fields, including infrastructure, agriculture, aquaculture, education, health, climate change, renewable energy, etc.. For examples, the business buildings in the downtown of Nuku’alofa, the schools in Tongatapu and Ha’apai, the government buildings, the roads built under the assistance from China, all have helped improve Tonga’s economic and social development.

It is worth mentioning that the cooperation in agriculture over the past 10 years has diversified the food supply with various new vegetables, tropical fruits, local pigs and poultry, thanks to the skills and technologies of the Chinese agricultural teams in both Tongatapu and Vava’u. The cooperation has created many jobs for the Tongan people and significantly improved their quality of daily life. This is a vivid example of sustainable development in agriculture, considering that some other countries went through a food crisis, while Tonga achieved food security even after the unprecedented Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai (HTHH) volcanic eruption and tsunami in January 2022.

In addition, Chinese entrepreneurs have increased their investments in Tonga in agriculture and fish farming, particularly in growing tobacco and raising sea cucumbers. These investments will help develop unique, quality and competitive Tongan products in overseas markets, and will create more jobs here for Tongan people. This has set a direction for mutually beneficial cooperation in the future.

2022 will go down in history as Tonga has become much stronger and more resilient after overcoming the natural disasters. China provided grant assistance to Tonga with emergency supplies, heavy machinery, custom inspection equipment, farm tractors, container rooms, HMAF music hall, etc. last year. China’s timely assistance has helped Tonga in its recovery and reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of HTHH volcanic eruption and tsunami.

Both China and Tonga are developing countries. China’s experiences may provide references for Tonga’s development. The cooperation between China and Tonga is unique and has the following characteristics: It is based on mutual respect without any strings attached. The purpose is to achieve common and sustainable development by helping each other. What China has done is based on the needs, proposals and consent of Tonga. This cooperation is in the fundamental and long-term interests of the Chinese people and the Tongan people.

What potentials we can tap for further cooperation?

Tonga has many advantages for development. At least, there are four “gold mines” for development: the fertile land, the vast marine resources, the beautiful tropical scenery and the high-quality labor. The challenge is how Tonga digs these gold mines and turn them into social and people’s wealth in a sustainable way. The future of the sustainable development of Tonga relies on exporting more Tongan agricultural, aquacultural and tourism products to overseas markets. 

China and Tonga share many similarities in development. The successful stories of the cooperation in agriculture and the other fields tell us that China’s development experiences may provide some ideas for Tonga to find an SOP for digging these four gold mines.

What we can do in the future?

China will carry out more economic and technical cooperation with Tonga based on friendly consultation. On the grant assistance from China, the Tonga High School sports complex, which is under construction, will be another landmark building in Nuku’alofa. The wind power project will install three sets of 750KW wind turbines with the planned capacity of 2.25 MW. This project will start once its land is legally confirmed and cleared. China will continue to provide more in-kind assistance in the years ahead as it did in the past years. In agricultural cooperation, the Chinese agricultural team will work with their Tongan colleagues to plant new coconut trees and will help more Tongan families to raise pigs and poultry, to grow more vegetables, mushrooms and tropical fruits.

There are many opportunities in cooperation between our two countries in economy, trade, small manufacturing industry, clean energy, tourism and some other fields to create more jobs, to improve people’s livelihood and to help Tonga become more resilient in responding to climate change under the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Development Initiative. To achieve these goals, we will invite delegations of government officials, representatives from both the public and private sectors to visit China to share experience on how farmers and entrepreneurs run their businesses. We welcome Tonga to promote its products at China International Import Expo in November this year to open up the Chinese markets. 

One of our efforts is to expand the model of our cooperation in agriculture to the small manufacturing sector for sustainable development. For this purpose, we will encourage more Chinese enterprises to invest in Tonga to help turn the primary agricultural products into manufactured goods so that Tongan products will be more competitive in overseas markets. In the end,our cooperation will help the Tongan families and businessmen raise more geese that lay golden eggs. More Tongan people would choose to stay in Tonga and work for Tonga instead of going to work in foreign countries. This will be a benign circle of economic development.


Matangi Tonga Online ref. #7213 Embassy of the People's Republic of China, 17-31 March 2023