By H.E. Cao Xiaolin, Chinese Ambassador to Tonga
Chinese community displays products at the Royal Agricultural Show
The Tongatapu Royal Agricultural, Fisheries, Tourism & Trade Show 2023 (RAFTT) will be held on Saturday, 10 June. The Chinese agriculture experts team, the Chinese companies in Tonga and some other Chinese businessmen will display their products at the Show. This will be a good opportunity to see some of the outcomes of the fruitful cooperation between China and Tonga in agriculture, fisheries and trade, and to think and plan how we can expand the mutually beneficial cooperation to more fields for common development.
Common development is one of the goals for promoting the comprehensive and strategic partnership between China and Tonga, and is also an understanding reached between President Xi Jinping and His Majesty King Tupou VI. In the phone conversation between the two heads of state on 24th September 2021, President Xi said that China would continue to provide economic and technical assistance to Tonga, to carry out agricultural and technical cooperation projects, and provide necessary assistance for Tongan agricultural and fishery products’ entry into the Chinese market. Now, we are happy to see that noticeable progress has be made in cooperation in these areas over the past years.
What China and Tonga can do for common development?
Agriculture, one of the pillar sectors of Tonga’s economy, has been an important field in cooperation between China and Tonga, as there are similarities in agricultural development in both countries. Over the past decade, China has sent 85 agricultural experts to Tonga. They have provided 170,000 vegetable seedlings and 100,000 chicks to the Tongan people, and imparted knowledge on dragon fruit cultivation, pig breeding, egg hatching and mushroom planting. Furthermore, the Chinese agricultural experts have partnered with Tongan colleges to teach students agronomy courses that integrate both theories and practices. Looking ahead, China will continue to introduce new varieties of vegetables, fruits, poultry and advanced agriculture technologies to assist Tonga in reducing its reliance on imported goods and achieving food security.
Aquaculture is a field with a big potential to be tapped for achieving sustainable development. The farming of sea cucumbers is a good example of cooperation between China and Tonga. Sea cucumber is a delicacy in both the Pacific region and China for hundreds of years. In 2018, the Tongan government approved a 15-year cooperation agreement on farming of sea cucumbers between Vast Ocean Aquaculture Company (VOAC) of China and the Ministry of Fisheries of Tonga. After relentless joint efforts, the scientists and technicians from VOAC and the Ministry of Fisheries have successfully realized a mass production of golden sandfish sea cucumbers from research hatchery. It is the first scientific breakthrough in farming sea cucumbers in the Pacific island region. Their early harvests of sea cucumbers have been exported and sold well in Hong Kong, China. This collaboration not only demonstrates that Tongan farmers and businessmen can benefit from the increasing demand of Chinese market, but also makes a significant contribution to environmental conservation through the restoration of marine ecosystems and the protection of sea cucumber populations in Tonga.
Processing industry is an effective way to increase the added value of primary products. Chinese entrepreneurs in Tonga have also pioneered in various fields. They established tobacco production, fruit juice processing, sausage processing, bubble tea and water bottling factories and shops. Their investments have created job opportunities, broadened the tax base and contributed to economic growth.
China has extended an invitation to Tonga to showcase its products at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai in November this year. The Expo will provide a good platform for the Tongan businessmen to access and explore the vast Chinese market.
Further cooperation for more tangible benefits
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Tonga since 1998. From the beginning of this year, there have been many exchanges of visits between China and Tonga, and people-to-people contacts have been increasing. Some China-aid projects are underway. The construction work of the Tonga High School Sports Complex has been going on very smoothly. The wind power farm project will start any time once the construction condition is ready. This wind power farm will boost the renewable energy supply in Tonga. In short words, our good relationship over the past 25 years has laid a solid basis for future cooperation with broader prospects in various fields.
As the largest developing country in the world, China has experienced miracles of long-term rapid economic development and social stability in the past decades, and historically eliminated absolute poverty. Now China is striding on the road of Chinese modernization to build a great modern socialist country in all respects. Chinese modernization will create more development opportunities for many countries, including Tonga. President Xi Jinping put forth the Global Development Initiative (GDI) in 2021. Under the GDI, China will take pragmatic steps to give continued support to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and is ready to share the Chinese approach and Chinese opportunity to help address the development challenges and achieve sustainable development in developing countries.
As an ancient Chinese adage goes, “with one heart and one mind, we can accomplish everything we aspire for.” Looking into the future, we are confident that the practical cooperation between China and Tonga will yield greater outcomes and bring more tangible benefits to both countries and the people.