Author: Hu Zhenyu, Director, Department of Sustainable Development and Maritime Economy, CDI, Zhou Yuyi, Research Associate, Department of Sustainable Development and Maritime Economy, CDI
Editor’s Note: The Pacific Island countries are faced with significant environment pressure and pressing needs for development at present. While growth in global trade has slowed down, development in trading between China and the Pacific Island countries has developed rapidly. Thus, China should strengthen research on the Pacific Island countries so as to promote extensive, efficient and pragmatic collaborations with them.
The Pacific Islands, including 27 nations and regions in the Pacific Ocean except Australia and New Zealand, is a part of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Affected by natural disasters and increasing temperature, the Pacific Islands are exposed to significant environmental pressure and pressing needs for development. China's proposal of establishing a “community of human shared destiny” is well-received by the island nations.
Due to disparity in resources, uneven developments exist among the Pacific Island countries. Although Papua New Guinea holds comparative advantages in territory size, total economic output and natural resources, its GDP per capita remains at a relatively low level due to outdated technology and equipment. With an abundance of tourism resources and accessible transportation, Fiji has emerged as a key tourism spot in the Pacific. Other island countries such as Niue, Cook Islands and Palau also post GDP per capita above USD 10,000.
Though growth in global trade is currently bogged down in a slump, trading between China and the Pacific Islands has shifted into high gear, with total volume of import and export surging from USD 4.3 billion to USD 7.5 billion, a jump of 73% and an annual growth rate of approximately 15%. Main exports goods to the island countries include machineries, electronics, automobiles, ships and light industrial products, while items imported to China from the Pacific Islands are comprised mainly of fish products and natural resources.
China's primary trade partners in the Pacific Islands region are Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. In 2015, trade volume between China and the three major Pacific trading partners amounted to USD 6.7 billion, accounting for over 90% of trade between China and all Pacific Islands.
In addition, due to Fiji's strategic importance, its trade relations with China has blossomed and Fiji is now China's number four trade partner in the Pacific Islands region. Since the proposing of the Maritime Silk Road concept, economic and trade development between China and the Pacific Islands has been climbing by leaps and bounds.
Yet, obstacles are in the way of deeper cooperation between China and the Pacific Islands. It would be necessary for China to conduct further research on the politics, economy and culture of the Pacific Island countries, so as to promote extensive, efficient and pragmatic collaborations with them.