SUVA — Scholars and officials from China and Oceania gathered in the Samoan capital of Apia on Feb 25, participating in a symposium to discuss China’s evolving role in the Pacific region.
Co-organized by the Center for Oceania Studies at China’s Sun Yat-sen University, the National University of Samoa and New Zealand Contemporary China Research Center at Victoria University of Wellington, the three-day conference, themed “China and the Pacific: The view from Oceania,” is expected to take a multidisciplinary approach to examining Pacific islands perspectives on China’s evolving relations with countries in the region, primarily Polynesia and Melanesia.
Li Yanduan, Chinese ambassador to Samoa underscored China’s constructive role in the Pacific region while delivering her welcoming speech at the opening of the conference.
“Pacific island countries are an integral and important part of the developing world, which China, as a developing country itself, always attaches great importance to ... Although China and PICs (Pacific island countries) are far apart geographically, both peoples enjoy natural intimacy and time-honored friendly exchanges, “ Li said.
The conference is the first one where a leading Chinese university has joined with universities in New Zealand and the Pacific islands to discuss China’s role in the region, according to Prof. Yu Changsen, executive deputy director of the Center for Oceania Studies at Sun Yat-sen University.
“The holding of this conference is undoubtedly in the context of the development of relations between China and Pacific island countries by leaps and bounds,” Prof. Yu told Xinhua in a telephone interview on the sidelines of the conference.
“The conference will look at issues relating to the contribution of the Chinese government to the people of the Pacific, their role in development and how they are understood by the Pacific countries, New Zealand, Australia and the smaller island countries,” Prof. Fui Le’apai Tu’ua Ilaoa Asofou So’o, vice chancellor and president of the National University of Samoa said ahead of the conference, adding that “relationship will be the main conversation.”
Talking about the National University of Samoa’s Marine Campus, currently under construction and funded by the Chinese government, Prof. Asofou So’o said: “It took us a while to identify some development partners to help with construction until China came to our assistance. This (campus) comprises of the marine training school and marine research arm of the Faculty of Science ... Once it’s completed, then we are able to relocate programs, so a big thank you to the government of China.”
Officially launched on May 4, 2012 by Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, the Center for Oceania Studies’ primary areas of research include political and legal systems in Oceanian countries, economic development of Oceania, external relations of Oceanian countries, as well as society, history and culture of Oceania.
Founded in 1984, the National University of Samoa offers a wide range of programs such as arts, science, business and entrepreneurship, education, and medicine.
The New Zealand Contemporary China Research Center is the country’s national center to promote knowledge and understanding of contemporary China through support for research including collaborative research, lectures, seminars, conferences, visitor exchanges and information sharing.