In November every year, the National budget usually takes center stage. But not this year. This week, the 2019 Budget came two days before the start of the biggest meetings of APEC. People were interested in it for a day, then it faded into the background.
Then BOOM… Enter China-US geopolitics…
On Thursday, President Xi Jingping, the most influential world leader in the Asia-Pacific arrived in Port Moresby with the largest delegation of officials. They came on two large planes and the festivities for his delegation demonstrated just how important China’s money is to the PNG Government.
World politics is being played out on Papua New Guinea soil. It already is, by the way. From the ASEAN meeting in Singapore, US Vice President, Mike Pence indicated he would be revealing how dangerous the Chinese One Belt One road Initiative is to the rest of the world including the Pacific.
This announcement comes on the back of a 60 billion US dollar funding (that’s about 200 billion kina) aimed at the Asia Pacific region. Also note that China has allocated the same amount to African countries for various projects including Infrastructure. Australia has announced its own funding initiatives for the Pacific of 7 billion kina.
In the Foreign Minister’s meeting, the US-China tension is already being felt as the US and China tussle over Free Trade and other issues.
On the ground in Port Moresby, there is a strong presence of US and Australian Military presence. From China, a strong trade presence and message about building relationships. From the outset, China appears to have all its moves planned out and is ticking off each item on its list of things to do.
At least for the Government, the attention from World Leaders is important. Maybe APEC is an opportunity. Maybe it is a double edged sword – with opportunity on the one side and debt on the other as has been the case in other countries like Sri Lanka.
What stands out is China’s willingness to engage. President Xi Jinping is here for four days. America’s Trump and Russia’s Putin both sent their number twos.
As US Vice President, Mike Pence, tweeted and jetted into Cairns, Xi Jinping met with Pacific Island Forum leaders and representatives in Port Moresby in the afternoon.