National flags of China and the Solomon Islands Photo: VCG
At the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare kicked off his official visit to China on Sunday, which is expected to further strengthen cooperation with the world’s second-largest economy in the fields of agriculture, infrastructure construction as well as clean energy.
According to the Solomon Islands government, apart from high level engagements with the Chinese government, Sogavare and his delegation will meet a number of Chinese enterprises in Beijing and visit the provinces of East China’s Jiangsu and South China’s Guangdong.
This is Sogavare’s second visit to China in four years. One of the main purposes of the visit is to open the Solomon Islands Embassy in China. The Solomon Islands government hopes that with the opening of the embassy, cooperation between Solomon Islands and China will be further deepened.
Sogavare’s visit to China will provide new impetus for further growth of the bilateral relations, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson from China’s Foreign Ministry, said on Thursday’s routine press briefing.
Wang noted that China stands ready to work with the Solomon Islands and take this visit as an opportunity to deepen political mutual trust, expand practical cooperation and enhance cultural and people exchange, so as to bring the bilateral relations to a new level.
“With the recovery of the two countries in various fields from the COVID-19 pandemic, Sogavare’s visit to China has released positive signals for the relationship between the two countries, which will promote bilateral agricultural cooperation in addition to boosting people exchanges,” Sun Chang, a research assistant at the Institute of Southeast Asian and Oceanian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Sun noted that during the visit, the two countries will enhance technological cooperation in Juncao, which literally means “mushroom” and “grass,” and can be used to grow edible and medicinal mushrooms as a substrate substitute for timber.
Juncao is the most typical cooperative project between China and South Pacific countries. Its low cost and stable income are highly praised by local people, and it is also more suitable for the local climate, Sun added.
Juncao cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands has not been implemented yet, but a series of technical trainings and visits are underway, Lin Dongmei, deputy director of the China National Engineering Research Center of Juncao Technology under the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Lin said since the China-Pacific Island Countries Juncao Technology Demonstration Center was put into operation in Fiji in March this year, the research center is able to provide the region more services with regard to Juncao technology.
“In the future, the research center will enhance worker training, technology promotion, as well as facilitate more bilateral communication between universities in China and Solomon Islands,” Lin noted.
Infrastructure cooperation will also gain enhancement in the future. The need for infrastructure on islands outside the capital Honiara was urgent, Sogavare said in a speech to mark the 45th anniversary of independence from the UK on Friday.
China has been well-known for its advantages in technology, capital and talent in this field, and has contributed to local infrastructure connectivity. For instance, China handed over a training track and football field venue that will be used for the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands. The China-funded training track, constructed by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, is the Solomon Islands’ first international-standard modern track.
“The two countries can also cooperate in fisheries and forestry, and industries including clean energy, climate cooperation and the tourism sector also have some potential for development,” Sun noted.
China and the Solomon Islands established diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level in 2019, and they signed the inter-governmental framework agreement on security cooperation in 2022.
On May 15, 2023, a signing ceremony of establishing sister-province relationship between Guangdong Province and Guadalcanal Province of Solomon Islands was held in Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong.
Zhang Xin, Vice Governor of Guangdong, said that the province is willing to further strengthen the people exchanges with Solomon Islands and deepen the pragmatic exchanges between the two sides in the fields of trade and investment, infrastructure, agriculture, forestry and fishery, humanities and tourism.
Analysts said that the cooperation between China and Solomon Islands has set a good example for other South Pacific countries. Compared with a Cold War mentality of the US and its Western allies, China brings them tangible benefits through win-win cooperation, contributing to the stability and development in the region.