APEC Summit 2018: The two-day APEC Summit, currently underway in Port Moresby, has developed into a tug-of-war for regional influence between two superpowers – China and the United States of America.
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China has made its mark with Premiere Xi Jinping arrival two days before the summit. According to various media reports, Xi is also on a state visit to open a school and road, both funded by Beijing. Papua New Guinea has, in turn, rolled out a red carpet for Xi with Chinese flags fluttering down the length of the road and images of the premiere on massive billboards around Port Moresby.
In a sharp contrast, US Vice-President Mike Pence is attending the summit and is staying in Australia rather than in Papua New Guinea’s capital. Meanwhile, way ahead of the summit, a senior US official has accused Beijing of engaging in ‘dangerous debt diplomacy throughout the region’.
Former US President Barack Obama’s top foreign adviser Ben Rhodes in an interview with AFP said “Trump’s absence had opened up an enormous opportunity for China to expand its influence. Beijing has a historic opportunity to make inroads across the region during Trump’s presidency.”
Experts say that the high-profile trade war between the world’s two largest economies and tit-for-tat measures will be the backdrop of the summit. Donald Campbell, co-chairman of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council said: “we are living in difficult times with rising trade tensions, rising protectionism and that needless to say is reflected in the discussion we are having here in Port Moresby.”
China Woos Pacific Islands
Ahead of the summit, Xi, in an opinion piece ‘vowed to lend fresh impetus to our common development’ and ‘expand practical cooperation with Pacific Island countries in trade and investment’. It is a well-known fact that most island nations in the Asian Pacific region have accepted loans from Beijing for infrastructure financing that are not transparent.
Meanwhile, Xi will be meeting the leaders of Cook Islands, Fiji, Micronesia, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu in Port Moresby. China is looking at pushing Taiwan aside and keep its ‘chequebook diplomacy’ alive.
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