"Papua New Guinea (PNG) 's active participation in the construction of China's Belt and Road Initiative will greatly promote the economic and social development of PNG, and bring enormous opportunities for international and regional cooperation, Chinese Ambassador to PNG Xue Bing told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
With various APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) meetings to be held in PNG this year, the country has attracted unprecedented attention from the international community.
Speaking with Xinhua on the 24th APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting on Friday, Xue said that as the largest and most populous country among South Pacific island countries with abundant natural resources and unlimited development potential, PNG is playing an increasingly important role in international and regional affairs.
The Chinese people had travelled across the oceans to work and live in PNG since 200 years ago, said Xue. In recent years, the two countries have maintained close high-level exchanges and deepened political mutual trust.
"China supports the economic and social development of PNG, while PNG respects China's core interests and adheres to the one-China policy," Xue said.
PNG appreciates China's Belt and Road Initiative and believes that such an international public product will bring a promising prospect for global development, he said.
According to Xue, PNG is carrying out a "Look-North Policy" and its core is looking to China. The South Pacific country hopes to board the Belt and Road "express train" to achieve sustainable development.
In 2014, China and PNG established a strategic partnership featuring mutual respect and common development, which has charted the course of the development of bilateral relations. Two years later, the two countries signed several cooperation documents including a framework agreement on development cooperation on production capacity to bring their cooperation into the Belt and Road "express lane."
And earlier this month, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank approved the application from PNG to join the bank, which has accelerated the pace of PNG to participate in the Belt and Road construction.
"PNG is located in the vast South Pacific region as well as the southern extension strip of China's 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. There is the great potential for the two sides to expand cooperation within the Belt and Road framework," Xue said.
PNG is rich in vast natural resources, including mineral reserves, forests, agricultural and fishery resources, with the fishery sea zone covering an area of 2.4 million square-km.
"All of these are priority areas for the two countries to enhance industry cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative," Xue said.
He said that many Chinese companies have come to PNG for investment and development, and developing agricultural industry parks is one of the most important cooperative projects. Over these years, Chinese experts have been stationed in PNG to guide and assist local people in growing upland rice, which has achieved continuous good harvest.
"I travelled to the Eastern Highlands for a harvesting ceremony this year, seeing people were so jubilant for the harvest and I was deeply moved," Xue said.
Both countries are also working together to build industrial parks. For example, PNG has abundant fishery resources, and Chinese enterprises are helping PNG build ports and fish-processing plants.
Xue said that Chinese enterprises pursue to give full play to their advantages in infrastructure construction and production capacity cooperation in PNG. In addition, there are also broad prospects for bilateral cooperation in the fields of education and culture.
So far, China has provided more than 440 PNG students with scholarships to study in China. They have studied in different universities across China, and many of them have played an important leading role in various fields since their return to PNG. The PNG government strongly hopes for expanding this program.
Besides, the national airline of PNG Air Nuigini is set to open direct flights between Port Moresby and Shanghai this year. It is expected that there will be a huge increase in people-to-people exchanges between the two countries as well as a surge in the demand for cultural exchanges and Chinese-language talents.
Chinese enterprises have employed over 7,000 local employees in PNG so far and the number keeps increasing. Major PNG universities including University of Papua New Guinea and Lae University of Technology, are actively communicating with China partners in a bid to establish Confucius Institutes or open Confucius Classrooms.
"With the further development of China-PNG relations and the increase in people-to-people exchanges, the friendship between our two peoples will definitely be further deepened," Xue added.