SPEECH: WELCOME OF CHINESE PRESIDENT XI JINPING

Bula Vinaka, Ni Hao, and good evening.

Your Excellency, it is my great pleasure to welcome you back to Fiji. On behalf of Fiji and the other Pacific Island countries with us here, we look forward to hosting you over the next couple days.

Since Fiji became the first Pacific island country to establish diplomatic relations with China in 1975, the bonds of friendship between us have continued to grow. Indeed, today shows just how much our relations with China have strengthened in the last few years. Your visit, Your Excellency, is symbolic of the close relationship between our two nations now.

We are honoured to welcome you, not only as the first Chinese President to visit Fiji, but also as the first Head of State to visit us following our successful election in September.

We are joined today by people from the village Nakorotubu, Ra who gave the traditional iTaukei welcome, a ceremony that has welcomed visitors for centuries. It is a gift from our heart to show how special we consider visitors to be. Our forebears understood that visitors had to make a dangerous journey across the waters of the Pacific in order to reach our shores. That made them special, and the Fijian tradition of hospitality continues to this day.

Indeed, Your Excellency, today we welcome you with this ceremony in acknowledgment of how special your visit is to us. I’m confident that it will have a positive impact not only on China’s relationship with Fiji, but with the entire region.

We want China to be fully engaged in the Pacific. During your stay here, we will explore ways to boost people-to-people contact and cultural exchanges as well as to enhance trade and development cooperation.

Your Excellency, I believe that our close relationship is based on a mutual respect for the other’s national sovereignty – the belief that we have the right to chart our own course as nations. In this respect, China has been a true friend to Fiji. China never tried to interfere in our internal affairs or tell us what was best for us as a nation. Instead, China was there in our time of need, when others in the region had turned their backs on us because they didn’t understand our vision for Fiji and what we were trying to accomplish here.

The support we have received from China over the last seven years has aided our national development. The period has been marked by a steady increase in Chinese assistance to Fiji through favourable lending arrangements, infrastructure development, technical assistance and cultural exchanges.

We have especially appreciated that China has been willing to work closely with us to ensure that its assistance is in line with Government’s priorities and initiatives. This has allowed us to work together to target specific areas and achieve the best results for the people of Fiji.

Your Excellency,

Since Fiji first adopted our Look North Policy, we have become a more confident and vocal member of the international community. We intend to be friends to all, but we also intend to be ourselves. We have forged new relations with countries on all corners of the globe – in the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Asia – and have assumed a greater voice in international forums, such as the United Nations, where we have been a strong advocate for other small island nations on issues like climate change.

In fact, this past Wednesday, we also welcomed the Prime Minister of India, His Excellency Narendra Modi, to Fiji. The fact that the leaders of the two most populous nations on earth have visited us in a single week is a testament to Fiji’s new standing in the region and in the world. We are honoured and humbled by this and are determined to live up to the expectations that others have for us and that we have for ourselves.

Your Excellency, I look forward to exploring new opportunities and to signing memoranda of understanding that will broaden and deepen our relationship. Leaders from the region are also with us here, and I am confident that your conversations with them will be enlightening and productive for all sides.

With those few words, Your Excellency, I would like to once again welcome you to Fiji and to wish you a happy stay with us.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Xiexie. Thank you.