China’s investment in convention facilities in Port Moresby, capital of Papua New Guinea, is being portrayed by Western media as part of a political power play in the Pacific.
PNG is plagued by poverty, corruption and violence, but China, nevertheless, invested US$25.6m in a convention centre in Port Moresby. The centre is now hosting the two-day annual Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) Summit, attended by Chinese President Xi, Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe and US Vice-President Mike Pence.
Regional topics on the agenda include trade, international terrorism and North Korea.
Hundreds of delegates will stay on cruise liners, due to the lack of hotel space available in Port Moresby. Up to 15,000 people from 21 countries are still expected to be in attendance.
Port Moresby was ranked the fifth least liveable city in 2018 by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and the country is the poorest member of the Apec grouping.
China has also donated 50 coaches and 35 minibuses for official use at the conference and President Xi wrote in an article in the Chinese media: “Closer business ties… have made the pie of common interests between China and Pacific island countries even larger.”
China’s regional push into an ocean historically dominated by the US has not gone unnoticed, it seems.
Australia has been prompted to stump up US$100m towards the security effort for the summit, providing soldiers and fighter jets, although Vice-President Pence is not staying in PNG, but commuting to the conference 520 miles across the Coral Sea from Cairns.
Officials in Port Moresby are hoping the event brings in much-needed investment and trade deals, although there has been a backlash against the local government’s decision to spend scarce resource on the conference.