Xi Jinping thanks Fiji for help in tackling corrupt officials, pledges raft of deals in return
Xi Jinping expresses gratitude to nation once dubbed an island paradise for corrupt officials
China appreciates Fiji's efforts to help the government chase corrupt mainland officials and their illegal assets, President Xi Jinping said during his official visit to the South Pacific nation.
In his meeting with Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama on Friday in Nadi, Fiji's capital, Xi said Beijing hoped to strengthen bilateral law enforcement cooperation with Fiji, Xinhua reported yesterday.
Xi also pledged China's help to Fiji's developing economy, improving livelihoods and tacking climate change, Xinhua added.
On August 19 last year, Chen Yi , former head of Shanghai's largest insurance agency who allegedly fled with 500 million yuan from the company, was caught in Fiji and escorted back to China by police officers.
International relations experts said Xi's speech and other promises indicated that China would develop closer ties with Fiji. The island nation has a very large Indian community who make 38 per cent of the population and a smaller, mostly Cantonese-speaking Chinese community numbering about 8,000. More recently it has become known as an "overseas paradise" for corrupt Chinese officials.
"Fiji has become one of the most popular destinations for corrupt Chinese officials and fugitives in recent years because the country has many hard-to-reach islands," said Zhou Fangyin , a professor at the Guangdong Research Institute for International Strategies, said.
"Law enforcement in Fiji is very poor due to its imperfect legal system and unstable political situation."
Bainimarama, the former head of the army, has been Prime Minister since he staged a military coup in December 2006. China seized the advantage when Nadi's ties with neighbours Australia, New Zealand, other Pacific forum members and the British Commonwealth soured after the putsch.
Xi's state trip to Nadi is also the first by a Chinese president.
In a meeting his counterpart, President Chief Epeli Nailatikau, Xi said China regarded Fiji as a sincere friend and important partner in the Pacific.
"[China and Fiji] should give play to complementary advantages and lift the level of cooperation," Xinhua cited Xi as saying. "China will continue to support and assist Fiji in dealing with climate change."
It said Xi also promised that China would import more Fijian produce, help it tap China's tourism market and encourage more Chinese investment.
"Xi made many promises to Fiji because all the South Pacific nations have strategic value to China, with each country having a vote at the United Nations, despite their small populations," Zhou said.
Xi arrived in Nadi on early Friday. It is the last stop of his three-nation South Pacific tour that also included New Zealand.