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Diplomacy

Chinese community in Papua New Guinea prepares for Xi Jinping’s visit

  • Business owner rents out her kitchen so Chinese chefs can prepare food for the visiting delegation
  • Others say they are planning to give leader a warm welcome at Stanley Hotel
PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2018, 6:32am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2018, 6:32am

Sandy Gao’s restaurant in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, has been closed to the public since Thursday and will not reopen until Sunday. And the Chinese businesswoman could not be happier about it.

Located just a short drive from the Stanley Hotel, where Chinese President Xi Jinping will be staying for the duration of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, Gao’s eatery has been taken over by a team of chefs who will use it as a culinary base for the visiting leader’s sizeable entourage.

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“The [Chinese] embassy said they wanted to rent my restaurant to prepare food for the delegation,” Gao said. “But they won’t use it to make President Xi’s food, he always uses his own cook.”

More than 20 chefs and assistants from China Railway Corporation, a state-owned company and major investor in the Pacific nation, descended on the premises on Thursday morning and would stay until the summit ended, Gao said.

Other Chinese working in Papua New Guinea said they were looking forward to welcoming Xi to the country and hoped his visit would be good for business.

“We have high hopes for the president’s visit, I am sure it will be a boost for business interests in the country, and it is very encouraging for the Chinese community here,” said a man surnamed Huang, who has been working on an oil project in the country for the past three years.

“None of us will be working during Xi’s visit, we will stand along the road to the hotel to welcome the delegation.”

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Large sections of the road have been decorated with Chinese national flags.

Xi is expected to meet Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill during his four-day trip, and the pair are expected to finalise a number of investment deals.

In preparation for Xi’s arrival, local authorities arranged for a traditional Chinese arch painted in red and gold to be erected outside the Stanley Hotel. It was largely paid for by the local Chinese community.

As well as the huge gateway, the entrance to the hotel and its lobby have been decorated with dozens of Chinese lanterns, all bearing the characters for “Chinese dream”, a phrase coined by and repeated by Xi since he rose to power in 2013, while large, plain red flags hang outside.

Xi will not be the only state leader staying at the Stanley for the Apec summit. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad will also be a guest, though his arrival will not be marked by such a colourful display. Relations between Beijing and Kuala Lumpur have been strained in recent months since the veteran politician, who returned to power this year, halted several China-funded development projects in the Southeast Asian country, including a rail link and two gas pipelines.

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While Gao was happy to see her restaurant being used to prepare food for the Chinese delegation, she is not alone in wanting to keep the visitors from her homeland well fed during their stay.

Local Chinese were seen on Wednesday delivering dozens of boxes of instant noodles and water bottles to the Stanley.