Bula vinaka, ni hao, and a very good morning to you all.
I am pleased to be here this morning with you to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Today bears extra special significance, as we also mark 44 years since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Fiji and China in 1975.
Spanning more than four decades, the friendship between Fiji and China has never waned, with our nations bonded by a common and steady recognition of the mutual benefits of bilateralism. And, as both of our nations have experienced great evolution over the course of the years, we have witnessed a similar blossoming of both our economies and our societies alike. This bond was clearer than ever when Chinese President Xi Jingping took the time to come to Fiji in 2014 for an official state visit –– bringing together a nation of over 1.4 billion people with one of less than a million, as equals on the diplomatic world stage.
And this historic progress has only picked up steam in recent years, with visitors from China to Fiji helping fuel the unprecedented growth of our tourism sector. In fact, China is among Fiji’s largest growth markets, with visitor numbers increasing 11-fold from 4,087 in 2009 to 49,083 in 2016. I look forward to seeing those numbers continue to climb in the years ahead, as more visitors return home and spread the word of their unforgettable experiences in our beautiful Fiji.
The Fiji-China relationship is one that has been built on great respect and genuine kindness that remains constant to this day. As I was in our Pacific neighbour, Tuvalu, for the Pacific Island Forum just a few weeks ago, that kinship was on full display as I shared a bowl of grog with our Ambassador Qian Bo, as we talked about the outcomes of this vital conference where I continued to press larger, developed economies to take urgent and dramatic action to combat climate change –– a crisis that, here in Fiji, in China, and around the world, is the fight for our lives.
I thank the Chinese government for its work towards a cause that we in the Pacific prioritise above all else, and for its assistance in adapting our economy here in Fiji to be more resilient to the ravages of a changing climate. For as we gather here to mark 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, I know you are committed to ensuring the next 70 are not stained by inaction, but filled with inspired hope for the future of our planet.
Again, thank you for hosting me this morning –– and enjoy your celebrations!
Xiexie, vinaka vakalevu, and thank you.