by Xinhua writer Yang Jingzhong
PORT MORESBY, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming state visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG) offers a historic opportunity for bilateral relations, said Xue Bing, China's ambassador to the largest and most populous Pacific island state.
According to Xue, PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has made developing relations with China a diplomatic priority. An important partner of China in the region, PNG is the first Pacific island country to sign up to the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Xi's state visit, the first to the country by a Chinese president since the two sides established diplomatic relations in 1976, will further promote the bilateral strategic partnership and South-South cooperation, Xue said.
"China is ready to expand bilateral exchanges and cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, production capacity and education within the BRI framework to help PNG achieve sustainable development and realize common development in this region," Xue told Xinhua in a recent interview.
During his visit, which starts Thursday, Xi is also scheduled to attend the 26th Economic Leaders' Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and meet on the sidelines with the leaders of Pacific island countries that have diplomatic ties with China.
"The strategic partnership featuring mutual trust and common development between China and Pacific island countries conforms to the trend of the times, and China is ready to work with all Pacific island countries to build a community with shared future for mankind," said the Chinese diplomat.
Reviewing the China-PNG friendship, Xue said bilateral ties have been defined by equality, mutual benefit and mutual political trust. He spoke highly of the island country's adherence to the one-China policy and close high-level exchanges with China.
With PNG being rich in natural resources and China having strengths in capital, technology and market, the two economies are complementary and have great potential for cooperation, Xue said.
PNG is a major trading partner of China in the region. Official data showed bilateral trade in 2017 amounted to 2.836 billion U.S. dollars, up 24.4 percent year on year, with a surplus on the PNG side.
At the same time, PNG has attracted the highest amount of Chinese investment in the region, with an estimated 3.04 billion dollars in direct investment as of October 2018. About 40 Chinese companies are now operating in the country, creating a large number of local jobs.
The two countries have also witnessed increasingly close people-to-people exchanges and growing military, law enforcement and inter-party ties, Xue said, citing the visits in 2014 and 2018 by Chinese naval hospital ship Peace Ark on medical service missions.
Xi's trip, said the ambassador, will be a success with far-reaching influence on the development of China's relations with PNG and other Pacific island countries.