by Xinhua writer Fei Liena
PORT MORESBY, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG), the first by a Chinese head of state to the Pacific island nation, is igniting a "China passion" among the PNG public.
Xi met with PNG Governor-General Bob Dadae, held talks with PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, unveiled a China-PNG friendship school and witnessed the signing of multiple bilateral cooperation documents.
The two sides agreed to lift their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership, opening a new chapter in the development of China-PNG friendly relations.
People in PNG are excited about the Chinese president's historic visit and look forward to more interactions between the two countries.
China's support has boosted the nation's social and economic development, many in the Pacific island country told Xinhua, and they expected bilateral relations to be further enhanced following Xi's visit.
Ahead of Xi's visit, O'Neill told Xinhua that PNG is committed to cementing friendship with China, promoting Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation and building a mutually beneficial bilateral relationship.
"The relationship between China and Papua New Guinea is very cordial, very strong and growing every year," he said, adding that the two sides now share the same stances and values on many global issues.
"Within a short period of time, you have been able to lift six or seven hundred million people out of poverty into a middle class. No other country in the world can achieve that, and this is a great example for any developing country, and we can learn from the success of China and build our own countries using that kind of experience and capacity," he added.
PNG Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato told Xinhua that China is an "important friend" and "a new development partner" of PNG. He expected both countries to further implement the cooperation projects following Xi's visit.
According to Justin Tkatchenko, PNG's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) minister, the PNG people are "very, very excited" about Xi's visit.
"This is a historic visit to PNG. For the first time ever we are having the Chinese president coming to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea," he said. "The people are just really looking forward to physically seeing the Chinese president here in our country."
Tkatchenko applauded China's early announcement of support for PNG to host the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, saying "the relationship between our prime minister and the president and our two countries is very, very strong."
O'Neill also voiced appreciation of China's support for PNG to host the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting.
Peter Numu, governor of PNG's Eastern Highlands Province (EHP), has been following the news about Xi's visit and has read his signed article.
"I saw that he mentioned Eastern Highlands Province in regard to mushroom and upland rice project, which myself and my people were blessed," he told Xinhua, referring to the cooperation projects of Juncao and dry-land rice cultivation between China's Fujian province and PNG's EHP since 1997.
Kila Vali, a farmer from central PNG, was also following the news. "China has helped us a lot. Look at the schools here, the road before the parliament," he said. "They help teach us how to plant rice. This is important for people here who live by planting to sustain their lives."
"The visit and the meeting will help the two countries come together to bring out more projects," he said with a big smile.
David Toua, a PNG representative on the APEC Business Advisory Council, described Xi's visit as "a combination of a lot of positive activities between China and PNG."
"We view it as a great honor. It is a privilege to have the head of state of China to visit PNG to endorse all of the assistance and good work that China has been committed to PNG over the last years," he said.
He also lauded Beijing's commitment to multilateralism and trade liberalization, which he said serve as "the cornerstone of APEC." "So any time a world leader ... calling for multilateralism and trade liberalization, they have the endorsement of APEC," he added.
Raphael Uranguai, a liaison officer, was busy working at the International Convention Center in Port Moresby. "This building was built by China," he said.
"President Xi's visit will further strengthen the state relationship and our friendship," he said, adding that China has had fast growth, from which others "have a lot to learn, like technology, education, health care and culture."
During his visit, Xi also met with leaders of other Pacific island countries that have diplomatic ties with China to deepen cooperation in various fields, including such issues of mutual concern as climate change.
"I feel China's presence here is a bonus," said Tkatchenko. "China has come on board with many major infrastructure projects and developments that will shape our country now and into the future."
(Xinhua reporters Bai Xu, Zhan Yan, Mo Huaying, Wang Wendi, Zhang Ning, Levi Parsons and Yan Hao contributed to the story.)