China in the Pacific: The view from Oceania

Apia, Samoa 25-27 February 2015

The China and the Pacific Conference is in partnership with National University of Samoa, Centre for Oceania Studies Sun Yat-sen University, and New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre Victoria University of Wellington.

This conference will take a multidisciplinary approach to understanding China’s evolving relations with countries in the Pacific region, primarily in Melanesia and Polynesia.

The Pacific became a focus of Beijing’s cross-regional diplomacy under the presidency of Hu Jintao, a trend that that is continuing under Xi Jinping. But China’s interests in the South Pacific are not new; the region has been a focus for Chinese migration and economic activity since the nineteenth century. It was also a site of diplomatic competition between Beijing and Taipei in the late twentieth century. Since 2008, however, there has been a diplomatic truce between both sides, which resulted in China concentrating its interests in expanding trade and development in the region.

The growing Chinese economic presence in the Pacific has led to questions about China’s long-term interest in the region and about the impact of Chinese economic activity on the economic growth and social development of Pacific Island states. The Cook Islands water project is a recent example of the changing nature of Chinese investment in the region. Is this project indicative of the changing face of Chinese economic assistance and is it a model that Pacific Island states are comfortable with?

Has the expanding Chinese presence led to a more positive environment for Pacific nations, and does it provide an opportunity for all major international actors to work together with Pacific nations to support their economic development? How well does Chinese investment align with the needs and priorities of Pacific Island states, and do short-term interests take precedence over the economic, social and human development of Pacific societies? These are some of the questions that the conference will seek to address.

Recent developments have also generated debate about whether Beijing’s growing economic presence in the South Pacific will lead to greater cooperation or competition between China and the more established economic actors in the region, including Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Japan. While both China and the United States have increased their presence at the Pacific Islands Forum in recent years, the Chinese diplomatic presence in the region is advancing at a much greater rate. Australia and New Zealand have had to adjust their longstanding Pacific diplomacy to better address this growing Chinese presence.

This conference will feature research and analysis from within the Pacific itself and around the region, incorporating scholarship from local specialists, academics and policymakers. It will take place over two days at National University of Samoa in Apia in February 2015. We welcome papers and presentations, particularly from scholars and policy analysts within the South Pacific.

 

Local Registration Form (pdf)

Conference Costs:

  1. NUS and other tertiary students – $50 per student with student ID (2.5 days including meals)
  2. Full Conference Registration $100 per participant (2.5 days including meals)

Contacts:

International:  Michael Poweles ( Telephone: +64 4 5627878 or Email michael.powles@gmail.com )

Local: Measina Meredith (Telephone: +685 20072 x 336 or Email m.meredith@nus.edu.ws)