HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed

With the recent increased economic related activity between China and the Cook Islands and the likelihood of further business developments between China and the private sector, a review of the terms of the One China Policy Communiqué promulgated nearly 15 years ago is warranted.
The review should consider whether the terms set back on 25 July 1997, in practice, remain unaltered and whether current developments are reflected in the document.
The document, the “Joint Communiqué between the Cook Islands and the People’s Republic of China on the establishment of Diplomatic Relations” was signed in Wellington NZ on 25 July 1997 by Iaveta Short, Cook Islands High Commissioner to NZ for the Government of the Cook Islands and Huang Guifang for the Government of the People’s Republic of China.
The interesting aspect of the document is the fourth paragraph.
This paragraph states:
“The Government of the People’s Republic of China supports the people of the Cook Islands in their efforts to achieve, in full, their objectives in the areas of social, economic and cultural development.”
What is interesting is we have a statement where the Chinese government expresses support for the “people” as opposed to our “government.”
From the outset however, interaction with China has been between governments and this continues although the document appears to anticipate a direct involvement on a China government to “people” basis.
Exactly what role it was anticipated our private sector would play is not clear although the spirit of the document reflects there should be some role for our private sector in dealing directly with the Chinese government.
In the very words used in the document, to achieve the objectives of the “people” in the area of economic development, some “leadership” needs to be evident on the part of our private sector or we will be in a situation where the Chinese government takes the lead, establishes the enterprise, controls and manages it while our only participation is to provide “labour.”
A clearer although simplistic example is as follows; suppose a Chinese fishing company wishes to establish a fish processing plant on Rarotonga. The Chinese government put up the money for a Chinese construction company to build the plant using Chinese labour. On completion, the Chinese fishing company fully or partly owns the plant and manages it while Cook Islanders provide labour.
If the spirit of the One Policy Document is to be properly expressed then perhaps the Chinese should provide funding to a local builder to construct the plant for a local processor whom the Chinese can then contract to process their catch. If the Chinese government has difficulty dealing with individual local contractors then our government could facilitate this process. It is also important that the Chinese funds do not appear as an item on government’s loan portfolio. Government is not borrowing the money, the private sector company is.
The Herald understands that following the signing of the document, no policy was developed to guide our government and officials in how to apply the terms in the document.
There is room for joint enterprise with the Chinese but the key baseline indicator is that the Chinese government supports the Cook Islands people’s objectives not the objectives of Chinese businesses.
The Cook Islands government must also be mindful of this. Some policy guidelines would be useful.

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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