China builds new presidential palace in Pacific's Vanuatu

China's embassy said the project had gifted Vanuatu "another landmark building", while symbolising a new "milestone" in their increasingly warm relationship

Updated - July 03, 2024 01:29 am IST

Published - July 03, 2024 01:21 am IST - Sydney

This handout picture released by the Vanuatu Ministry of the Prime Minister on July 2, 2024, shows Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai (R) receiving a key from Hu Chunhua, Vice-chairman of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, during an official handover ceremony of the new presidential palace to the government of Vanuatu. China’s embassy said the project had gifted Vanuatu “another landmark building”, while symbolising a new “milestone” in their increasingly warm relationship.

This handout picture released by the Vanuatu Ministry of the Prime Minister on July 2, 2024, shows Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai (R) receiving a key from Hu Chunhua, Vice-chairman of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, during an official handover ceremony of the new presidential palace to the government of Vanuatu. China’s embassy said the project had gifted Vanuatu “another landmark building”, while symbolising a new “milestone” in their increasingly warm relationship. | Photo Credit: AFP

The government of cash-strapped Vanuatu will soon settle into a suite of new buildings funded by China, a move likely to reignite concerns about Beijing's reach in the South Pacific nation.

At an official handover ceremony conducted in front of a towering China Aid billboard, Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai announced the opening of the nation's sweeping new presidential palace.

The project also included the construction of a new finance ministry and renovations to Vanuatu's foreign affairs department, China's embassy said in a statement released Tuesday.

Australia's Lowy Institute think tank estimated China had spent upwards of $21 million on construction, a significant sum for an aid project in the developing nation of less than 300,000 people.

China's embassy said the project had gifted Vanuatu "another landmark building", while symbolising a new "milestone" in their increasingly warm relationship.

A Chinese delegation handed Salwai an oversized novelty golden key -- also emblazoned with "China Aid" -- kicking off a festive opening ceremony replete with Chinese dragon dancers and the brewing of the ceremonial kava drink.

Local media reported that hundreds of public servants would work, rent free, inside the new buildings.

China is "committed to developing friendly cooperation with Pacific island countries", including Vanuatu, foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters in Beijing.

Vanuatu is heavily indebted to China: about 40 percent of its external debt is owed to China's Exim bank, according to the Lowy Institute.

China has funded a swathe of major infrastructure upgrades across the archipelago, part of an intensifying scramble for influence pitting Beijing against Western rivals.

Beijing's ambassador to Vanuatu, Li Minggang, has said that China is ready and willing to "step up pragmatic cooperation in this field".

But there are fears that Vanuatu and other Pacific states such as Tonga and Solomon Islands are increasingly vulnerable to what critics have described as China's "debt-trap diplomacy".

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.