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P R 020507Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY APIA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0419
AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY
INFO AMEMBASSY SUVA
AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY
AMEMBASSY APIA UNCLAS APIA 000002
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO EAP/ANP, EAP/CM AND EAP/PD
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: CHINA AID TO SAMOA: A FRIEND IN NEED IS A FRIEND-OR WHAT
HAVE YOU DONE FOR US LATELY?
If a friend in deed is indeed a friend, then China is a very
good friend to Samoa. China's deeds are many and
magnificent-most recently a grand, multistory court building to
house all of Samoa's various courts, as well as related offices,
new, more fire resistant archive storage, and all the
furnishings. The week that building was opened, an agreement was
signed for a new Ministry of Health / hospital complex, and
plans were unveiled for a six-story ministry of works building
complete with conference center. Chinese support comes in many
forms, represents nearly countless-millions (dollars, tala,
yuan, whichever way you count it) and covers a staggering number
of projects. (End summary).
2. China/Samoa Historical and Cultural Relations:
Chinese traders established trade depots throughout the Pacific
in the late nineteenth century, including in Samoa, however it
was the German-Samoa administration that helped give Samoa a
lasting connection to China. To support agriculture,
German-owned plantation companies imported indentured workers.
By the late 1920's, the Chinese community (including
inter-marriage with Samoans) had created Samoa's second largest
minority group (second only to part European Samoans). Before
(Western) Samoa's independence in 1962, the New Zealand-Samoa
administration put forward policies to "export" the Chinese back
to their homeland, nevertheless, a major percentage stayed. The
remaining population continued to inter-marry the general Samoan
population and established businesses which became the
cornerstone of Samoa's economy in the 1960's, 70's, 80's, and
even today. In acknowledging its minority societies, and their
existence outside of the extended family/matai system, the newly
independent Samoa incorporated in its constitution political
rights for part-Europeans and Chinese to vote and be members of
parliament by setting aside two seats to be elected by the
independent (not village district) voters. Currently one of the
highest Government of Samoa (GoS) officials of Chinese descent
is the Minister of Finance, Niko Lee Hang.
Today, the 1900's indentured Chinese laborer descendants have
intermarried, assimilated and gained citizen/political rights
equal to those of indigenous Samoa population. Although they
are distinguished through their mixed Samoan-Asian facial
features, distinctive Chinese surnames and predominant business
success, they consider themselves, and are considered by other
Samoans simply as Samoan.
In the past 20 years or so, a new influx of Chinese and other
Asians has come to Samoa. Unlike the earlier group that
assimilated, the newcomers tend to stay within their minority
groups, and where earlier Chinese are now assimilated into all
Samoan Christian denominations, some of the new Asian settlers
include the first small number of Muslims, or other
non-Christian religions. With landownership tied to customary
land (traditional family/village groups), the new arrivals have
chosen to focus on small enterprise and the service sector,
finding some success, but still being seen somewhat as
outsiders, drawing predictable curiosity and criticism.
3. China/Samoa Diplomatic Relations:
GoS established diplomatic relations with PRC in November, 1975.
The People's Republic of China (PRC) Embassy in Samoa was set
up in 1976. (The U.S. expanded our consulate to an Embassy in
1989; it is currently still a single officer post with limited
services). Samoa established their own embassy in Beijing in
2009; one of 6 Samoan embassies in the world (note: there is no
embassy to the U.S. alone, however there is a mission in New
York for the United Nations that also interacts with Washington
and Ottawa). The embassy in China was an outcome of Samoa PM
Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi's state visit to meet Premier Wen
Jiabao in September 2008. The Chinese embassy in Apia, a
compound of several buildings, has a Chinese staff of several
officers; the Samoan Ambassador to PRC, Tapusalaia Terry Toomata
(former Deputy Permanent Secretary of Samoa's Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and Trade) is representative of the importance
Samoa places on that mission.
PRC relations to Samoa and the Pacific have been cemented
through its economic and infrastructural aid to the Pacific.
Following Premier Jiabao's 2006 visit to the Pacific, the PRC
announced an intention to increase economic cooperation with
Pacific island states-more economic aid, abolish tariffs from
PIC LCD, cancel outstanding debt, distribute free anti-malaria
medicine, provide training for over 2000 government and
technical staff (completed within one year). China increased aid
to the Pacific from USD $33 million 2005 to USD $293 million in
4. China Supports Samoa Through:
BUILDINGS: The following buildings have been gifts. In most
cases the design, construction workers and often materials have
1994- Government Building (5 story office of Prime Minister,
Foreign Affairs and Cabinet)
1995-Ministry of Women (Mother's Center), Sogi Hall (new
renovations underway to be completed in 2010)
2007- Apia Sports Complex renovation- USD $3.5 million and
related Aquatic Center USD $7.3 million (anchor building of
athletic complex completed so Samoa could host 2007 South
2008- Parliamentary Office Complex (multistory office building
next to Parliament to provide office space for all members) USD
2010- Ministry of Justice and courts complex- USD $6 million
(opened January 26, 2010)
2012- Government Office Complex and Conference Center- USD $44
million (concessional loan currently under way).
Schools buildings- since 2000 China has built three public
schools at the cost of USD $1 million each.
LOANS: In 2008- Samoa pushed through the Export Import Bank of
China Act to allow borrowing of concessional loans (comment:
with some consternation on the part of observers and the Samoan
opposition who charge not all loans are made public).
2009 (signed in 2010 Jan) concessional loan of USD $6 million to
be used for budget support, including education.
2010 concessional loan of USD $30.7 million the Samoa Ministry
of Health Project (2010-2011--Ministry of Health complex and
Phase I of a teaching hospital).
OTHER PROJECTS: For the National Hospital, in 2007- CTC X-ray
scanner provided and several volunteer doctors; 2009- Swine flu
protective gear was provided. (Note: In 1918 over 80% of the
Samoan population was infected by Spanish Flu; over 23% died.
When H1N1 threatened, GoS took it seriously. They asked for
help, including from the U.S. We provided nothing, not even a
response. China provided assistance). World Expo (Shanghai)
2010: China has spent USD $11 million on the Pacific pavilion
with USD $650,000 going towards Samoa's preparations, an event
that is expected to be attended by a large number of GoS
officials and staff. Journalist Tour: In 2008 China sponsored
a journalist tour of several cities throughout China for
journalists from Samoa. They were also present for the meeting
of Samoan and Chinese dignitaries, and the trade expo. Others
were part of another tour to cover the Olympics.
Technical Assistance and Training: There are currently 53
Samoan students in China undertaking graduate and post graduate
studies under Chinese Scholarships. Samoans are eligible to
apply through the regional China-Pacific Islands Forum
Scholarship Scheme whereby Samoan students won five of the nine
scholarships in 2009. China also provided at least 25
scholarships annually for Samoan students as part of its
China-Samoa Scholarship Scheme. China supports a Technical
Cooperation Training Program (similar to Department's
International Visitors program) that sends at least 15
candidates yearly on short term 4 month placements and training
in China. A seven member team of Chinese doctors are working
within the National Health Service-their contract is expected to
end soon and a new team will come for 2010. In 2007, 22 Chinese
coaches were sent to train Samoa's team in for South Pacific
Disaster Relief Assistance: In response to the Sept. 29, 2009
earthquake and tsunami, China provided USD $100,000 for GoS
relief efforts. In 2004, after Cyclone Heta China also donated
USD $100,000 as a relief grant to Samoa. Last year Samoa
reciprocated by sending a disaster donation to China after the
devastating earthquake there.
Other supports include business and trade agreements, tourism
support, projects for schools (buildings and equipment), and
vehicles, including in 2004 a fleet of 20 limos worth USD $1.25
million for the Pacific Forum leader's meeting. China hosted a
delegation including, among others, the Head of State for the
2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The Chinese government presented an
assistance of USD $100,000 to Samoan government for expenses of
the later Head of State's state funeral in 2007.
5. Playing the PD Game:
From formal ceremonies, high level visitors, speeches and
events, the Chinese make sure they get media attention for their
efforts, which is only fair. The journalist tour was an example
of these efforts. In addition, their "soft power" approach is
expanding. Whereas before they made quiet arrangements with the
government for a building or project, today the Ambassador is
frequently shown in the newspaper, surrounded by students,
handing a computer or copier over to a school. In the
misinformation category, they may also be active. There are
occasional anti-American anonymous letters to the editor that
have an amazingly consistent style-as if the same writer or
writers were following a plan.
6. Face Time:
In September 2008 PM Tuilaepa met Premier Jiabao in Beijing-a
meeting that included Samoa's Deputy PM and 5 associate
ministers. In past 2 years two delegations of high level
representatives of China's central government have been here to
celebrate the opening of new buildings, and to sign agreements
for new projects.
7. But, deep down, they really like US better-right?
(Comment) Deep thinkers may like to dwell on the philosophical
underpinnings shared between the United States and
Samoa-democratic principles, Christian beliefs, etc. but how
many deep thinkers are there--really? Old timers remain
grateful that the U.S. helped Samoa during the Second World War,
and even after the cyclones of the early 90's. But people who
remember those events are no longer on the ascendancy; they are
on the decline. Today, people tend to question the motivation
behind China's gifts. Tomorrow, they'll probably only remember
the gifts. Anyone who asked an average Samoan in this century
"who helps Samoa?" will get the answer, "New Zealand, Australia
and China"~ and not necessarily in that order. If actions speak
louder than words, than our actions, louder than our statements
of support, are saying, "the Pacific and Samoa in particular,
are not really important to the United States." As the U.S.
representative on the ground in Samoa, I can't help but draw
comparisons, especially as those around me do so every day.
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