The escalation in China's influence in Papua New Guinea is no longer a matter of speculation – the available evidence just proves it.
The PNG Prime Minister, James Marape, was the only Pacific leader invited by President Xi to attend the opening of the Winter Games.
Even though he had to cut short his trip after being infected with Covid he had a virtual meeting with the Chinese Premier.
The main initial outcome was yet another tied loan to fund infrastructure – another K800 million added to a debt level already beyond PNG's capacity to repay .
The upgrading of the power line from Ramu to Hagen is a necessary project but it will be carried out by a PRC contractor with no local involvement at a time when the local construction sector is really struggling.
In the last 12 months PNG has signed up to electricity loans of around K6 billion.
These loans are in addition to billions in loans for road construction and other projects.
The statement issued by the Chinese Premier and the PNG Prime Minister was much broader and included the goal for finalising a free trade agreement When concluded it will be PNG's first free trade agreement.
The statement clearly points to China's priorities in Papua New Guinea.
Apart from effectively controlling all major infrastructure work, the clear focus is on fisheries. China already takes a growing share of PNG's fisheries exports. This agreement just strengthens that influence.
There is also a focus on agriculture, and of course on timber exports.
The sum total of existing projects and those planned in the immediate future is a growing dominance in the PNG economy, principally at our expense.
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