The relations between China and Fiji are “solid and inclusive,” and the two countries are “relating to each other as families,” Fiji’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Viliame Gavoka told the Global Times on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF).

When asked about whether geopolitical factors could influence bilateral ties, Gavoka said that the two countries would “focus on what we can do as friends.”

“The Chinese community has been in Fiji longer than any other foreign community, and we will develop together,” Gavoka said, noting that there are a lot of common interests between China and Fiji in economic and social aspects.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Fiji is one of the first countries in the South Pacific region to ink with China a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.

According to Gavoka, Fiji wants to be an active participant of the BRI, to “grow our society and develop our country.”

In Fiji, the BRI has helped to boost tourism from China. Tourism accounts for around 40 percent of Fiji’s GDP. There are also a number of Chinese companies in the country that “are doing very important infrastructure work” in areas such as airports and roads, Gavoka said, as well as other areas that are helping with the development of Fiji.

In 2022, the trade volume between China and Fiji jumped 21 percent year-on-year to reach US$546 million, making Fiji China’s second-largest trading partner in the South Pacific region. In March 2023, the China-Pacific Island Countries Juncao Technology Demonstration Centre (CPICJTDC) was unveiled in Fiji, marking a new step in BRI cooperation between China and the South Pacific island country.

“We need to build on that going forward,” Gavoka said. He met a lot of people during the BRF, which was held from Tuesday to Wednesday, to seek potential business opportunities, and is very confident “in the cooperation [between China and Fiji] that can be developed” in the future.

On Wednesday, China announced eight major steps to support high-quality BRI cooperation, charting out a new course in the new stage of development. Gavoka said there are several focal points in terms of cooperation between China and Fiji, and he expects that the “Chinese contribution” to Fiji’s development will become more significant.

“One key focus is the green society we’re building. The environment is very important to us, because our tourism is based on the environment in a pristine, beautiful island. And we need to protect that. I’m looking to Chinese companies to help us with that,” Gavoka said.

He also noted that as the country is located in the Pacific, it is very vulnerable to climate change. “So the more we endeavour to go green and save the planet, the better it is for us countries in the Pacific, said Gavoka.