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China opened its embassy on a small Pacific island that was isolated during a pandemic. This is why



Waves pummel the coast of Temwaiku, a village on the capitol island of South Tarawa, Kiribati.

The opening of the Chinese embassy in Kiribati, a country with 33 atolls and coral islands in the central Pacific, may seem strange – especially during a pandemic. Only three other countries have embassies in the island nation: Australia, New Zealand and Cuba.

But Kiribati is a place of increasing geopolitical competition.

Last September, it shifted diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. China regards the self-governed island of Taiwan as a breakaway province and has seized seven of its diplomatic allies since 2016.

And this week, pro-Beijing Kiribati President Taneti Maamau – who oversees the country’s diplomatic changes – won a closely watched election after campaigning for closer ties with China, defeating opposition rivals sympathetic to Taiwan.

Kiribati is the latest example of Beijing’s growing influence in the Pacific, which consists of a series of resource-rich islands that control vital waterways between Asia and America.
The beautiful islands have long been aligned with the US, which has a large military presence, and allies such as Australia, the region largest donor and security partner. But in recent years, many have developed closer relations with China because of Beijing’s diplomatic and economic outreach – creating fault lines for geopolitical tensions.

Now, as Canberra and Beijing deliver aid to the region, the possibility of a travel bubble between the Pacific Islands and Australia has given a new dimension to the competition.

Reach reach

In 2006, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was at that time the most senior Chinese official to visit the Pacific Islands. He guaranteed 3 billion yuan ($ 424 million) in soft loans to invest in resource development, agriculture, fisheries and other key industries, marks Beijing’s interest in the region.
Today, Beijing is the second largest donor – after only Australia, according to data compiled by the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank.

For the Pacific Islands, which have a combined GDP of around $ 33.77 billion – less than 1% of total Chinese GDP – China has been an important partner during the pandemic.

Chinese health experts have given advice on how to fight the corona virus video conference with their colleagues in 10 Pacific Island countries who share diplomatic relations with Beijing.
In March, China announced donation $ 1.9 million in cash and medical supplies to countries to help them fight Covid-19. They have also sent medical supplies, protective equipment and test kits, according to a statement from the Chinese embassy in the region.
Chinese medical teams are on the ground in countries including Samoa, helps local health authorities develop guidelines on how to control coronavirus. In Fiji, special military vehicles have been provided.
According to the World Health Organization, Pacific has reported 312 cases and 7 deaths, which is mostly located in US territory on Guam.

The islands so far have largely ward off the corona virus thanks to its remoteness and initial locking action. But local people could face devastating consequences if the virus would be affected, due to inadequate health care and lack of testing capacity, experts have warned.

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“China’s involvement in the Pacific today has been driven by opportunism, they are trying to get as much influence as possible,” said Jonathan Pryke, director of the Pacific island program at the Lowy Institute.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry denies this, the saying China’s assistance to Pacific Island nations is “authentic” and does not have “any political ties.”

But stronger ties can be useful when needed.

In May, when China faced a global reaction to its initial response to the coronavirus outbreak, it turned to the Pacific for support. A few days before the World Health Assembly meeting in May, ministers from 10 Pacific Island countries joined the video conference on Covid-19 organized by China.

The meeting ended with an affirmation of China’s coronavirus response.

“This is what the Chinese government needs,” said Denghua Zhang, from the Australian National University in Canberra.

In joint press release after the incident, Pacific Islanders praised China for “its open, transparent and responsible approach in adopting timely and strong response measures and sharing experiences of detention.”

The Trump administration has repeatedly blamed China for the pandemic, while Canberra angered Beijing with its call for an independent inquiry into the origin of the virus.

Australia entered

Chinese coronavirus aid for the Pacific, however, that means compared to financial support provided by Australia. Last month, Canberra the word it spent 100 million Australian dollars ($ 69 million) to provide “fast financial support” to 10 countries in the region, with money diverted from existing aid programs.
Australia too recently was announced that it will broadcast popular domestic television shows such as “Neighbors” and “Masterchef” to seven Pacific Island countries – a move widely seen as a push for soft power to counter China’s increasing influence.

“The Australian Government has clearly recognized that there is no room for the creation of a vacuum, (whether it is) hard power, soft power, the front of aid, or the medical front,” Pryke said.

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“They cannot back down from nothing for fear that China might fill it.”

This was on Australian radar before the pandemic. After taking office in 2018, Prime Minister Scott Morrison launched the “Pacific Step Up” initiative, which included increasing foreign aid and forming $ 1.5 billion infrastructure fund for the region.

Travel bubbles

One way the pandemic can affect geopolitical competition in the Pacific is to relax travel restrictions selectively between countries.

When Australia and New Zealand control the corona virus, their politicians talk about opening borders between one another, creating travel corridors – or “travel bubbles” – between the two countries.

Why China challenges Australia for influence over the Pacific Islands

Both countries have successfully leveled their coronavirus curves in late April, even though Australia is now facing a surge in cases in the state of Victoria.

Pacific Islands Countries including Fiji, Samoa and Solomon Islands has asked to join the plan.

So far, there have been no publicly reported plans between the Pacific Islands and China for a similar travel bubble. At the moment, China seems to focus on its neighboring borders – the southern province of Guangdong is in discussions with Hong Kong and Macau for travel bubbles.

Coronavirus locking has put enormous pressure on economies that are dependent on tourism in Pacific countries, and Australia and New Zealand are the main sources of tourists there. In 2018, the two countries accounted for more than 1 million foreign arrivals to the Pacific region, accounting for 51% of tourist arrivals, according to one report from the South Pacific Tourism Organization. In comparison, 124,939 Chinese tourists visited the Pacific Islands in 2018, a decrease of 10.9% from the previous year.

Some Australian politicians also want to see the trans-Pacific bubble.

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Dave Sharma, a lawmaker for the ruling Liberal party, wrote in an Australian newspaper last month that the inclusion would help the Pacific Pacific neighbors economically, and ensure that “they continue to see Australia as their first choice partner.”

“Strategic competition in the Pacific is still alive and well, with China and other countries trying to play a greater role. It is important that our influence and footprint in the immediate environment be seen,” he wrote.

While geopolitics is not the main motivator for travel bubbles – more precisely, the main driver is the drive to get the economy back on track, Pryke said – lifting travel restrictions between Australia and the Pacific Islands will secure some geopolitical benefits for Canberra and Wellington.

“On the one hand, Australia and New Zealand will be the gatekeepers for access to the Pacific while the pandemic continues throughout the world. So of course it will give Australia and New Zealand a further geopolitical advantage,” he said.

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Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.



Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.

Method Media Bermuda will present the documentary FABRIC: Portuguese History in Bermuda on Thursday, December 29 at the Underwater Research Institute of Bermuda.

A spokesperson said: “Method Media is proud to bring Bermuda Fabric: Portugal History to Bermuda for its 5th and 6th showing at the Bermuda Underwater Observatory. In November and December 2019, Cloth: A Portuguese Story in Bermuda had four sold-out screenings. Now that Bermuda has reopened after the pandemic, it’s time to bring the film back for at least two screenings.

“There are tickets For $ 20 – sessions at 15:30 and 18:00. Both screenings will be followed by a short Q&A session.

Director and producer Milton Raboso says, “FABRIC is a definitive account of the Portuguese community in Bermuda and its 151 years of history, but it also places Bermuda, Acors and Portugal in the world history and the events that have fueled those 151 years.

“It took more than 10 years to implement FABRIC. The film was supported by the Minister of Culture, the Government of the Azores and private donors.

Bermuda Media Method [MMB] Created in 2011 by producer Milton Raposo. MMB has created content for a wide range of clients: Bermuda’s new hospital renovation, reinsurance, travel campaigns, international sports and more. MMB pays special attention to artistic, cultural and historical content.

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Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.



Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.

Maestro Filipe Cunha, Artistic Director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Braga, has been invited to conduct the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra, as announced today.

According to a statement sent by O MINHO, “he will be the first Portuguese conductor to conduct this orchestra in its entire history.”

In addition to this orchestra, the maestro will also work with the Lyceo Mozarteum de la Habana Symphony Orchestra.

The concerts will take place on 4 and 12 March 2023 at the National Theater of Cuba in Havana.

In the words of the maestro, quoted in the statement, “these will be very beautiful concerts with difficult but very complex pieces” and therefore he feels “very motivated”.

From the very beginning, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 will be performed by an Italian pianist (Luigi Borzillo), whom the maestro wants to bring to Portugal later this year. In the same concert, Mendelshon’s First Symphony will be performed.

Then, at the second concert, in the company of the Mexican clarinetist Angel Zedillo, he will perform the Louis Sfora Concerto No. 2. In this concert, the maestro also conducts Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

“This is an international recognition of my work. An invitation that I accept with humility and great responsibility. I was surprised to learn that I would be the first Portuguese member of the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. This is a very great honor,” the maestro said in a statement.

“I take with me the name of the city of Braga and Portugal with all the responsibility that goes with it, and I hope to do a good job there, leaving a good image and putting on great concerts. These will be very special concerts because, in addition to performing pieces that I love, especially Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, I will be directing two wonderful soloists who are also my friends. It will be very beautiful,” concludes Filipe Cunha.

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