15 August 2019
Is giving ‘face’ the real reason for a new high level Solomons delegation travelling to China?
We have learned that another Government delegation will be travelling to China this week to hold high level talks with respective counterparts and decision makers within the PRC Government.
The delegation, consisting of ministers and government backbenchers, are expected to identify critical areas for potential engagement.
"This is necessary for the government’s commitment towards determining the best possible outcome for Solomon Islands that represents our long-term development interests; while also safeguarding internal stability through the implementation and delivery of key policies, which are aligned with our bilateral relationships," a statement from the OPMC read.
The statement also clarified that this ministerial group defers from the Bipartisan Taskforce, which will conduct concurrent but separate consultations during the visit of both delegations.
“Due to the significance of the decision and potential implications arising from any shift from the existing status quo of our foreign policy, should there be a shift, it warrants the presence of Ministers and Senior Caucus MP’s to provide a broader view of sensitive issues. This will also ensure there is a higher level of access to decision makers within the PRC Government, which in the final analysis, will provide Cabinet with the additional insight required to make a fully informed decision,” the statement added.
Solomon Islands opposition leader, the Hon. Matthew Wale, has questioned the Government’s decision to send a second delegation to Beijing, to further explore and do ground work on the establishment of possible diplomatic ties with China.
The Opposition leader has said the decision to approve another group comprised mostly of senior ministers to travel to China clearly undermines the role of the bipartisan task-force.
He said the new delegation, being made up of senior ministers will be considered in higher regard diplomatically by Chinese authorities than the task-force, which is mostly comprised of back benchers.
The Opposition leader points out that this does not speak well of the government, representing a slap on the face on the members of the task-force, earlier given the task of visiting China.
I believe Mr. Wale is correct in his assertion that the Chinese will regard the new delegation with higher regard because of the cultural importance of giving face in Chinese culture.
One important teaching that has persisted in modern Chinese culture is the importance given to rank and hierarchy. Even though Chinese society has become more egalitarian in modern centuries, much reverence is still given to superiors.
The Concept of Face is so significant for all intending to do business with the Chinese and the concept of “main zi” and “Guanxi” are concepts which the Chinese are very familiar with and most require.
It is not for me to put any interpretation on the ongoing contacts with the Chinese Government officials by delegates from the Solomon Islands, other than to say ‘face’ giving is now more evident in such government to government approaches.