BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
CHINESE vice-premier Li Keqiang, one of China’s most powerful men, arrived in Papua New Guinea yesterday to a rousing reception by the Chinese community in Port Moresby, including top PNG Government ministers.
Mr Li, who is “tipped” to be China’s next premiere, was accompanied by more than 40 officials that included security personnel, a physician and a nurse.
His visit is primarily seen to further strengthen China-PNG ties.
Senior PNG Government officials said the visit was also envisaged to usher in a new era of deeper relations and partnership between the two countries.
At the airport to meet Mr Li, were State Enterprises Minister Arthur Somare, Commerce and Industry Minister Gabriel Kapris and Deputy Prime Minister Sir Puka Temu.
He is scheduled to have an audience with Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane, and later sign bilateral agreements.
Last night, a State dinner was hosted in his honour by Sir Michael.
Today, he will sign bilateral agreements with the PNG Government and then attend a State luncheon hosted by Sir Puka.
After lunch, he will be briefed on the progress of the US$1.4 billion Ramu nickel project that is managed by Metallurgical Construction Group Corp.
PNG and China established official diplomatic relations in 1976, and since then continue to maintain cordial diplomatic, economic and, in small way, military ties.
China is a significant provider of investments and development aid to PNG.
Mr Li, who is known for his enthusiasm for a “harmonious society”, holds a doctorate in economics and qualifications in law.
He has frequently stressed the importance of helping the unemployed, providing affordable housing and improving access to healthcare.