China increases foothold in East Timor
Saturday 1 Dec 2012 6:53 p.m.
The New Zealand Defence Force has pulled out of East Timor, but another country is moving in and looking to exert power – China.
The Chinese have built palaces, supplied navy ships and are even training their crew.
Why has China taken such an interest in one of the poorest nations on earth?
A clean glass of water in East Timor is a luxury. The average wage there is just $1 a day. The river is used for washing, growing food, drinking and the toilet.
But the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the military barracks, and even the local shopping mall are all opulent and are all funded by the Chinese.
Aside from that, the Timorese navy also has two boats built in China, and their crew were trained there. The question remains, what's behind all the support?
3 News called by the Chinese embassy to try to find out. After a lengthy wait, we were denied an interview.
So 3 News asked the New Zealand ambassador to Timor.
“Yes, they have built those buildings and have helped Timor in a time of need,” says ambassador Tony Fatua. He says there is “possibly” an undertone in it.
It's a delicate time in Timor’s history. The New Zealand Defence Force has pulled out, and Australian forces are also about to.
All the while, China is increasing its foothold – not just here, but all through the South Pacific.
“In some ways the US and China want the same thing,” says Robert Ayson, professor of strategic studies at Victoria University. “They want to be the preeminent power in this part of the world.”
And in Timor at least, it appears China is winning.