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China successfully woos São Tomé and Príncipe, gives guns to Laos

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As geopolitical tensions ratchet up in the Pacific Ocean (see Politics section below), President Xi Jinping continues China’s policy of assiduously courting small countries by making time to host his counterpart from one of the tiniest nations on the planet.

São Tomé and Príncipe is a tiny country of fewer than 200,000 people living on two islands in the Atlantic Ocean about 150 miles west of central Africa. It was one of a handful of countries that maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan rather than with the government of the People’s Republic until December last year, when it announced it was switching recognition to Beijing. The China Daily reports that on April 14, Xi met São Tomé and Príncipe’s president, Patrice Trovoada, who is in China on a six-day official visit, his first since his government recognized Beijing.

The two presidents made the usual statements at such occasions: Trovoada promised his country “would firmly uphold the one-China policy,” while Xi said China “is willing to help São Tomé and Príncipe improve its development plans, boost cooperation in tourism, fishery, and agriculture, and support the country’s infrastructure construction.” Xi also said that “China is willing to cooperate with São Tomé and Príncipe on security, including fighting pirates and cross-border organized crime.”

Meanwhile, the Diplomat reports that on April 11, “China presented defense equipment to Laos in another sign of the enduring importance of the security relationship between Beijing and the tiny, landlocked Southeast Asian state.” Things don’t always go smoothly, however. The Diplomat also notes that the Laos government has ordered the shutdown of “environmentally destructive Chinese-owned banana farms.”

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