SUVA — China is sending a martial arts expert to Fiji to teach cabinet ministers in the Pacific island nation’s military regime the slow-motion techniques of tai chi, officials in Suva said Monday.
In a sign of growing ties between Beijing and Suva, Education Minister Filipe Bole said China agreed to send the tai chi master when Sports Minister Liu Peng visited Fiji earlier this year.
Bole said the expert, due to arrive on Monday, would spend three months teaching tai chi to cabinet ministers, public servants, police, military and the general public.
He said tai chi was used for defence training and had health benefits.
“It has often been referred to as ‘moving meditation’. Practitioners move their bodies slowly, gently, and with awareness, while breathing deeply,” Bole said in a statement.
The move is one of the more unusual results of Fiji’s push to increase ties with China in the face of condemnation from traditional allies Australia and New Zealand over military leader Voreqe Bainimarama’s regime.
Since Bainimarama seized power in a 2006 coup, Australia and New Zealand have successfully pushed for Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth of mainly former British colonies and the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum.
Bainimarama has responded by looking elsewhere for allies, saying last month that China was the one country that understands the reforms he is trying to implement ahead of elections he says will be held in 2014.
Fiji also said earlier this month that it will open diplomatic missions in Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil as it continues to shift its diplomatic focus.