By Seth Mydans
It is the future Foreign Ministry of East Timor, as depicted on a large billboard at the gate of a construction site - and it is a gift from the Chinese government.
Together with a new presidential palace that is also being built by the Chinese, it will be one of the most impressive buildings in this low-rise capital.
The projects are the most visible sign of a growing Chinese presence in this threadbare little country with few natural resources and only marginal geographical advantages to tempt a great power.
"The Chinese government thinks that as good partners, good neighbors and good friends of Timor-Leste, we are obliged to give a helping hand," said the Chinese ambassador, Su Jian, in an interview, using the country's official name.
He noted that
A former Portuguese colony of just one million people, it broke away in 1999 from 24 years of Indonesian occupation and has been struggling to stand on its own feet ever since.
On June 30,
On the hunt for natural resources and working to create a friendly neighborhood as it develops its own economy,
Reversing a more confrontational policy after the Asian economic crisis of 1997,
"In a region where there is a historic fear of
"And they do see these countries as far more strategic than the
In the longer term, some analysts say,
"They have been expanding their influence and building their links to governments in a very careful, sophisticated way," said Daljeet Singh, a regional policy analyst with the
"They are aware that in the past there was a good deal of suspicion of China and their soft approach is designed to appease, to increase their footprint and their influence through trade agreements, free trade offers, strategic partnerships."
Last year, the total import and export volume between the two countries was only $13.6 million, Su, the Chinese ambassador, said.
"The Chinese government knows exactly what these countries need and also can provide them with very pragmatic skills and technology," he said. "It is very suitable to development of these small countries."
East Timor's oil money is being held in a government fund for the future in order to avoid the economic disruptions such a windfall can cause, particularly in a country with few institutions or trained people able to put it to good use.
The ambassador said that
Beyond this, its emerging presence in a country whose dominant players at the moment are
The ambassador displayed amusement at the idea that
"I once talked with Timorese friends about many articles and stories that try to give