How the world’s media reported on APEC 2018 in Papua New Guinea


The eyes of the world’s media are on Papua New Guinea as delegates arrive in Port Moresby for APEC Leaders Week. Here’s an overview of how the country and the event was covered by the world’s press this week.


The Xi Show. The Summit on a Boat. The region’s poorest member hosting its richest event.

The international media has discovered APEC 2018 in PNG and is starting to file stories about the event and the country itself. They aren’t all complimentary. Yet.


Even though PNG’s ‘Pacific-scale’ APEC is costing dramatically less than many previous APEC meetings, the expense of hosting the event is one focus of international reportage.

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‘After three decades of promoting free trade as a panacea to poverty, the APEC grouping of nations that includes the U.S. and China is holding its lavish annual leaders meeting in the country that can least afford it,’ reports Associated Press, in a piece which has been widely syndicated, including in the Washington Post.

Time magazine’s Charlie Campbell is already reporting from Port Moresby and is moderating sessions at the CEO Summit. He is doing his best to justify any hardship allowance APEC visitors might be claiming:

‘The Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea boasts some of the highest crime, worst health metrics and foulest corruption on the planet. But its low-rise capital, Port Moresby, is also welcoming luxury cars and cruise liners this week as some world’s most powerful men and women arrive for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.’

Agence France-Presse, the world’s third largest press agency, has taken a more dramatic line, reporting ‘Foreign troops pour into PNG capital’—a headline that is appearing in publications such as the South China Morning Post and the Bangkok Post.

The BBC, on the other hand, seems equally excited by the cruise ships currently at anchor in Fairfax Harbour: ‘Among the stranger features of the gathering: some of the thousands of delegates and media will be staying on cruise ships because of a lack of hotels.’


‘Can they really pull it off?” asks The Guardian, which relates the story on how PNG came to host APEC (Hillary Clinton gets the credit), and wisely seeks comment from seasoned PNG observers, notably former Australian High Commissioner Ian Kemish and the Lowy Institute’s Jonathan Pryke.

‘You’ll hear PNG officials say “we’re sick of people thinking we’re in Africa, we want to be on the map,”‘ Pryke is quoted as saying. “[APEC] is a big PR pitch and they do need to and want to diversify their economy. There’s a lot of noble ambition to what they want APEC to achieve.’

Australia’s ABC has produced a substantial APEC preview, complete with video, which includes a round-up of its recent stories from PNG but also gives room for PNG government’s views on the benefits of hosting APEC. It also refers to the geopolitical situation that is providing the background to the week:

‘This year’s APEC summit comes at a time when the Pacific has become a hotbed for concerns about China’s growing campaign to increase their global influence.’

This is a theme followed by many in the international media, a widely syndicated AFP story this week dubbed APEC 2018 the ‘Xi Show‘, with China’s President expected to take advantage of the absence of US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

‘The competition for influence between China and Western allies Australia, New Zealand and the United States, is likely to provide a strong undercurrent at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit,’ reports Reuters.

Common elements

As is to be expected, there is a lot of common elements to reportage. Negative stories about the country now sit on the internet ready for the world’s media to Google them. Hence, Maseratis and Bentleys appear frequently in reports, as do TB and polio outbreaks (the New York Times has published Jo Chandler’s particularly poignant piece on the latter), the Economist Intelligence Unit’s ranking of Port Moresby, and recent riots in the Highlands.

Several stories have taken the trouble to include comments from ordinary Papua New Guineans. The Guardian decided to save on the airfare to POM and poll its PNG readers directly online for this article, which drew from 200 responses.

With an estimated 1000 international journalists expected to work out of the APEC media centre in Taurama Aquatic Centre this week, it will be interesting to see how—or if—the story angles change as the international media discovers PNG at first hand.


  1. As a Papua New Guinean am happy that the APEC was launched successfully by our Leaders. Thanks to them- . A lot of time, effort, planning, vision with sweat was put into making it happen.
    During the APEC – Some International Leaders have given very powerful speech and directions – which our leaders have heard and it is entirely up to them to exercise that to improve this country in their decision making. Critics is good – you can hardly learn and improve without critics. I believe some years down the line we should see changes coming from the meeting held.
    APEC was launched successfully. So let us all work with our leaders and our Leaders working with us to achieve on a positive note for this nation. dmo

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