The Solomon Islands are not normally on most people’s radar. Even if you’ve heard of them, pinpointing exactly where they are is not information that most people have at their fingertips. However, after the announcement by the Prime Minister that he has signed a defence pact with China, knowledge of Solomon Islands may well become more pervasive.
I have written several blogs on the expansionist policies of China and, in particular, the ambitions of Xi Jinping. The defence pact signed with the Solomon Islands is just one more nail in the coffin of freedom from Chinese domination in the Western Pacific.
The Solomon Islands are located due east of Papua New Guinea, north-east of Australia and due north of New Zealand. They are a major step south in China’s expansionist plans. The official communique from Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, noted that the pact envisioned the arrival of Chinese military personnel and police, occasional “ship’s visits” in order “to protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in the Solomon Islands”.
If that’s not the archetypal approach of the Chinese government to establish military bases there, and to slowly take over control of the Islands, I don’t know what is? It is the tried and successful Chinese strategy: throw money at infrastructure projects, as bribes to influence local politicians, lock the victims into a financial stranglehold of repayment plans, and use that power to establish a military base and political influence, if not dominance, over the territory. Believing that short-term financial bribery can erase local politicians’ integrity related to long-term effects on their country, seems to be Chinese policy. In fact, in reality, it works almost anywhere: The U.S. is as susceptible to that process as everyone else.
Australia and New Zealand are reacting furiously to this latest Chinese expansion of interest and control, but there is little they can actually do about it: the Solomon Islands is a sovereign nation. They, together with allies, notably the United States, could use the same technique as China and flood the Islands with money but democratic nations in general seem to think that approach is below their dignity. They only seem to wake up when it is too late to do something about it.
China’s exploits in the South China Sea, and now this latest incursion in the Solomon Islands, make their intentions blatantly obvious: Territorial expansion or, in old-fashioned terms, empire building.
Chinese and Russian governments can be lumped into the same category: they will not stop their expansionist dreams until, either someone actually stops them, or their growing internal problems threaten their political survival and they have to re-focus their attention. The second scenario is safer and more effective from the point of view of the rest of the world…….and should be encouraged!
The situation with the Solomon Islands is just yet another wake-up call to the world’s sleeping democracies.