GOOD MORNING FROM LONDON
The starting point for this Column – and every daily Post – is the belief that something quite significant is happening in World History. The norms that governed the 20th C have been overtaken by the rise of China. This is not a sporting rivalry eg; Federer v Djokovic or even Trump v Biden. The China issue is profound, far-reaching + history changing. The World will never be the same again.
I accept that some readers will disagree. They will acknowledge that China has made strides without accepting my view that the balance of world power has been, is and will continue to change in a fundamental way.
Take a glance at the Pacific Islands and at the Solomon Islands in particular. Europe is, understandably, focusing on the Ukraine War, but just as old Cold War confrontations are being played out between NATO and Russia, so something significant is happening on Australia’s doorstep.
A Brookings Institute report notes that two-way trade between China and the Pacific region (Papua New Guinea apart) had overtaken that of Australia since 2013. The report noted China’s emphasis on large infrastructure projects funded by concessional loans. In the case of the Solomon, Islands China accounted for 64.45 of the Island’s exports and 34.4% of its imports according to data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity. The Solomon Islands mainly exports rough wood, processed fish, aluminium ore and palm oil.
In 2019, the Solomon Islands switched allegiance from Taiwan to China and in November 2021 violent pro-Taiwan protests took place. In March 2022 Solomon Island and China signed a security pact. When questioned about reports on social media that the China-Solomon Islands draft agreement would cover PRC armed forces, Minister of Police Karen Galokale noted that the country had “a broad security treaty with Australia and policing cooperation. If there is anything with the PRC, it will be just the same.”
China’s progress with the Islands is part of its Belt+Road Initiative. Not Debt Diplomacy or Asset Grab but through infrastructure investment, China provides the recipient with the means to stabilise economic development + raise the standard of living of its people. Washington is foxed.