The leader of the Solomon Islands visited Beijing. Here is why that’s important

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s visit to Beijing and his meeting with Chinese leaders have drawn international attention due to the navigation of strategic alliances between smaller Pacific states, larger powers, and China.

The context: The Solomon Islands is a South Pacific nation that switched its alliance from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019 under Sogavare, with China becoming the largest destination for the Solomon Islands’ exports, and later, a security pact was established.
* Subsequently, another smaller island nation, Kiribati, made the same choice, marking a potential trend among smaller and more vulnerable economies.
* Sogavare’s trip to Beijing this week is his first since signing the security pact, which was heavily criticized by the U.S.

The concern: This security pact ignited fears that it might allow China to build a military base and station troops in the Solomon Islands, although Sogavare has repeatedly denied this.
* Despite Sogavare’s denial, the security pact led to Western nations increasing their involvement in the Pacific.
* Consequently, Washington announced plans to reopen a U.S. embassy in the Solomon Islands’ capital of Honiara and the Biden Administration promised millions in new aid to the Pacific Islands over the decade.

The recent deal: A new police cooperation pact has been signed between the Solomon Islands and China this week, although details remain undisclosed.

The influence: China’s influence in the Pacific has been robust for years, peaking in 2016 with financed aid totaling nearly $334 million, according to the Sydney-based Lowy Institute.
* However, this influence has been on the decline due to Beijing’s tightened capital controls and increased scrutiny of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, along with Pacific Island nations’ growing concerns over the potential risks associated with Chinese lending.

The Solomon Islands’ perspective: For Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, this week’s trip is about demonstrating his control over what is best for his country.
* Pacific Island countries, rich in natural resources and only recently out of colonialism, simply want to develop and tackle their own key issues, such as climate change.

View original article on NPR

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