Chinese orientation towards the islands of the South Pacific

I'm an image! 2022 / 08 / Dec

Chinese orientation towards the islands of the South Pacific

the introduction

The Pacific region, especially the island groups located in the south of the ocean, is currently among the areas that the eyes of the major countries, led by China, are directed to, despite the development challenges that this region suffers from. China, through the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in late May and early June 2022, Pacific island countries to sign the joint development vision presented by China to enhance joint cooperation in a number of areas, including economic, security and development. This visit saw the United States that China is trying for the second time to approach its maritime backyard in the South Pacific, which it has long considered " American lake", and this visit not only angered the United States, but the traditional allies of the United States in the South Pacific Australia and New Zealand expressed their anger, but the history of China's presence in the South Pacific region preceded the history of this visit, so Wang's visit was not the first Chinese visit as it was There are a number of visits at several different diplomatic levels, and there was even a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014 that did not receive this much controversy, so why did the reactions come in this way?! Perhaps the advent of Wang Yi’s tour to the region is considered in the context of the US-Chinese global competition. This is what gave this visit the controversy that was raised around it. The South Pacific region is part of the US Endo-Pacific strategy announced by the White House in early 2022, which aims to strengthen US alliances with a number of maritime countries that share with the US the goal of limiting maritime influence. In addition, Wang's visit to the South Pacific came after Biden's visit to Japan and South Korea and the latter's invitation to join the Quad. Perhaps China aims in the long term behind this visit to build alliances with maritime countries to break the isolation that the Endopacific strategy may impose on it. This paper aims To answer a major question, what is the importance of the South Pacific region to China? This question is addressed on a number of elements, firstly the priority of the South Pacific region in China, secondly, the South Pacific as an area of extension for the People's Liberation Army, thirdly, China's endeavor to attach The South Pacific region in the Belt and Road Initiative. Fourthly, international and regional reactions to China's presence in the South Pacific region. Fifthly, how does China become a development partner for the region?

First: - The status of the South Pacific region in China

The South Pacific region, like the developing regions, received attention in the "One China" strategy. This strategy reaped China's first fruits in the 1970s when it was able to obtain a permanent seat on the Security Council instead of Taiwan. The islands of the South Pacific were at that time witnessing competition diplomacy between China and Taiwan; To gather the largest number of countries in this region around them in order to obtain a large voting base in the United Nations, and despite the weighting of the Taiwanese party at the beginning of the competition, with the beginning of 1990, the number of countries recognized by China rose to ten countries, after Fiji and Samoa took the initiative in 1990. 1975 One by one, the South Pacific islands began to shift their diplomatic relationship from Taipei to Beijing. Currently, to some extent, Beijing has succeeded in realizing the one-China strategy in the South Pacific. Only four countries, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, and Nauru, have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Despite the importance of the South Pacific region to the "One China" strategy, the priority of this region in the Chinese government's foreign agenda is not as important as other regions such as Africa and Latin America. This is due to the presence of other factors that are not available to the South Pacific region, such as natural resources that are abundant and diverse, and large markets.

With the exception of these factors that China distinguishes the regions of the south from each other, we find that China currently, in the context of global competition between it and the United States, has largely directed its attention and interests to the South Pacific region. With the beginning of 2022, the United States included the islands of the South Pacific in its strategy for the Endo-Pacific region, desiring that this region share the goal with Washington in containing or curtailing Chinese maritime influence, but the leaders of the region did not show any response to the desire of the United States, and in a move similar to that of the United States. In April 2022, China concluded a multi-faceted economic and security agreement with the Solomon Islands, then Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi followed this agreement with a tour in late May and early June 2022 that included ten South Pacific island countries, in order to renew his government's relations with this particular region and link them more. China through common development vision and plan In the five-year period, China could have waited for the date of the Fourth Forum for Economic Development and Joint Cooperation with the Pacific Islands, which is held roughly every four years, in which it announces the vision of common development and the five-year development plan, but the United States and its allies are racing and their presence is currently strong in the East Asian region, And Biden, during his visit to Japan and South Korea, expressing his desire for the latter to join the Quad, may have prompted China to announce this development vision, and the close presence of a country joining the Quad for the second time after Japan’s accession may have disturbed China, and prompted it to develop its naval doctrine in a bold manner that was not His commitment to Chinese foreign policy since the announcement of its first military base; As its agreement with the Solomon Islands included security and military clauses in an attempt to attract the attention of major countries to a region far from Southeast Asia. In the future, the South Pacific region, based on the competitive state of Sino-American relations, may witness an increasing Chinese interest, in a way that may give priority to the islands located in the south of the world. Pacific Ocean from the rest of the other developing regions.

Second: - The South Pacific region as an extension of the Chinese navy and a challenge to American hegemony

China views the South Pacific region or Oceania in general as part of the "greater partphery", this concept, which analysts agreed is an expression of the regions that include the totality of Chinese economic, security and energy interests, given that we are now in the third phase (2020:2040). ) From China's maritime strategy in which it expects to eliminate US military hegemony in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, some of China's maritime security interests are evident in the South Pacific region, as this region, through the multiple Chinese relations with its countries, is the closest to entering the heart of the blue Pacific Ocean, this The latter was taken by the United States as the first step in building its regional hegemony when it was able to completely eliminate Japan, which also built its empire by controlling a number of regions, including the islands of the South Pacific.

Therefore, China realizes the importance of this region to achieve the dream of a naval power and the obstacles that it will face in order to achieve this dream. Because Washington considers this region, especially the Solomon Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia, to be part of US national security. With the exception of its maritime issues with ASEAN countries over the maritime dispute in the South China Sea—and its preference for long-term strategies—China has taken small but highly publicized steps to build outlets and an extension for the PLA in the long term to break US control of the island chain. the second.

Instead of the United States surrounding China by stationing itself in the second chain of islands, China can, in the future and in the long term, surround the United States. Through its presence in a number of South Pacific islands, in 2014 China asked Tonga to establish a Chinese naval base, and in 2018 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that China had held talks with Vanuatu to establish a military base in Luganville Wharf, and in the same year announced its desire In renovating a port on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, and making updates to the runway on Canton Island of Kiribati, and placing it for defense attachments of the Chinese army in Pacific island countries only that have military armies such as Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga, and the last of this military presence was an agreement China with the Solomon Islands, which included provisions allowing the Chinese navy to dock on its shores in a way that allows China to detect the movements of the US Navy in the Pacific Ocean.

In addition to China's endeavor to build a number of military bases in the South Pacific, which are very similar to the string of pearls in the Indian Ocean, it is waiting for 2024, which is the year of the end of the free military agreement between the United States, the Federation of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau, and is putting pressure on these islands so that they are not renewed. The agreement included the gradual end of the US military presence in the region, the United States making military moves such as concluding an agreement with the island of Malaita to establish a military base, and the Pentagon signing a lease contract with the Northern Mariana Islands to build a military air base, and crowning these moves with Washington's declaration of its intention to renew military liaison agreements. Free, these moves may at least make it difficult for the United States to exit even from the Micronesia group of islands, and the Chinese military participation with the Pacific islands is minimal compared to its American counterparts with military partnerships such as the Free Association Agreement. Where China's involvement in the region is limited to building military hospitals, donating non-combat military equipment, and providing military grants, the Chinese navy still has a lot to do until it reaches a degree of military control over the South Pacific.

Third: - China's endeavor to link the South Pacific region with the Belt and Road Initiative

Oceania as part of the Greater Ocean "greater partphery" not only includes Chinese security interests, but also China has economic interests in this region, as China included the South Pacific region of the Belt and Road Initiative in addition to Latin America, despite the distance of these two regions from the maritime line of the initiative The Belt and Road!, as Chinese President Xi Jinping considered it the southern terminus of the Maritime Silk Road, and as a result of this importance, China called in 2014 for the Pacific islands to participate in the initiative, and after five years, China was able to win the signature of nine out of eighteen countries A founding country of the Pacific Islands Forum signed memorandums of understanding to participate in the initiative in 2019, after Wang's visit in 2022, their number reached ten countries, so the third forum for economic development and joint cooperation between China and Pacific island countries, held in 2019, confirms the deepening of cooperation between China and the Pacific Islands to push forward the Belt and Road Initiative.

In the context of the competition between China and the United States over the South Pacific region, among what Wang Yi's visit to the region brought was giving regional impetus to the Belt and Road Initiative in the region, amid the initiatives headed by other countries in the region, not only by inviting countries to join the initiative but also By seeking to link the Belt and Road Initiative with regional cooperation initiatives in the region, such as the Pacific Aid for Trade strategy, the regional e-commerce strategy, and the Pacific Quality Infrastructure Initiative.

Fourth: - International and regional reactions to the Chinese presence in the South Pacific region

Any regional power considers the geographical framework surrounding it to be its sphere of influence, and it does not welcome the presence of any other regional powers in its region. Just as China is greatly disturbed by the presence of the United States in the South China Sea region and its practice of free passage, Australia was disturbed by the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister and the agreement that China held it with the Solomon Islands, and threatened to occupy the islands to avoid the Chinese presence there; Australia considers the South Pacific region the parts of its vital area in which it exercises its regional hegemony, and just as Australia was disturbed by the presence of China, which is likely to increase in this region in the future, the United States got angry and warned of the repercussions of the Solomon Islands agreement; The states The United States considers the South Pacific an American lake, and the Micronesia island group is specifically described as the American Pacific Ocean. Because it is closest to the Northeast Asia region, where the second island chain is located and the role it plays in limiting Chinese maritime influence, and through the proximity of the Chinese military presence in the Solomon Islands, American military movements in the region will be revealed.

And because the Chinese moves towards the Pacific Islands came directly and on the ground, a corresponding Australian and American reaction had to be given to it. Canberra; It revitalized its foreign policy towards the region. The current Australian government, led by Anthony Albanese, gave the Pacific Islands the interest it had lost under the previous Morrison government. The Albanese government took advantage of the basic climate problem afflicting the ocean islands, and pledged to reduce emissions to 43% by 2030, and the Australian Fund to finance Foreign aid and infrastructure support to the South Pacific Islands will see increases under the Australian government.

As for Washington; Just as Wang Yi's visit to the region was loaded with economic initiatives, Biden's vision to maintain its presence in the South Pacific region relied heavily on the economic aspect. In May 2022, the United States launched the Economic Framework for the Indo-Pacific, whose members account for about 40% of the world's gross domestic product, and devoted most of its attention to this region by launching the Partners in Pacific Blue (PBP) initiative on June 24, 2022, in cooperation with conventional powers. In the region that shares the goal of containing Chinese influence with the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United Kingdom, this initiative is based on placing the priorities of the Pacific Islands and the Pacific Islands Forum at the forefront of its work, supporting the priorities of this region and accelerating the development of a map for future projects.

Fifth: How can China become a trustworthy development partner for Pacific island leaders?

China, with the exception of Australia and New Zealand, is the largest donor in the Pacific region, even surpassing the ranking of the United States as one of the largest donors in the region. Despite this, the leaders of the South Pacific islands did not accept or even express their rejection of the vision of common development that China called for! Rather, They announced that they needed time to consider this proposal, which is one of the factors that affected their failure to reach a specific position. The lack of consensus in the Pacific Islands Forum whose members include Australia and New Zealand, and the narrative of debt owed to China that if debtor nations cannot repay they offer strategic assets to China, there are a large number of Pacific islands in debt distress such as Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Papua Guinea, and Tonga And Tuvalu, and there are three countries in moderate risk Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Timor-Leste, and perhaps the vision of common development and increased Chinese investment involvement in the region will increase the debt more on the islands to the extent of abandoning some assets.

  If Beijing wants to promote more of its initiatives in the South Pacific region among the initiatives of other competing partners, it should cancel the provision of strategic assets or at least put other entitlement clauses, so that it can eliminate the promotion of Australia with the criticisms of Chinese lending operations, and put China in Considering that the island countries are the first to be affected by climate and change in it, especially the developing countries, part of which is located in the South Pacific Ocean, therefore, during his visit to the region, Wang Yi included Chinese initiatives concerned with the climate crisis that the Pacific Islands suffer from, China will provide assistance to the countries of the region to build an economy Resilient blue for the climate, and the establishment of a disaster management forum cooperation mechanism with the countries of the South Pacific, and China can also exploit the desire of the leaders of the Pacific islands to appear On the arena of international relations as a cohesive regional bloc through the Blue Pacific strategy, and to include this strategy and link it to the Belt and Road Initiative or at least participate in this vision as a dialogue partner, the leaders of the Pacific countries realize that there is competition between Beijing and Washington and its allies over this region, and it did not join the Pacific Islands Forum as a bloc to either side of the competition despite the preferences of some individual countries; Because the South Pacific region does not care about the global competition between China and the United States as much as they care about development problems, their internal affairs, and the climate problem that may threaten their existence and survival in the future. China might really become this partner?!


The importance of the South Pacific region to both China and the United States has increased, and both countries are putting their weight on this region. China's partnership with the islands of the South Pacific is dominated by an economic character more than a military-security character, but this does not mean that China does not have military ambitions towards this region, which is an extension of the Chinese navy, while the United States is currently balancing in its partnership with this region between the military character agreements The free military link between the economic nature represented in the initiatives launched by Biden recently, so the United States, through this balance between the military and economic character, in addition to its alliance with traditional partners in the region, remains the master of the situation in the South Pacific region.

Done, thank God.