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Friday, December 09, 2022

Explainer: what is at stake for China on the South Pacific travel?

BEIJING ( Associated Press) — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is visiting the South Pacific this week with a 20-person delegation in a demonstration of Beijing’s growing military and diplomatic presence in the region.

The US has traditionally been the dominant power in the region, but China has been particularly intrusive along the Solomon Islands., a country less than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 mi) from Australia. In a sign of Australia’s concern, new Foreign Minister Penny Wong is visiting Fiji less than a week after her Labor Party won the national Election.

Below is a look at Wang’s visit and its possible consequences.

Where is Wang going?

Wang is due to stop in the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and East Timor on a 10-day trip.

The tour emphasized China’s push for engagement with the region, which has traditionally maintained close ties with Beijing’s major rivals, including the United States and Australia. Because of Taiwan, China has also fought for its influence for a long time. China considers the self-governing island its territory and opposes foreign negotiations that regard Taiwan as autonomous and independent, but the four South Pacific island nations are among a dwindling number of Taiwan’s formal diplomatic allies.

China’s stronger presence in the South Pacific could enable its naval forces to make port calls and possibly keep personnel and equipment at a base in the region. This would complicate US defense strategy, especially on contingency plans for any Chinese move to take Taiwan. who will probably be attracted to japan and other collaborators.

What’s behind the new diplomatic push?

Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China is expanding its foreign economic and diplomatic clout through the Belt and Road Initiative, an effort to connect East Asia to Europe and beyond through ports, railways, power plants and other infrastructure. does.

Results have been mixed, with client states such as Sri Lanka And Pakistan remains in debt and developed nations have cited national security grounds in imposing sanctions on Chinese government-backed companies, including telecommunications giant Huawei. The South Pacific, however, remains relatively open to Chinese advances at low cost and potentially high reward.

China has been sitting mostly on edge over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its top leaders have not left the country in more than two years amid strict anti-COVID measures and deteriorating relations with the US, Canada and the European Union. With Xi seeking a third five-year term as head of the ruling Communist Party, a foreign policy victory would help bolster his authority and stave off criticism of his handling of the pandemic and its economic costs.

What is in the agreement between China and the Solomon Islands?

Agreement may allow China To send Solomon to security forces at the request of his government for what he described as peacekeeping duties. This would enable Chinese Navy ships to make port calls to re-supply and provide entertainment for sailors, possibly leading to a permanent presence in the islands.

The United States has said it will take unspecified action Against the Solomon Islands if the agreement with China poses a threat to US or allied interests.

What is Australia’s main concern?

Under its new government, in addition to concerns over Chinese expansion into the vast Pacific, Australia has urged Beijing to lift trade sanctions if it wants to re-establish its bilateral ties.

congratulatory letter from chinese prime minister Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on his election victory was widely seen as the easing of Beijing’s two-year ban on high-level government contact with Australia. Premier Li Keqiang said China was ready to work with Australia to improve relations, which dwindled after Australia passed a law targeting Chinese influence in its elections and political discourse.

In retaliation, China has created a series of official and unofficial trade barriers in recent years to billions of dollars in Australian exports, including coal, wine, barley, beef and seafood.

What are the other plans of China in this area?

according to a draft agreement Obtained by the Associated Press, China wants 10 Pacific nations to enter into an arrangement with it that includes everything from security to fisheries.

The draft suggests that China wants to expand law enforcement cooperation, jointly develop a fisheries plan, increase cooperation on running the region’s Internet network, and establish cultural Confucian institutes and classes.

Wang expects countries to support the pre-written agreement as part of a joint communiqué after meeting with other foreign ministers in Fiji on May 30.

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