Since establishing diplomatic ties with Beijing in 2019, the Solomon Islands has been under constant pressure from the “charm offensives” of some Western countries, particularly the United States and Australia, which are trying to disrupt relations between the Pacific islands country and Beijing. These disruptive efforts have intensified since Honiara signed a security pact with Beijing in April last year.
As President Xi Jinping pointed out in his meeting with visiting Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Monday, the friendly ties between the two countries have become a pacesetter for relations between China and other countries in the region despite the relatively late start.
Sogavare, who opened his country’s embassy in Beijing on Tuesday and will visit the provincial economic powerhouses of Jiangsu and Guangdong during the rest of his seven-day trip, has shown both determination and courage to stand up to the West’s arm-twisting. He signed a new deal with Beijing on deepening police cooperation, as one of the nine documents signed on Monday in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, following talks with Premier Li Qiang.
That came despite Australia trying to reinforce its position as the Solomon Islands’ main security partner. Last week, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles confirmed that Australia is pushing to keep a security presence in the Solomon Islands beyond the 2023 deadline agreed by both countries last year and announced a $25 million assistance package for the Solomon Islands’ elections next year. The United States, on its part, concerned about Beijing’s growing influence and presence in the region, reopened its embassy in the Solomon Islands after mothballing it for 30 years. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hailed the move as “underlining the strength of our commitment to our bilateral relations, the people of the Solomon Islands, and our partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region”. It has promised finance to help the Solomon Islands create jobs and boost its resilience against climate change.
Nonetheless, China and the Solomon Islands agreed on Monday to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership of mutual respect and common development. Cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands has taken big strides over the past years, and it is set to further advance as Beijing has pledged to align the Belt and Road Initiative with the Solomon Islands’ National Development Strategy 2016-35 and boost pragmatic cooperation in all fields. The Solomon Islands, like the other Pacific island countries, which are among the world’s least developed countries, is facing a lot of challenges. And like other countries in the region, it is also vulnerable to climate change.
Beijing has repeatedly said the Pacific Ocean is big enough for cooperation between China and the US. High-ranking US officials have also said the world is big enough for both the US and China. The US and its allies should view China’s cooperation with Pacific island countries through an objective, unbiased lens, rather than turning the region into a venue for major-country competition. That will only trap the Solomon Islands and the other Pacific island countries in a living nightmare.
Editorial, China Daily