What are the stakes for China during its visit to the South Pacific?


BEIJING (AP) — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is heading to the South Pacific this week with a 20-person delegation to show off Beijing’s growing military and diplomatic presence in the region.

The United States has traditionally been the main power in the region, but China continues to make inroads, especially with the Solomon Islands, a nation located less than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Australia. In a sign of Australia’s concern, new Foreign Minister Penny Wong is traveling to Fiji less than a week after her Labor wins national elections.

Below is an overview of Wang’s tour and its likely outcomes.

WHERE IS WANG GOING?

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

The visits underscore China’s willingness to engage in the region, which has traditionally maintained close ties with Beijing’s main rivals, including the United States and Australia. China has also had a long struggle for influence because of Taiwan. China views the self-governing island as its own territory and opposes foreign interactions that treat Taiwan as autonomous and independent, but four South Pacific island nations are among Taiwan’s dwindling number of official diplomatic allies.

A more robust Chinese presence in the South Pacific could allow its naval forces to stop over and possibly put personnel and equipment at a base in the region. It would complicate U.S. defense strategy, especially with regards to contingency plans for any Chinese moves. take taiwan it would probably be draw in japan and other allies.

WHAT IS BEHIND THE NEW DIPLOMATIC PUSH?

Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has expanded its economic and diplomatic influence overseas through the Belt and Road Initiative which aims to connect East Asia with Europe and beyond through ports, railways, power stations and other infrastructure.

The results have been mixed, with client states such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan running deep in debt and developed countries citing national security reasons to ban Chinese government-backed companies, including telecommunications giant Huawei. The South Pacific, however, remains relatively open to low-cost and potentially high-reward Chinese advances.

China has remained on the sidelines of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its top leaders have not left the country for more than two years amid tough anti-COVID measures and deteriorating ties with states US, Canada and EU. As Xi seeks a third five-year term as leader of the ruling Communist Party, a foreign policy victory would help consolidate his authority and fend off criticism of his handling of the pandemic and its economic costs.

WHAT IS IN THE PACT BETWEEN CHINA AND THE SOLOMON ISLANDS?

The agreement could allow China to send security forces to the Solomons at the request of his government for what are described as peacekeeping missions. It would also allow Chinese navy ships to make stops for resupply and recreation for sailors, which could lead to a permanent presence on the islands.

The United States has declared that it take unspecified action against the Solomon Islands if the deal with China poses a threat to U.S. or allied interests.

WHAT IS AUSTRALIA’S MAJOR CONCERN?

In addition to concerns over Chinese expansion in the vast Pacific, under its new government, Australia has urged Beijing to lift trade sanctions if it wishes to reset their bilateral relationship.

The Chinese Premier congratulatory letter to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for his election victory was widely seen as a relaxation of Beijing’s two-year ban on high-level government contact with Australia. Prime Minister Li Keqiang said China is ready to work with Australia to improve relations, which fell apart after Australia passed legislation targeting Chinese influence in its elections and political discourse.

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

WHAT OTHER PROJECTS DOES CHINA HAVE IN THE REGION?

According to a draft agreement obtained by the Associated Press, China wants 10 Pacific nations to strike a deal with it covering everything from security to fisheries.

The project shows that China wants to expand law enforcement cooperation, jointly develop a fishing plan, increase cooperation on the management of the region’s Internet networks, and set up cultural institutes and classrooms. Confucian.

Wang hopes the countries will endorse the pre-written deal in a joint statement after a May 30 meeting in Fiji with the other foreign ministers.