The 2020 Pacific Islands Forum might in retrospect be seen as an opening skirmish in China’s diplomatic and trade war against Australia. The forum hosted an unseemly display of “gibsmedat” Pacific tinpot panjandrums lining up to harangue Australia while Chinese “wolf warrior” diplomats cheerfully threw wads of cash into their open maws. All the while, Jacinda Ardern cheer-led the Beijing contingent from the sidelines.
But at least one Pacific official is pushing back against China’s influence-buying in the region.
For the past year and a half, the first-term Premier of the Solomon Islands’ most populous province, Malaita, has been in open rebellion against his national government’s decision to sever its longstanding diplomatic ties with Taiwan, adopt a “one-China” foreign policy and cash in on Beijing’s political and economic ambitions in the region.
He refuses to accept any aid from the People’s Republic of China and — much to the chagrin of his country’s central government — continues to recognise the sovereignty of his “old friend” Taiwan and turn to it for help with medical supplies throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Naturally, though, there is the call for Australia to step up to the plate – presumably financially as well as diplomatically.
But Daniel Suidani is clear that China is a baleful, corrupting influence in the Pacific.
“What we have seen with the PRC’s involvement in other countries in the region is that everything looks quite good at the start but at the end of the day, the countries eventually find it difficult to handle the problems that come with dealing with China,” he says[…]
The former primary school teacher says he had barely finished celebrating his first electoral victory in June 2019 when he was approached by agents acting on Beijing’s behalf and pressured to accept a SI$1m (AUD$165,000) bribe in exchange for switching Malaita’s diplomatic allegiances from Taiwan to China.
Clueless socialist ninnies like Jacinda Ardern and Dan Andrews are so star-struck by China’s apparent rivers of free money that they either cannot see, or studiously ignore, the strings clearly attached.
Mr Suidani says what troubles him most is that the illicit overture came from agents who had already infiltrated his national government. While he refused their offer, he suspects the same cannot be said for all his fellow premiers and national MPs.
Within two months of him being offered the bribe, the island nation announced it had ended its 36-year relationship with Taiwan and would no longer recognise it as an independent nation.
“I cannot comment on whether (China) has given money to other (politicians) but you have to think that if they came to me (with a bribe), then it is certainly possible they made approaches to other people too,” he says.The Australian
Suidani’s stance has not only put him at odds with national government over China. Critics in Honiara are accusing him of exploiting the issue to fuel a separatist movement in Malaita. The government seized a shipment of medical supplies from Taiwan destined for Malaita. Attorney-General John Muria Jr claimed that the cargo represented an “act of defiance of a government decision” and could be considered a breach of the Sedition Act.
For his part, Suidani has responded by talking of a secession vote in Malaita. Riots broke out in Honiara after the 2006 general election, amid claims that Chinese businessmen had fixed the election.
The tangled web in the Solomons highlights the fraught politics of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands [RAMSI] intervention led by Australia and New Zealand, the ending of which seems to have contributed to a power vacuum that’s being gleefully exploited by China.
Australia and New Zealand contributed billions and two lives to the Solomons via RAMSI. Whatever loyalty that might have bought has proved to be very short-lived.
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