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China's arrogance opens a window of opportunity

By Jeffrey Wall - posted Friday, 3 June 2022


The decision by Pacific Island leaders to reject China's push for wide-ranging agreements is a significant setback for them - but there is a real danger it will only be a short term one.

China won't give up. It will develop a new, perhaps less aggressive, but comprehensive strategy to secure the influence and control it wants.

China mistakenly believed that having delivered a secret agreement with the Solomon Islands with ease it could do so country by country across the Pacific.

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The decision by just about every other Pacific Islands leader not to sign up to the China agreement reflects the Pacific I have come to know and like over 40 plus years.

Important decisions are not rushed. Bullying tactics don't work. And vague assurances don't necessarily make an impression.

It is also true that the very welcome action by Australia's new Foreign Minister, Senator Penny Wong, to engage directly and personally with Fiji and the Pacific Islands Forum was seen across the Pacific as an indication that at last an Australian Government might actually be listening to the agenda Fiji, the Forum, and other governments have.

The Minister is now visiting Tonga and Samoa - yet another very welcome change from the past!

I read somewhere that during the last three years Senator Marise Payne only visited three Pacific Island nations, leaving engagement up to the junior Minister for Development Assistance and the Pacific. In less than two weeks in office Senator Wong has equalled that!

The Albanese Government also has a junior minister for the Pacific, but the direct involvement of the Foreign Minister herself is most welcome.

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So far so good!

What I want to do in this column is suggest one specific policy area the new government could focus on and that would produce definite and early change when it comes to our effectiveness in the region, and how Australia, its government and people are regarded.

Over the last couple of decades successive Australian Governments have given relatively small assistance to specific countries when it comes to the development of sport.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Wall CSM CBE is a Brisbane Political Consultant and has served as Advisor to the PNG Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu Prime Minister 1988-1992 and Speaker 1994-1997.

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