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Speaker Pelosi shows how the South Pacific should deal with an aggressive and bullying China

By Jeffrey Wall - posted Friday, 5 August 2022


I could hardly be described as an admirer of the 82-year-old Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

But one has to admire how she is responding to the usual threats and bullying from China as a result of her visiting Taiwan with a congressional delegation. Unlike the increasingly erratic US President, she has been steadfast in her support for Taiwan - and more particularly opposition to any attempt by China to effectively block elected leaders from daring to visit Taiwan.

What Speaker Pelosi has done is effectively give South Pacific, and Australian leaders a way to respond to China - toughen up, don't be bullied and question every move China makes in our region.

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As Four Corners revealed this week, and as The Australian has reported, China is today effectively in control of the Solomon Islands - barely three years after the SI switched allegiance from Taiwan to the People's Republic.

Since then China has gained a stranglehold over the nation's exports - especially timber and fisheries - and increasingly over the mining sector. The local construction sector has been destroyed – state-owned Chinese companies are doing almost all government contracting work, and the lion's share of the diminished private sector activity.

And now right out of the PRC media oppression textbook, the Solomon Islands Government has effectively directed the state owned Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation to submit news stories etc for government approval before being broadcast.

It is also inevitable that the SI's police force will soon rely on China....and not Australia....to train and support personnel....an alarming prospect given that the SI police force effectively serves as the defence force as well.

What Speaker Pelosi has demonstrated is that the only way to deal with China's threats is to stand up to them. The Biden Administration is trying to walk down both sides of the street when it comes to China. A very dangerous course!

Readers may recall I praised the early South Pacific initiatives of the new Australian Foreign Minister...including her response to China' increasingly aggressive approach to the region which included trying to undermine the unity and solidarity of the Pacific Islands Forum.

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What concerns me is that more recently the focus of a number of senior ministers has switched to an "accommodation" with China. China will see that as a sign it is "winning" and opens the way for yet more attempts to erode our regional influence even further.

Let there be no doubt about it China is not giving up on influencing more countries in our region.

It sees Speaker Pelosi as trying to undermine China's influence when it comes to Taiwan and its future.

It will see the Biden Administration's very tentative, and frankly minor, commitments to spend more on development assistance programs in the Pacific, more as an opportunity to expand its own Belt and Road program in the region than anything the US might be offering and will be notoriously slow in implementing!

Nothing better illustrates this than does the slow completion of the upgrading of the Manus naval base - a joint Australian and US initiative supported in general by the PNG Government.

As China is demonstrating in the Solomon Islands and Kiribati, when it commits to a project it delivers it in the shortest possible time frame, something we are simply incapable of doing!

In the next week or two Papua New Guinea should know who will serve as Prime Minister and what will be the makeup of his Government.

At the time of writing, virtually all China's more obvious supporters in the current Government have been re-elected.

We are likely to see in a matter of months which of China's pre-election infrastructure and investment plans are going to be funded - principally by PRC loans that lack any transparency.

I believe the first will be the Kikori-Ihu special economic zone strongly backed by the current pro-China Foreign Minister, Soreo Eoe, who is leading in his seat of Kikori. The second will be the development of a fisheries industry on Daru - the PNG community closest to Australia - or finally locking in the unsustainable Ramu 2 hydro power project to be wholly undertaken by China state owned enterprises.

In the meantime, Australia is relying on the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility, which apart from the takeover of Digicel by Telstra largely funded by government loans are really baby steps when compared with China's agenda.

Nancy Pelosi might be in the dying months of her speakership but she is making a difference in a policy area Australia remains just too tentative on - how to respond to Chinas aggression and intrusion in our direct area of influence which is the South Pacific.

 

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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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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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